Interview: How to cut costs and save time with automated rostering and staff management

YOU KNOW how hard it is to get your ‘staffing right’. And then you get that SMS at 6am “I can’t come in – I’m sick”

So now you’ve got to work out who can cover that shift for you without costing you a bomb in overtime – what a time.

How about if this could all happen ‘automatically’ in about 60 seconds. 

Well it CAN and what’s more for any practice with more than say 6-8 staff, it’s going to save you money as well. 

Today we delve DEEPLY into the realm of automated staff scheduling and rostering software. 

I interview Michael Hazilias from Easy Employer as he discusses the pros and cons of this awesome new technology. 

Click here to listen, or

Read the transcript belowTranscript
DIEDERIK: Hi it’s Dick here. Welcome to this week’s blog. It’s a little bit different today we don’t actually have a video we have a mp3 recording and a transcript to make things a little bit different. With me today on the other end of the line I have Michael Hazilias who is the CEO of easyemployer. Welcome Michael!
MICHAEL: Hello Dick. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here today.
DIEDERIK: Thanks so much. Look I was wondering if you could introduce yourself and well no one really knows what we’re going talk about today so could you introduce yourself and quickly tell us what you’re going be talking about.
MICHAEL: Sure no worries. So I’m Michael Hazilias CEO of easyemployer. We help business better manage their staff so the topic I was going talk about today was how to save time and cut costs with automated rostering and the benefits of staff management software for your vet practice.
DIEDERIK: Alright so thank you for that explanation. Let’s start right there… so what is workforce management software? And you know I’ve heard it called a number of things and I think when we talked previously I think you also called it workplace management software but I’ve heard it called automated rostering software as well? Could you just clear up what this is and what it does for us?
MICHAEL: Yeah sure so we call it workforce management software and it’s software that helps a business better manage their most important resource, which is their staff. It typically includes optimising staff management processes, scheduling more effectively including automated rostering, tracking time accurately, automating payroll and ensuring accuracy & compliance. It allows a business to control and reduce labour costs, reduce time wasted on administration and put more resources into running and growing their businesses.
DIEDERIK: ….and that’s interesting when I first sort of learnt about this stuff I imagined it to be just rostering software where you can get people to swap shifts and make allocating shifts easier and all this sort of stuff but there’s a lot more to it then that apparently.
MICHAEL: Yeah look absolutely. It’s covering the whole scope from rostering right through into payroll automation and I’ll touch on a little bit of all of that as we go.
DIEDERIK: Ok so now that we understand what it is, can you tell us – how does it benefit a practice?  
MICHAEL: There are many benefits in having workforce management software in your practice. From our experience benefits that practices receive can be, saving managers and business owners 90% of time they spend on managing their staff and saving up to 12% of annual labour costs. Also, achieving payroll compliance with industry awards including the veterinary award. Gaining valuable insight into labour costs and where efficiencies can be made and a couple other benefits are reducing business risk through process streamlining and automation and also increase of business valuable through systemisation and efficiency. Look even with many of these great benefits Dick from our experience a lot of clients say the biggest benefit is the reduction of stress and gaining of peace of mind knowing that things are being done, and done properly, that everything is compliant and that there’s just less to be worried about. 
DIEDERIKAnd I guess, you know you get an SMS at 5am in the morning saying Sally’s not coming to work and I guess that’s where the peace of mind comes in doesn’t it?
MICHAEL: Yes there’s that and it’s beneficial for a system to deal with those sms’s and have it all sorted out before you wake up… but it’s also knowing things are being done properly, that payroll is compliant and accurate, everyone knows when they’re coming and going from work. It’s all transparent and there’s no way to work around the system… so everything is honest and actually reflects exactly what is happening. 
DIEDERIK: Cool, okay, you mentioned ‘automated’ or ‘automatic rostering’ so what is that and how does it actually happen?
MICHAEL: Automated rostering is the process of building an accurate, compliant and cost effective roster based on business requirements and staff suitability. It involves input from the business on what roles are required at what times, as well as input from employees and managers, but if maintained right can dramatically reduce the time it takes to create, manage and communicate a roster. Automatically building a roster from this information can be quite tricky, so powerful software is required to do it well. As an example, the way easyemployer achieves this is through a ‘suitability algorithm’ we have been working on for a number of years now, which determines who is the ‘most suitable’ employee for any given shift. It looks at who can work that role, who can work at that location, skills and qualifications, availability, leave, business rules, OH&S rules, personal constraints, and then tries to optimise based on labour cost. It’s not just about the automation though, it’s the little things that help such as finding a replacement for a shift if, for example, someone calls in sick. Currently businesses can waste up to an hour trying to find replacements. It is important that managers can find a suitable and cost effective staff member and process a shift swap quickly to reduce wasted time. From our experience we have found that swapping shifts wastes an enormous amount of time for managers.

DIEDERIKYes and I certainly remember when I ran my practice I stopped managing as soon as I could find a suitable replacement because I just wanted to work in the practice not do the management. Me waking up with messages at 6 o’clock in the morning saying so and so can’t come to work, well it was a major headache. I just didn’t want to deal with that so this makes it a lot easier obviously.
MICHAEL: Yep and look I was going run through how that shift swap happens because I think that might be of interest to the listeners.
DIEDERIK: Sure, absolutely.
MICHAEL:  Sure. It’s really about quickly accessing the most suitable employees that could work that shift, contacting them to confirm availability, and updating the roster to match. Although this sounds simple, lots of time is typically wasted communicating with staff, and managers forget to update the roster or miss keeping everyone informed of changes. Look some products out there do a decent job of this but we have an all inclusive way of solving it that takes everything into account. I’ll give an example of how it’s done using easyemployer because that might give people some ideas about their workflow. So typically there is always some sort of trigger… so someone calls in sick or marks themselves as unavailable or something like that. The manager then opens the shift in easyemployer and accesses a list of the most suitable staff members, ranked top to bottom. They can also see all relevant information on the employee, their current roster hours, availability, etc. If the manager knows who they want to work the shift they can assign that staff member to the shift immediately and notify them via email or SMS. If they are not sure who they would like to work, or want to ask a few people, they simply select each employee they wish to ask and click the ‘notify’ button, which notifies via the selected method, for example email or SMS. Employees then get an email / SMS asking if they want to work the shift, of which they can reply to directly on their phone or mobile device. Now, these replies come straight back into easyemployer instantly, and whoever replies back first gets the shift, the roster is updated, the employee is told they got the shift, they are sent their updated shifts, and everyone else is informed that the shift has been taken. That process can be less than 60 seconds, saving up to an hour for managers to spend on other tasks!
DIEDERIK: And in my case, or my past case, it gives a hell of alot of peace of mind or saves lots of stress. So that’s obviously one way to save money and that’s very evident, you know a manager spends a minute instead of 60 minutes type of thing. But how and where else can this save on costs. You know the two biggest stresses a business owner has is our staff management and profitability – so where does it sort of make a practice money – or save them money?
MICHAEL: Yep understood and its a good question. There are a few ways a roster solution can help control costs. Firstly, just by understanding costs of individual shifts can make a huge difference. A good roster solution will calculate costs on individual shifts which gives managers more insight and the ability to make informed decisions when assigning staff to shifts. You need to be careful here though, as many products only provide cost estimates as they don’t have the capability or power to accurate calculate costs based on the complexities of the veterinary award OR, they aren’t providing enough detailed information to truly assist the manager. I’m going give you an example of this cause this is something we see quite a lot. So the example is as follows…. by giving an employee an extra shift on the Monday, this might actually push them over the maximum weekly hours later in the week, like on the weekend, which will cost the business overtime. easyemployer runs all these calculations and clearly informs the manager of this value so they can not only keep costs down for that shift, but costs down for the business over that whole pay run period. This feature alone is literally saving businesses thousands of dollars every week. We solve this problem in easyemployer through features that show the manager not only exactly what the cost on an individual shift would be for all suitable employees, but also the overall net cost difference if you gave the shift to that employee. This helps the manager identify if one employee is cheaper than another or more importantly if employees will be more expensive to the business, factoring in all complex situations such as accidental overtime as mentioned here.

DIEDERIKAnd yes as you were saying that my head was just going ‘bing’ ‘bing’ ‘bing’ cause I’m working with a practice at the moment and the owner employs 3 part time/ casual staff and I can’t get through to her that some of these employees need to be full time because she is paying through the nose with all the over time. That would be so easy to show her with some sort of software like this.
MICHAEL:  And yes that is exactly right. Another aspect to controlling roster costs as well is actually through the use of enforcing labour budgets and KPI’s and this would pick up on your example as well and essentially what this involves business owners setting labour budgets and KPI’s to guide managers into the right ball parks when scheduling.For example, if a labour budget for the week was set to say $10,000 and the manager was currently above that, they should be clearly notified of this budget blowout and the adverse effect it will have on the business. In fact, with easyemployer, we go one step further. If they don’t fall within a certain threshold of the set budget, say 5%, easyemployer can be set up to prevent the manager from sending out the roster at all, and they need to then minimise the labour costs, or ask someone higher up the management chain to approve and send the roster. This feature effectively prevents labour blowouts from happening at all, after all, prevention IS better than cure. Dick it’s worth making the point, it’s not just about effective rosters though, cutting costs and saving time flows all the way through the staff management process, so it’s important businesses look at the whole process flow. The real value that exists for an organisation is the automation from staff management and rosters, all the way through to timesheets and payroll processing.

DIEDERIKI love that and there’s not many, I’ll call them ‘recalcitrant managers’ out there but I have run into some so I love the fact you can set a wage or a target for the week or the month for them. If they exceed that, or are planning to exceed that, the system pulls them up and makes them have a conversation with the practice owner as it were.
MICHAEL:  Exactly
DIEDERIK: Ok so is there anything else in the entire process the listener needs to be aware of… anything in the big picture that we haven’t covered off as yet?
MICHAEL:  Yeah look there is… maybe I’ll just touch on a couple elements to cover off one whole scope of staff management… and please bear with me cause I think this is quite important for people to understand. The next step after rosters is time collection. Time collection involves capturing the exact times that staff come and go to work, including break times. There are a number of options available for collecting time, with the most common being biometric authentication. Most time & attendance products have pin code clocks or kiosks that ‘take a picture’. These are simply not good enough to eliminate the time creep that inevitably happens. A very simple example of this is ‘buddy clocking’ where a mate will clock you off using your pin code after you have left work hours before. One way easyemployer solves this problem is with fingerprint scanning solutions which ensure that every single time clock, shifts or breaks, are truly authenticated to each person. This goes a long way to ensure that time creep is eliminated from organisations. For those that aren’t aware of how costly time creep can be, let me provide an example. So firstly, time creep can happen at the start of a shift, each break, and at the end of the shift. An example being that an employee might be scheduled to start work at 10am, and they come at 10:05, 5 minutes late. Typically the timesheet would be entered to say 10am, and this effectively generates 5 minutes of time creep in a single clock.This all adds up though. Here’s an example. If we assume a conservative amount of time creep at 5 minutes per employee per day, and remember this can happen multiple times a day, for just 20 staff this equates to an average of $40,000 per year. It’s massive.
DIEDERIKThat’s unbelievable
MICHAEL:  Yea I know and not only does it help eliminate time creep it also populates your timesheets on the fly.  As times are collected they can be used to automatically generated online timesheets in real time. There are a myriad of reports that can give insight to managers to make informed decisions in real time, which goes a long way to controlling labour costs. I’ll give an example of this. Managers can use the real time reporting to identify that an employee might still be at work when they were scheduled to have finished already. In this situation they may want to see how busy the business is, as there might be a legitimate reason why the employee is still working. If not however, the manager can use this as a trigger to tap them on the shoulder and ask them to go home. This proactively manages labour blowouts and can prevent them from occurring in the first place.
DIEDERIK: Ok and yes look I love that but one thing I’m not quite sure I understand…. so the timesheets are generated and I would assume they would populate a wages spreadsheet? Does the the pay happen automatically? Is the pay transferred to their bank accounts or how does that work?
MICHAEL: Good question. So I guess once you have the time sheet the next step is really award interpretation and that’s taking real time what someone works 9-5 and equivalating it to someone’s payroll so that award interpretation process is kinda important. There’s a lot of products out there that say the do award interpretation but they only do a few things and don’t do them that accurately. Award interpretation typically takes a large amount of configuring and tweaking to automate the intricacies of the award, especially the veterinary award. The devil is in the detail so from our experience complete award automation can only be achieved through customised implementation via an experienced and knowledgeable team. We call it award automation that’s what easyemployer does and it’s really a combination of the product features plus tailored services that allows us to save a hundred thousand dollars per year. I’ll give you a quick example of this before I explain the rest of your question.  Recently we completed implementation for an organisation of around 100 staff. During our auditing and analysis process we discovered a few things they were doing incorrectly with their payroll processing. We corrected these with our award implementation within easyemployer and check this out… in the first fortnight they saved $17k on their payroll. That’s a $440k per year saving. You can imagine the difference this made to this business – it’s massive.
DIEDERIK: Can I interrupt you sorry.
MICHAEL: Yes go ahead.

DIEDERIK: I just want to clarify one specific and I’m fairly sure I know the answer but I just want to clarify you said organisation and I’m assuming you’re talking about a veterinary practice?
MICHAEL: This particular client was in disability care so no they weren’t a veterinary practice, however,  the Veterinary Award is very complicated just as the Disability Care Award is… so it would be very common for errors to be occuring and I know we found some things not being done correctly within vet practices. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a lot of this happening out there because in our experience it happens across all industries.
DIEDERIK: Look I’m 100% in agreement that the veterinary industry would be ripe with interpretation errors but I just wanted to see if a vet could save that sort of money… $440k over a year but I can draw the extrapolation from that so go on….
MICHAEL: We’ve had similar results across other industries so there’s nothing to suggest we couldn’t make savings like this for vet practices. But quickly just to answer the other part of your question – the other part of the process is to push that information off to payroll which is automated. So it’s usually a couple of clicks and then once it’s in payroll that’s when they would normally do their normal payroll process so they would finalise it and they would pay their staff. We do have other services, we have our own cloud based payroll solution as well as managed payroll services so we can effectively transact that on behalf of the businesses… but most the time they will choose to manage that stuff internally.
DIEDERIKOk cool so I’m aware of the time, we are up to 20 minutes and I think we are allowed up to 20-30 minutes, so i’ll just try and go through a couple of quick questions whilst I still have them in my head. We were talking about money so let’s keep on speaking about money. With the sort of software options and types of software that exist what are the expenses or the investments involved, what’s the typical sort of ongoing costs of all the sorts of different systems you’re aware of.
MICHAEL: Workforce management software can be very cost effective. Some basic solutions exist that do an ‘ok’ job that are free setup and as little as $4-5 per employee per month as an ongoing fee. What we have found is although these products are low cost, they just don’t provide the level of functionality required to truly achieve significant efficiencies and cost reduction. They are a great place to start, but we’ve found from experience that businesses quickly outgrow them. It’s important to note that workforce management can also be quite complicated so it’s essential that the workforce management solution can handle these requirements whilst still remaining easy to use for users. As such we’ve focused on building a powerful workforce management solution that tackles the complexities of advanced rosters and payroll, but with the ease of use and intuitiveness expected from cloud software today. As a result, easyemployer solutions start from just $2,000 setup and $4 / employee / month, and full end to end workforce management solutions for just $8 / employee / month.  So for a business that has 30 staff, a full end to end workforce management solution is only $240 / month. When you compare this to the benefits received and the fact that labour savings can be as high as 12%, the system often pays itself off in just 3 months. It really is a fantastic Return On Investment, a ‘no brainer’ so to speak.
DIEDERIK: It sounds like a very very good ROI even without factoring in the peace of mind which is what I’m all about. Have you got a gut feel, or have you got any numbers, on the number of staff where there would not be an advantage. I know it’s a weird phrasing of the question. Do you know what I mean?
MICHAEL: Yes I understand what you are asking. We have found if you have at least 10 staff you will get a benefit from software like this especially if you get one of the low cost solutions with free setup and a small per monthly spend. You can start quite low, but look if you have less the 5 or 6 you won’t really get the benefits from it. Basically, the more staff and the more locations then the more benefits. So if you are having to manage multiple practices you can’t be in every place at one time can you? So it’s imperative to have a system in place for that type of situation.
DIEDERIK: And that’s something where I’m just going to go a bit sideways on… because it’s something you sort of mentioned that I’m going ask you about. You mentioned multiple locations so if you have 3 practices can you consolidate or combine the rostering and the data that comes back for each of these three sites.
MICHAEL: Yes absolutely… absolutely but it’s done in different ways in different software. With the less expensive software options they will make you have an account for each of the three sites but we’ve found that that doesn’t work in practice because often you’ll need visibility and labour costs and reporting across the organisation and you can’t with that sort of set up. So the way we built it in easyemployer is all three locations are under the one account and that way you can schedule and roster across all three at the one time or do them individually. You can collect times for all of them. You get your centralised consolidated reporting and whilst still being able to have it exported under three different payroll applications because each of those entities might have different payroll and we can handle that as well. That’s a really important point which has reminded me to point out that when you have staff working across practices it can be really difficult to get a single payslip or you have to cross bill labour in order to get the labour costs back… all that stuff we have automated by having those three locations in the one account. It takes care of all of that… does that make sense?
DIEDERIKYes and I’m assuming that you can track your payroll expenses individually per site as per the group as a whole?
MICHAEL: Yes and you can actually go further Dick. We have done some implementations where we are essentially have allowed costs centres and cost centres to be broken down to even sub elements of a site. So you know you have administration and then vet practice as another section and more sections like that that you can report on… so it’s really up to the business in what granularity they want with the costs and the reporting done on, but it all can be done.
DIEDERIK: Look I can ask a dozen other questions based on that alone cause most business don’t track their reception costs vs their management costs vs their cost for kennel staff etc And there are lots of KPI’s around that they should be tracking… so that’s been really really useful as an insight for me. So thank you very much for that. Is there anything you want to add as we bring this to a close?
MICHAEL: I guess I was just hoping to raise some awareness about some of the challenges vet practices are facing Dick as we have been in the industry for a few years now. I just want to be able to say that there are solutions out there that can help. We often see these workforce issues as something people sort of turn their head away from. I know that staff is a massive cost in a business but we do see a lot of people focused more on asking “well how do we bring in more money” and “how do we service more clients and customers to make more money”… but you also need to look at the other end of the scale and look at how to save money or control costs like labour costs. At the end of the day both ‘gaining’ and ‘saving’ money assists the bottom line and that would be my main point in finishing up.  
DIEDERIKCool ok I know we are recording this a couple weeks before the AVBA conference in Melbourne and I know you will have a stand there is that correct?
MICHAEL: Yes that’s right we’re going be there and we would like to have a chat to anyone who is around and wants to talk about workforce management.
DIEDERIK: And if Sally or Jane are listening out there I’m going to cop it because I called it a stand and it’s actually a company conversation zone… but anyways I’m going encourage anyone that’s at the conference to go along and talk to Michael. Michael, do you remember which one you’re at?
MICHAEL: Sorry Dick I don’t know the exact one off the top of my head.
DIEDERIKThat’s ok you’ll be easy enough to find. Look for easyemployer.
MICHAEL: Happy to speak to anyone there or they can check us out online as well.
DIEDERIKOne other question we are dealing with an international audience here listening including South Africa, the US, Europe, the UK… is your solution for Australia only or do you have solutions for say America?
MICHAEL: That’s a very good question glad you asked. We actually have a presence in about 10 countries at the moment and just landed our first client in the UK. No clients in America as yet but I will say that a lot of what we have built tackling Australia’s pay complexities can actually be used overseas.
DIEDERIK: So for any Americans not at the conference or Australians not at the conference how do they contact you, Michael, where can they find out more about scheduling software in general and easyemployer specifically.
MICHAEL: In terms of scheduling software in general… well Google is your friend! Do a search for rostering, automated rostering, things like that and there are a lot of products out there. Obviously we think we have differentiators to other products and we niche in a very particular space and we do it quite well… but do your shopping around by all means. If you want to have a look for information about easyemployer the website is so if you go there you can see the product – what we are doing in each industry and you can sign up for a tailored demonstration also. 
DIEDERIK: Ok fantastic. Thanks Michael for giving us half an hour to get some really valuable information from you, we appreciate it very much. MICHAEL: I hope that it was very helpful.Thanks for the opportunity and looking forward to speaking with anyone wanting more information around workforce management.