Fishers Fire Department in Fishers, Indiana, has 134 sworn firefighters and five civilian staff, with additional firefighters to be hired in 2022. The department provides services in the city's 48 square miles of single- and multifamily dwellings, multistory hotels and office buildings, and clean industrial and high-end technology parks. Fishers has 99,000-plus citizens, has been selected as one of the Best Places to Live by Money magazine, and has been named a Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Fishers Fire Department had been using a staffing module built into the county's computer-aided dispatch and records management systems to manage daily scheduling for each of its three shifts. The department also used a spreadsheet with 368 tabs, including a tab for each day of the year, an overtime tab, and a sick leave tab. If the department needed to confirm when an employee worked, someone consulted the spreadsheet — a time-consuming task. As personnel worked overtime, their names were moved to the bottom of the overtime spreadsheet. Overtime information then had to be fed into the payroll system.
All personnel are assigned to a particular shift at one of Fisher FD's seven stations. If someone called in sick, the battalion chief called around to find a replacement from another station or asked someone on the station's prior shift to stay on for the next shift. This task not only took considerable time, but the battalion chief also needed to ensure that open shift positions were filled with personnel with the skills and certifications required for the post. In addition, the battalion chief tried to avoid filling open shifts with personnel who would be earning overtime or calling in staff who were on PTO or vacation.
Vacation bidding was an arduous task too. Six people — including the battalion chief, a union rep, and staff who manually entered vacation awards — spent six to eight hours a day, for one to two days per shift, overseeing and recording vacation draws. By seniority, firefighters and EMTs on the list called or radioed in their desired vacation/time-off selections, which one person entered on a spreadsheet and another entered in the timekeeping system. Jim Alderman, Logistics Chief at Fishers FD, described it as a very time-consuming and staff-intensive process.
Ready to automate these processes, Fishers FD implemented the UKG TeleStaff™ solution in 2014 to streamline scheduling as well as shift, vacation, and overtime bidding. In addition, TeleStaff interfaces with a public safety ERP solution.
Recently, the city began to focus on the consolidation of workforce management systems and public safety schedules. Tying these two systems together and streamlining the schedule-to-pay workflow represent some of the most challenging and time-consuming processes for HR teams. A full integration between TeleStaff and the UKG Dimensions® solution will provide one comprehensive experience for schedulers, administrators, and employees.
TeleStaff was rolled out across the department, with each station given an effective date for when the solution would go live. All personnel received training on TeleStaff, with battalion chiefs and captains receiving more in-depth training. This process increased leaders' support, buy-in, and understanding ahead of the effective date.
The department is now taking full advantage of what TeleStaff has to offer. This includes easily scheduling staff for each shift, using SMS texting functionality to quickly communicate with personnel via mobile devices about shift and overtime opportunities, and utilizing the bidding module to streamline the shift, position, vacation, and overtime bidding processes.
“The PTO bidding process in TeleStaff has saved us tons and tons of time, and the ease of use for PTO bidding for firefighters has been a big benefit. Actually, its ease of use in general has been a benefit, because they can access it from anywhere, see what they need to see, enter their own entries, and do their bidding. Across the board, it's helped in every way for firefighters.”
Finance Administration Manager
In the past decade, Fishers has grown from a bedroom community to a thriving city with a focus on development, adding numerous businesses that include multistory hotels and organizations operating in buildings of up to six stories. This growth and its expanding demand for services have made Fishers' public safety agencies integral parts of the City's infrastructure.
Fishers recently added a health department, which operates under the fire department's umbrella. Fishers FD's EMS division has been working closely with health department staff to create COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites and to support calls regarding residents needing situational mental health assistance.
In meeting the public safety needs of the community, Fishers FD has been using TeleStaff to streamline scheduling appropriate personnel for each shift, with staffing completed according to department policies configured in the solution. With every department member's skills, certifications, and positions incorporated into the solution, personnel can bid only on positions that are open to them, and TeleStaff automatically schedules the right personnel with the right skills for each shift. The same is true for each department apparatus, ensuring that each piece of apparatus has personnel with the correct skills scheduled to be on it.
"One of the biggest things we were trying to accomplish [with TeleStaff] is making scheduling as seamless as possible to allow personnel to see real-time scheduling, data, and PTO," said Alderman. He noted the advantages of now being able to access the solution from anywhere using the mobile app instead having to log in through the department's network.
No longer does it take six people more than six days to complete personnel bidding for paid time off. When the PTO bidding process begins in TeleStaff, "it runs itself," said Ann Smith, Finance Administration Manager at Fishers FD. As bidding opens up to personnel in order of seniority, they make selections, and PTO availability is updated in real time in the solution so everyone can see which days and weeks are still available.
"The PTO bidding process in TeleStaff has saved us tons and tons of time, and the ease of use for PTO bidding for firefighters has been a big benefit," said Smith. "Actually, its ease of use in general has been a benefit, because they can access it from anywhere, see what they need to see, enter their own entries, and do their bidding. Across the board, it's helped in every way for firefighters."
The solution's mobile functionality enables every member of the department to access TeleStaff at any time on their mobile devices to see their schedules and to receive and send SMS texts. For battalion chiefs, filling shift vacancies through automated outbound messaging is a big time-saver. The solution sends a text message about an open shift only to personnel who are available and qualified to fill the shift's open position. Personnel respond via text, and the open position is filled quickly, saving the battalion chief considerable time.
Awarding of overtime is built into the solution too, creating a fast, fair, and equitable process. Overtime rules are configured in TeleStaff so personnel are notified of overtime opportunities according to department policy, helping ensure compliance.
"This has been a big help for us, especially for battalion chiefs," said Smith. "TeleStaff has helped across the board."
Alderman echoed her thoughts, saying, "We depend on TeleStaff 100% now. We are more confident in TeleStaff providing us up-to-date, accurate information daily."