Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of D.C.’s rising startups from last quarter here.
If you’ve ever worked a retail job, you know the clunky, inconvenient method many managers use for scheduling workers. Believe it or not, many retail managers — particularly at convenience stores — still use the paper and pen method to communicate when employees are expected to clock in and out. Not only is this common scheduling practice prone to human errors, it usually means making changes to schedules or looking up when employees are supposed to work relies on physically being at the store.
While employee scheduling apps are nothing new, Azalio co-founder and CEO Quratul-Ann Malik decided to create a more accessible solution to the age-old pen and paper scheduling method. With the help of CTO and co-founder Sadia Ashraf, the two launched Azalio, a scheduling and labor management platform made with convenience stores and retail workers in mind.
“What was happening was managers were writing everything down on paper and then employees would have to come in to look up when they were working next. With that kind of method, there’s no communication happening and it’s not easy to ask for time off because you have to personally go talk to the managers,” Malik told Built In in an interview. “The idea behind Azalio was, ‘Can we help automate some [of] these processes so that it’s more enjoyable and transparent for both [the] employer and employees?’”
The app was originally developed as a simple time-keeping platform but after the solution started to take off due to word of mouth, Malik and Ashraf decided to further expand the app into a full-service labor management platform. In March, the company launched out of stealth and currently works with franchise managers at a number of big brands like Subway, Dunkin’, Susie Q’s Pizza and 7-Eleven.
Azalio has a number of features that the company says are helping convenient store managers and franchise owners “sustainably tackle the Great Resignation.” With Azalio, managers can easily drag and drop employees into time slots as well as communicate with them through the app. Employers can even create a communication channel within the app. For example, employees can be grouped into morning and evening shifts or other categories to keep information streamlined and relevant.
On the employee side, workers can easily clock in and out through the app as well as view their upcoming shifts and tackle tasks managers set for them. Employees also have the ability to ask for time off or switch shifts within the app and can set their notifications to only alert them during set times, allowing them to maintain a positive work-life balance.
Malik said the company is also working on a number of new features to help increase employee morale and recognition. Soon the app will allow employers to set up incentives for certain employee behavior, such as clocking in on time or picking up extra shifts. The idea is to gamify the workday and offer customized incentives that employees actually want.
“Employers and managers have a desire to make sure their staff feels valued. But because employees’ schedules don’t always overlap with management, there’s no visibility of what night shift or weekend employees are excelling at.” Malik said.
Essentially, it’s hard to recognize someone’s effort when you rarely see them. With Azalio’s new incentives feature, employee tasks and work ethic can be logged to provide transparency and recognition.
Azalio’s most recent funding was a seed round bringing in $2 million with partners such as Urban Innovation Fund, New Stack Ventures, Dawn Dobras and others.
Currently, Azalio is made up of three full-time employees and one part-time employee, but Malik said she hopes to use the company’s latest seed funding round to double or triple the team within the next year. Azalio is currently hiring for customer success, growth and product design positions.