The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. It is the oldest and largest campus within the University of Minnesota system and has the sixth-largest main campus student body in the United States. Together with campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester, the University of Minnesota System serves approximately 65,000 students.
Educating this many students takes a lot of books and supplies, and the main bookstore in the Coffman Memorial Union on the Twin Cities campus is one of the top 5 in the country in terms of size (46,000 square feet) and sales revenue (more than $38 million annually). Operating a bookstore this large takes a significant number of staff, including 100-150 student employees on average, peaking around 300 student employees during the busiest times of the year. Students are employed across several departments including security, customer service, and textbooks, gaining valuable work experience while working on their degrees.
Assistant Director for Bookstores, Martha Hoppe, sighed as she said, “I can’t believe we used to do this with a spreadsheet. It was a tally system of sorts… I would tell each department how many people they needed for various shifts, and they would assign specific staff to fill all the slots. This sounds simple enough, but was complicated by the fact that students often work in multiple departments and they would have to manually cross-check multiple schedules to make sure they wouldn’t be double-booking any employees, or scheduling them for too many hours. Throw in the need to gather everyone’s availability and track requests for time off, and the process got very complicated. Scheduling used to take a lot of my time!”
Martha knew there had to be a better way, and figured there was a software system that could ease her pain. Surprisingly though, she spent almost 5 years looking for a solution that could handle the complexities of scheduling staff across multiple departments, and couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. “I must have downloaded and evaluated 15 to 20 different software products, but none of them lived up to my expectations…until I found SubItUp,” said Martha.
The University of Minnesota Bookstore went live with SubItUp in 2010 and hasn’t looked back. Martha loves the fact that SubItUp supports staff scheduled across multiple departments, creating a schedule free of conflict. The system displays real-time availability and total hours scheduled (vs. available to work) across all departments, which saves Martha a significant amount of time and eliminates error.
Martha also loves that staff can now go online to enter and maintain their own hours of availability. Supervisors used to make a lot of phone calls, playing ‘telephone-tag’ with employees, to gather and maintain everyone’s schedule. SubItUp’s process for tracking availability is not only innovative, but a win-win for managers and employees alike. It has eliminated headaches and busy work for staff, and students actually appreciate taking ownership and responsibility for maintaining their own schedule information.
SubItUp even solved problems that Martha didn’t realize she had, such as the ability to automatically generate the schedule with hours evenly and fairly distributed across student workers, eliminating any question of fairness or favoritism in building the schedule. And the fact that SubItUp is a SaaS application (entirely web-based and accessible from any device) means the system is used more frequently, keeping everyone on the same page.
One of the biggest benefits of SubItUp is the ability for everyone to collaborate online with adding, dropping and swapping shifts. Employees can swap shifts with each other, all from their mobile device, without a manager getting stuck in the middle. “It’s become very convenient to add open shifts when an event pops up,” said Martha. “An email or text goes out, and students who want to work respond in real-time. An ‘on-call’ system can now be used more frequently.”
SubItUp solved Martha’s initial problem with the amount of time it was taking to create and maintain the schedule. She estimates it now takes less than half the time it used to, freeing supervisors’ time to focus on more important things, like helping to educate 65,000 students.