Longo’s takes a fresh approach to workforce management

Steve Vetrecin was tired of juggling three computer systems to manage his staff at Longo’s Wyecroft location in Oakville, Ont.

A store manager at Ontario grocery chain, Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc.. Vetrecin was particularly frustrated that the scheduling process took more than two hours a day to complete.

Employees would submit their schedule requests and they would go to the payroll administrator, who would manually punch those into the system. From there, department managers could request adjustments — quite a longwinded process.

But Vetrecin’s exasperation ended when his store implemented a workforce management system from Dayforce Inc..

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Since starting a pilot project in June, he says, scheduling has been reduced to a simple 15 minute job.

And Longo’s employees like the change, the manager says.

Graphically, he says, the Dayforce modules are very appealing. and user friendly. “You can actually paint the schedule across a timeline, or go into a grid view and enter the numbers numerically.”

Dayforce was rolled out at two Longo’s locations in Ontario for a pilot phase back in the Spring.

The rollout was extended to other store locations in province Nov. 29. Dayforce has become the new Human Resources Management System across Longo’s enterprise.

Grocery stores aren’t the only place this system is garnering attention since it was launched in March.

Dayforce has been named by Human Resource Executive Magazine as 2009’s top HR product.

The firm itself was named one of the 20 most innovative Canadian companies for 2009 by the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX).

With headquarters in both Toronto and Atlanta, Dayforce aims to offer a complete workforce management package , with sales projections and productivity indicators.

Dayforce says it has adopted a user-friendly approach — offering a single interface to complete administrative tasks such as budgeting, scheduling, tasks management, time and attendance, skills management, and employee self-service.

The firm wanted to break free of the cut-and-dried approach taken by many business applications, says David Ossip, CEO and president at Dayforce. Workers, he says, now have different expectations of computer software.

“Many of these people have grown up playing computer games and are very Internet savvy. Their ability to absorb multiple information feeds simultaneously and make decisions is really advanced.”

Dayforce designed its program with Microsoft Silverlight, a Web web application framework offering capabilities similar to Adobe Flash — such as integrating of multimedia, graphics, animations and interactivity into a single runtime environment.

Aside from enabling an appealing graphic user interface, Silverlight enables employees to work faster as computation can be done on the client side, instead of being accomplished on a server and then returned.

The end user has just four screens to learn: “My Day” to view sales projections against scheduled labour; “My Schedules” to view what employees are working and when; “My Timesheets” to verify employee’s time and attendance; and a “Me” screen to view personal profile information.

Drop-down menus are noticeably absent from the software design, replaced instead by graphical buttons and click-and-drag bars.

The scheduling screen makes staffing more efficient at Longo’s, Vetrecin says.

“It indicates how well you’re covered during peak times. Our stores open at 7 in the morning and close at 10 at night, and there’s only a couple of times when there’s a real peak. You can see if you need more or less staff right on the screen.”

Dayforce projects sales demand based on past data down to the 15 minute interval, the manager adds. Cashiers staffing the front end of the store can now be scheduled to meet demand more accurately.

Vetrecin can see his labour hours and sales used by department compared to the forecasts in his “My Day” screen. This helps him make scheduling adjustments.

“If my labour hasn’t changed and my sales are down, then I have to make adjustments for the rest of the week and react so that at the end of the week so our hours will be in line with our sales,” he says.

Dayforce promises companies greater efficiency — ensuring they don’t waste money on overstaffing, or miss opportunities by understaffing.

That’s what has makes the software saleable in a difficult economy, says Alex Kenjeev, vice-president of corporate development.

He promises that within the first fiscal year, the software “will pay for itself and you’ll be saving money.”

Good management may also play a role in Dayforce’s success to date. CEO Ossip is known for staring Workbrain and selling the company for $227 million in June 2007. The technology company received recognition, being named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies in 2004.

Dayforce is available through a software as a service (SaaS) model as well as an on-premise server product.

Ossip says the SaaS model is popular.

“Even larger financial institutions are opting to go with that model.”

Fees are paid on a per-employee, per-month basis, he adds. The entry-level fee is $2.50 per employee. But there are discounts for firms with many employees.

Longo’s is now getting ready for phase two of its Dayforce rollout. That will see the grocery chain tapping more features of the software.

It is already using the employee portal that allows workers to log-in over the Web and request shifts, time off, and arrange for vacation. Soon it may use the SMS messaging feature that will automatically send out a text message offering an open shift to a worker, who then has the ability to accept or deny through a response.

Already, some administrative tasks are a little less tedious and there’s just one computer system instead of three.

And that certainly puts manager Vetrecin in a sunnier state of mind.

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