Action Group is a nonprofit community agency supporting adults and children with developmental disabilities. Established nearly 40 years ago, Action Group provides services throughout Central Alberta from its main office in Lacombe.
Their primary mission is to "make a difference in our communities by providing education and services that help people become leaders in their own lives."
What was holding them back?
Before implementing their Sparkrock Manage solution (Finance Management and Workforce Management), Action Group struggled to manage the data and process silos that had popped up between the Finance and Human Resources departments. Information was stored either manually or in different systems, causing staff endless hours of work piecing the information together for a successful payroll process. Compounding this challenge was the management of timesheets. For starters, the process was manual, which meant Action Group was processing over 600 timesheets by hand every two-weeks. The complexity of the timesheets was huge, and there was no efficient way to cross-reference information to get a complete view of their employees, their time, or schedules. Sometimes they’d have to spread all the timesheets cross a table to determine if people were going overtime, and then all of this data had to be manually coded and keyed into their finance and payroll system: Accpac. To add salt to the wound – because some of their timesheets were handwritten, they couldn’t be easily read and then had to be verbally clarified with staff.
Just like many other community-based nonprofits, Action Group’s timesheet and payroll were tied closely together. This posed a huge operational risk whenever they had churn in their administration because all the knowledge about their manual timesheet process would leave the building with the exiting employee. To make matters worse, the transition to a new payroll administrator was challenging because it was very difficult to teach the disconnected processes to someone new. Even with a seasoned payroll administrator, there were still many payroll inaccuracies because payroll and finance were in Accpac while all other HR admin tasks were accomplished in other systems, or in Excel spreadsheets. Action Group often found that the information between systems didn’t match up, creating hours of data validation.
Other challenges that Action Group faced were in their staff scheduling processes and the replacement of shifts. Their frontline staff were frustrated with paper-based schedules that were posted on a bulletin board in their workplace, forcing them to physically come in to view their schedule. If they wanted to make changes to the schedule, they’d simply cross out and write new information in – opening them up to errors and conflicting information. As well, if someone couldn’t make it for a shift it was extremely time-consuming to find a replacement. The supervisor would have to pick up the phone and call around to ask other staff if they would take the shift. This led them to often rely on internal staff who became overworked (and had to be paid overtime) or they’d have to reach out to their extended contact list whose information was typically out of date or were already working somewhere else.
Because of these time-consuming, frustrating, and potentially damaging issues with timesheets, payroll and scheduling, Action Group realized they were at risk to scale their operations because they weren’t using an effective system.
How we helped
Now that Action Group has their Sparkrock Manage system implemented and stable, David Williams, the Communications and Technology Director who’s been with the organization for 15 years, says his staff love it and have become accustomed to having all of their information readily available to them online. “We feel our Sparkrock solution is the hub of the wheel that spokes out to all of our supervisors and staff and provides them with all of the information they need to serve our clients better,” says Williams. “If you’re working with a broken or ineffective hub, then it’s a wobbly ride for everyone touched by your organization. Sparkrock provides us with a solid hub that allows us to do better admin work, which ultimately allows us to do better with our clients.”
“Even from a very high-level look at the benefits, Sparkrock’s solution is significantly easier to work with and has helped us break down our silos,” says Williams. “It’s a more straightforward solution and data and processes flow in a structured and standard way. Because the solution is integrated to our accounting (90% of our actual costs are workforce related) we are sharing data quicker and, as a result, people know a lot more about their roles and their impacts on other departments. It’s helped to standardized practices and reduced the risk of having that ‘breaking-point’ person who everyone relies on and, if they leave, everything falls apart.”
Even just the level of discussion needed to implement the solution has brought Action Group closer together. It’s forced the organization’s different departments to talk more and cooperate when internal processes and actions need to be coordinated, requiring a more involved team approach to the tasks of the organization. If one department makes a mistake, another department will catch it – increasing data integrity and reducing inaccuracies they used to struggle with.
How they now leverage technology to serve more people
Ultimately, the better and easier the administrative team can do their work, the less time supervisors have to spend doing admin or paper work, worrying about staff getting paid, worrying if timesheets are correct, or questioning the integrity of their data. This gives them more time to spend with clients and provides better services and support to the people they serve.
Sparkrock’s Online Employee Scheduling module alone has saved Action Group an estimated 1.5 full-time employees they used to need to process payroll. Before the switch, they seemed to be continually increasing staffing to deal with the workload of managing timesheets, schedules, payroll, etc. Now they’ve been able to reallocate these resources to other more-strategic duties - instead of having them occupy a data entry role, they can now use them for more highly-skilled data analysis and data monitoring.
The solution has also helped with staff retention and succession through the Employee Centre and the feature of Relief Bidding. “Because 95% of our staff work in remote locations, they used to be so disconnected from the agency it was almost like they didn’t work for us at all,” says Williams. “To have the Employee Centre where they’re connected to all the other staff, agency policies, all the information they need – it’s helped remove the isolation that staff felt in some of our more remote locations.”
Before, supervisors had to spend time calling around to fill a shift; there was no easy way to connect those who couldn’t work with those who wanted to work. Now, they can post the open shift online and staff who are looking to pick up extra hours can view all of the open shifts and make requests to take them. When staff are spread out amongst almost 50 locations and not getting a chance to work in different locations they might not feel like a part of the agency as a whole. In the past it was difficult to explore other opportunities in other locations if staff weren’t 100% happy with their current position. Now, because of Relief Bidding, staff can easily pick up a shift at another location to see if it’s a better fit for them, which ultimately makes it more likely that they’ll stay with the agency by finding better options instead of quitting. This also gives them the opportunity to develop new skills by experiencing different roles in different locations with different clients, which creates more well-rounded staff in general. So not only has Relief Bidding made it significantly easier to fill shifts, but it has also helped to make staff feel more connected, become more skilled and well-rounded, and helped with retention - which in turn has helped Action Group deliver consistently high-quality services to their clients.