By Eillen Zimmerman, Contributor, Forbes
There are a lot of tools to help businesses manage the relationships they have with customers but not many for the relationship they have with employees. And that’s a big pain point for small businesses—tracking and managing the schedules of hourly employees and making sure the business stays in compliance with labor laws. All of that creates a lot of paperwork for owners and pain for employees too, many of whom face an enormous amount of unpredictability in their lives, because their schedules are changeable and often last minute.
In fact in April, New York’s attorney general examined 13 large retailers’ staffing practices to determine if they used on-call scheduling, a strategy that lets stores staff up or down depending on how busy they are but makes workers lives and pay unpredictable.
Here are two startups aiming to tackle the problem of scheduling hourly employees (and keeping track of those hours): Homebase in San Francisco and When I Work in St. Paul, Minn.
Homebase just launched out of its beta (which began in March 2014) in June of this year. The company, which has 12 employees, has raised a seed round of $2 million.
Founder and CEO John Waldmann came up with the idea for Homebase while a grad student at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He had a childhood friend with a small restaurant chain in Seattle that was having enormous problems with scheduling and keeping track of the time his hourly staffers worked. “My younger sister was also bartending during that time and she never knew her schedule very far in advance, which was really hard for her.” Waldmann did some research and found that not only was it painful for his sister, but also for millions of single parents – 20% of whom are hourly employees, he says, and often don’t know their schedules far enough ahead of time to plan for things like child care and transportation.
So he created Homebase, a free and tool aimed primarily at very small businesses—those with less than 50 employees—in the retail, restaurants and service industries. “A lot of these very small businesses can’t pay $100-$200 a month for a tool like this, but they still have the scheduling and timekeeping problems,” says Waldmann. Homebase allows a business owner to do their scheduling online and enables employees to punch in on an iPad, rather than using a time clock, a far more efficient method of keeping track of hours worked.
In addition to the free Basic Plan, there is the Essentials Plan, for $9.95 a month, where business owners receive a text if someone has hit their overtime or if someone doesn’t show up for their shift. “These seem like small things,” says Waldmann, “but they’re very powerful for someone trying to mange their team.” For $29.95 a month there’s Homebase Plus, which actually assists with plotting out schedules and offers sophisticated budgeting and forecasting tools. For businesses with multiple locations—like Waldmann’s friend in Seattle—there is the Enterprise Plan for $79.95 a month. Today Homebase is used by more than 4,000 businesses which have collectively tracked more than $100 million worth of earnings for their employees. The company is generating revenue—which grew 20 percent from July to August– but isn’t profitable yet.