February 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

On-demand scheduling software helps Ten Thousand Villages manage workers

With an on-demand scheduling and recruitment system, Ten Thousand Villages store managers spend more time with customers and planning special events instead of managing communications with a fluctuating volunteer staff, the retailer says.

With an on-demand scheduling and recruitment system, Ten Thousand Villages store managers spend more time with customers and planning special events instead of managing communications with a fluctuating volunteer staff, the not-for-profit retailer says.

Ten Thousand Villages is a chain of about 156 stores that specialize in selling fair-trade products including apparel, jewelry and coffee produced by local artisans and farmers in some 38 countries. Fair-trade policies are designed to ensure that producers get a fair share of revenue for their products. Each Ten Thousand Villages retail store, meanwhile, relies mostly on volunteers to directly serve customers, manage merchandising displays, and process incoming inventory shipments.

With volunteer staffs and assigned work schedules frequently changing, store managers can get easily bogged down in trading e-mails and phone calls with volunteers in order to build staffs and fill each month’s work schedule, says Stacey Ford-Bonnelle, assistant manager of the Ten Thousand Villages store in Seattle.

Before deploying a web-based, on-demand scheduling and recruitment application from Shiftboard Inc. last April, Ford-Bonnelle would spend hours in a back room sorting through paper calendars and communicating with volunteers and potential recruits to ensure full staffing in the weeks and months ahead. “It was a really primitive system,” she says.

Because the Shiftboard system is available through an on-demand model over the Internet, Ten Thousand Villages managers can turn on applications only when they’re needed, says Bryan Lhuillier, co-founder and chief product officer of Shiftboard. Although the scheduling application is usually needed on a constant basis, a retailer may choose to turn on the recruitment application only during peak seasons, he adds.

The Shiftboard system is designed so that workers can access it from any web connection to fill out work schedules or job applications, or check for special outings that retailers plan for store personnel. “Now I spend a lot less time trying to fill shifts, and instead spend extra time serving customers and thinking of ways to improve our volunteer program, such as surveys to get feedback from volunteers on better training,” Ford-Bonnelle says.

To find and engage new recruits, Ford-Bonnelle will post openings on third-party jobs sites such as VolunteerMatch.org, then e-mail applicants links to her store’s web site and the Shiftboard application for filling out hiring forms.

Shiftboard charges monthly fees, based on a retailer’s number of active workers, that can range from about $50 per month for an individual store to several thousand per month for an entire chain, Lhuillier says. It also charges a one-time set-up fee ranging from $100 to $500 or more, he adds.

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