The Town of Halton Hills has it all: a quaint and vibrant main street culture, stunning natural features like the Niagara Escarpment, wilderness adventures on the Bruce Trail, an abundance of farm-fresh produce and local delicacies, and all the conveniences of the urban metropolis of Toronto just an hour away. It’s no wonder people flock there to live, work and play.
While many people come to the Town for the relatively easy living, running the growing municipality is anything but simple. Like other municipal governments, the Town of Halton Hills oversees a number of departments, from public works, parks and recreation, and fire to community centres and libraries, among others. The municipality employs 300 full-time employees, one third of whom are unionized and represented by two different unions, and 500 part-time employees.
Human resource functions, including payroll processing, are carried out by the municipality’s small HR team, which is comprised of a director of human resources, two HR business partners, an HR advisor, a pension and payroll supervisor, and a payroll coordinator. It’s a big portfolio for a small team and working within government structures can add levels of complexity.
The Town of Halton Hills is a two-tiered government, which means that it’s nested under the governing body of the Region of Halton, which is, itself, nested under the government of the province of Ontario. The three levels of government need to keep the lines of communication open in the best of times – in challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic, that becomes even more important.
“The Town of Halton Hills is growing a lot,” says Noriko Kusaka, the Town’s Pension and Payroll Supervisor. Kusaka has been with the Town of Halton Hills for seven years and has seen the municipality grow and change in that time. “With growth, we have the challenge of limited resources, and how to use those resources efficiently in order to get the job done and better serve citizens.”
The Town of Halton Hills has grown by over 4,000 residents in the past five years, and there are plans for more development in the years to come. With population growth comes operational growth, which has placed more responsibility on the Town’s small HR team. One major pain point was timesheets, which, until recently, were still filled out on paper and processed manually – a hugely time-intensive task.
The municipality had been on Ceridian’s legacy system for around 18 years. A few years ago, the Town of Halton Hills realized it needed a unified solution that would enable it to continue to grow while being efficient with its resources. In 2018, the Town transitioned from its legacy system to Dayforce for payroll and workforce management.
“We have to evolve and continue changing as an organization. We’re trying to create a workplace with integrated systems and technologies. That’s the vision from the top,” says Kusaka.
Even with that clear vision, Kusaka says the team faced challenges in making the shift. While there was broad agreement that centralizing all departments in one system made sense, there was resistance from some departments when it came to aligning their various existing business processes. They worried about changing the way they operated, and everyone had some trepidation about the implementation process itself: would it go smoothly enough to avoid service interruptions for the municipality’s 800-strong workforce? Would employees find the system easy to use?
“Even though we are under the same organization, each department is completely different. For example, each department had developed individual procedures for payroll processing. There was a lot of resistance to change. But, in the end, I think everybody could see it was the right decision to make,” says Kusaka.
The shift to Dayforce has brought about significant positive change at the Town of Halton Hills. The municipality has eliminated paper timesheets, which has reduced the time employees spend on manual data entry, decreased errors, and streamlined approvals. And on the administrative side, Kusaka estimates that manual payroll tasks and double keying of data have decreased by 35%.
“Dayforce has also helped us achieve efficiencies related to timesheet administration, workflow approvals, overtime submission, attendance administration, inquiries on entitlement balances and reduction of paper filings,” Kusaka adds. “And having real-time access to reporting and analytics in one location has been a benefit to us.”
The municipality partnered closely with Ceridian’s implementation team to ensure the roll out went smoothly. Together, they kickstarted the implementation process in May 2018 and went live just six months later. “Our implementation was very successful. The team of consultants who were assigned to us were so knowledgeable and experienced, and very helpful,” says Kusaka. “I'm still grateful for those people.”
The Town has received positive feedback from employees who value being able to access their timesheets, check vacation and other entitlement balances, and request time off via the self-service portal. Kusaka says that in addition to helping with employee engagement, Dayforce has also had positive impacts on onboarding and retention – new hires are especially impressed that the municipality has instituted an intuitive, user-friendly system.
“Employees are happy to have better technology. It shows them that we're moving in the right direction, and that we’re aligned with changes in society as a whole. We didn't want to be stuck in the era of paperwork forever. [The Dayforce implementation] has changed life not just for the payroll team, but for all the employees,” says Kusaka.
Kusaka says Dayforce really proved its worth to the team and the municipality’s leadership during the pandemic. Not only has the cloud-based system made processing payroll and staying connected with employees possible during lockdowns and months of remote work, it has also helped the municipality more quickly access financial subsidies.
During mid-August 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, the Ontario provincial government announced it would provide financial relief to municipalities to help ensure the delivery of critical public services related to COVID-19 such as setting up vaccination sites, or enforcing lockdown-related bylaws. To qualify for the subsidies, the Town had to track employee hours related to this work and submit them to the province.
The last time the municipality had to enact a similar process was after a severe ice storm in 2013, Kusaka remembers. To access provincial subsidies, the Town had to show the number of overtime hours logged by public works department employees cleaning up the damage. Pulling that information from paper timesheets was time-consuming and exhausting for the overworked employees and payroll team.
Fast-forward to 2020 and it’s a completely different story. Kusaka says Dayforce made it very easy to set up a new COVID-related pay code tied to a specific general ledger (GL) account code. Employees were able to record their overtime using that pay code, and those hours automatically flowed through to the general ledger and accounting system, where they could be tracked and reported by the HR team to the province.
“When the pandemic hit last year, we set up a COVID-19 pay code. Then we started to hire Facility Ambassadors to monitor visitors to the Town facilities, and I mapped this position to a specific GL code, so all costs are tracked. Recently, we have set up the vaccine clinic pay code so all labour costs related to our vaccine clinic sites will be accurately tracked,” says Kusaka. “It's all automated. When we had the ice storm, we didn't have any of those capabilities, so we had to do a lot of manual work. Having a flexible system like Dayforce, labour cost tracking has become so much easier.”
Photo credit: Mark Taylor, September 2020
As the Town of Halton Hills continues on its path of growth, Kusaka is glad to have a comprehensive solution that enables her team to maximize limited resources and better serve citizens.
Kusaka is looking forward to bringing on new modules as the municipality develops and is pleased to have Ceridian as a partner in growth for the years to come.
“One thing I really like about Dayforce is that I can see that Ceridian is striving to improve and enhance the system all the time. I can see that there's a big research and development team trying to improve the system continuously. That’s something that I really appreciate.”