May 14, 2012

Hamline University’s Helpdesk Looks to Humanity for Help with Staff Scheduling


Hamline University’s ITS Helpdesk started in 2001 with 16 employees to act as a “middleman” between the full-time technicians and users. They are students’ first contact for assistance with technical issues and requests. Since the department’s single-focused beginning, it has grown to support a wide range of issues from users across the University community. The helpdesk staff pride themselves in being open for a wide range of hours, offering professional-level service and doing more with less.

At any given time, the Helpdesk has between 11 and 18 student workers, known as consultants, who use Humanity for their work schedule and time clock. Additionally, there are one to two coordinators, whether they are temporary and/or graduate student workers. There is also one full-time Director who manages the helpdesk staff scheduling using Humanity.

Being staffed almost entirely by student workers is the helpdesk’s largest challenge. This is a result of their constantly changing staff schedules (on a daily, weekly and semesterly basis). The helpdesk needs to be flexible with their staff, because academics are the students’ primary priority. For the first couple of weeks of every semester, the Helpdesk ends up rewriting the schedule over and over again to accommodate students who are adding and dropping courses. When an employee has to cram for a midterm or has a test they forgot about, the helpdesk knows these are legitimate excuses to miss work. To accommodate dynamic student schedules, they need all their employees to be flexible and be able to trade shifts effectively and at a moment’s notice. Having a buffer and a resilient workforce management software helps them deal with the challenges associated with hiring student workers.

Before they switched to Humanity, the Helpdesk used an Excel spreadsheet to create and manage their staff schedules. Once a week, an updated version of the schedule was sent to their staff email list and a copy was printed and hung behind the helpdesk. Creating schedules and dealing with shift trading was cumbersome and required more communication that necessary. There was no efficient or organized way to track whose shifts were up for grabs and who had taken which shift, other than marking on the paper copy of the schedule. This meant that staff had to physically look at the piece of paper for the most updated schedule, as the emailing back and forth was confusing. Supervisors were also expected to remember shift trades.

Since switching to Humanity less than a year ago, the Helpdesk has already reaped several benefits. The online scheduler has helped immensely with both their schedule communication and record-keeping. They no longer have to rely on the staff email list and staff is notified when staff schedules are published or if there are any changes to shifts and can check the schedule any time, from anywhere. It is particularly useful as most of the staff have smartphones and/or computer access.

Staff communication and accountability have improved, particularly by leveraging our adaptable employee notification system. Employees are allowed to set their own notification settings, but they have no excuse to miss shifts. This has improved employee accountability and allowed the Helpdesk to monitor employee performance, tardiness, and absences. Initially, they were worried about making employees take responsibility for their shifts, but Humanity has improved responsibility levels. Now that employees have an application that they enjoy using, they have been eager to learn the application and take advantage of it.

The Helpdesk also uses our time clock, which helps them double-check that employees are accurately and honestly reporting shift hours on the official timesheets filled out by student workers. The time clock reports allow the Helpdesk to cross-reference employee hours prior to payroll processing, for extra security and accuracy. In addition to better record keeping and more robust archives with our reports, the Helpdesk has seen improvements in overall communication – about time clocking problems and otherwise.

“Humanity has helped immensely. The notifications have been particularly helpful. We absolutely recommend the work scheduler and in fact we already have… The Humanity team seemed like a committed, dependable group. They seem to be all about open communication, which we appreciate.” -Nicole Lorenz, Hamline University’s ITS Helpdesk

We’re happy to have helped the helpdesk make improvements in their staff scheduling processes and look forward to working with other departments within Hamline University.