Designers. Writers. Video editors. Developers. Marketers. Photographers. No matter what creative talent you need, Aquent has it. Need someone to produce that big product launch video? Aquent has the talent for that. Looking for help with your sales software UX? Aquent has you covered. Want a team to help with your marketing campaign strategy? Aquent is there.
The global marketing and creative staffing organization buzzes with energy and talent, employing 5,000 people in eight countries: the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Japan, and Australia. Approximately 1,000 of its workers are full- or part-time staff, while the other 4,000 are creative talent who are deployed at hundreds of organizations around the world. These organizations range from Fortune 500 companies to niche marketing agencies. Most creative talent works slightly different schedules and contract lengths – and they’re all on Aquent’s payroll.
Aquent sets itself apart by the quality and breadth of its talent and creative offerings, but that’s not the only way the company differentiates itself. In the era of the gig economy, many workers have low job security and lack access to benefits and pensions. Aquent rejects that trend. The company knows its workforce is its lifeblood. So, it provides the same benefits and perks to all its workers, regardless of whether they’re staff or contract talent.
“We pride ourselves on being one of the first staffing agencies to offer benefits before requirements or legislation said we had to,” says Jen Horton, VP of Human Resources. “Our creative staff have the same three medical plan offerings as the president of the company. We offer a 401(k) match. We provide sick time to all locations in the country. Life insurance, long term disability, any type of leave – we provide them to our talent just like we do to our staff.”
Managing a dispersed and remote global workforce is complex. Paying staff from London to Sydney means responding to regulatory expectations and requirements that vary from country to country, and between different localities. HR teams must maintain compliance with all these regulations and keep on top of constant changes.
Three of Aquent’s six payroll practitioners are located in and serve North America, while the other half serve Europe, Asia, and Australia. The team runs back-to-back payrolls weekly on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, with a two-day turnaround from when payroll is processed to when it’s paid. The constant churn can be stressful: with such tight timelines, there’s no room for error. Having to fix payroll mistakes or take extra time to duplicate information could cause delays for staff who depend on their paycheck to live.
Handling HR tasks for a constantly fluctuating workforce is another challenge. Because most contracted talent works slightly different lengths of time, the payroll team is constantly dealing with people coming on and off payroll. Horton estimates that the company issues 10,000 W2s a year.
“Our biggest difficulty is keeping track of our employees and making sure that they're getting paid properly, making sure that we're collecting all the appropriate documentation, and keeping up with all of the new rules and regulations – especially this past year [during COVID],” says Horton.
While the company’s legacy payroll solution worked, it wasn’t comprehensive enough to provide the reporting the company needed to feel confident in data accuracy or drive strategic business decisions. Aquent found itself plugging the gaps with other systems. This created a complex web of solutions that was costly and time-consuming to manage and led to errors and knowledge gaps.
Aquent needed a trusted, unified HCM solution – a system that could simplify payroll, help maintain compliance, and offer the company real-time insights across its global workforce.
“It was important for the firm to grow and to have the HR framework, that single source of truth for talent and for staff information, across the globe,” says Larry Bartlett, VP of Finance. “Our clients are global; Aquent has to be global in how it services those clients. Our staff and our talent are part of that equation. To support that, we needed a global enterprise-level HR system.”
After conducting a search, Aquent selected Dayforce as its system of record for human capital data. The company began implementation planning pre-COVID, with the Ceridian team working in person with the Aquent team in its Boston offices. When the pandemic hit, implementation went virtual, but the team didn’t miss a beat. The company launched Dayforce for payroll, time and attendance, benefits, recruiting, onboarding and performance in the U.S. and Canada on January 1, 2021. It then deployed in Australia on July 1. The UK is next on its list.
“From a payroll perspective especially, the cutover went very smoothly. One week we're on one system, the following week we're on Dayforce. The implementation teams have been very professional, very focused on being ahead of the curve, identifying issues before those issues actually happen,” says CIO Larry Bolick. “I left two days prior to launch on vacation and came back expecting to have a mailbox full of questions. But it was quiet, which was a good indicator that cutover had worked pretty darn well.”
Having a dependable cloud-based system has been an asset to Aquent as it moves to being fully and permanently remote. The company doesn’t have to worry about hosting or managing data or servers. And the system gives users access to workforce and payroll data anywhere, anytime.
Dayforce has also provided the solid payroll foundation Aquent was looking for. Horton estimates that the incidence of errors has gone down by 50%, if not more. When errors do occur, the team can quickly correct them in the system. The payroll team is saving five hours on data entry and processing just on Monday payroll, which adds up to more than 30 days of work over the course of the year. There have also been time savings on the accounting side, where Dayforce makes it easier to post payroll to the financials, and on the benefits side, where Dayforce’s self-serve options have reduced the burden of work on the team.
Aquent’s Dayforce investment also led to cost savings. “From an ROI perspective, we were projecting about $280,000 of savings in terms of displacing other systems with Dayforce functionality. So far, we're about two-thirds of the way towards meeting that goal,” says Bolick.
Dayforce is also helping the company manage disparate regulatory environments and remain in compliance when regulations change.
“Regulatory compliance has been a challenge for us, particularly this last year due to the pandemic,” says Horton. “Our top priorities are making sure people get paid accurately and that we are compliant in all of our locations globally. And Dayforce helps us to do both.”
Having a single source of truth has also increased the company’s confidence in its data. Before, it could take up to five business days for the company to get information on the weekly payroll. Better reporting functionality means Aquent can now generate same-day or next-day payroll reports and get information and insights in real-time.
“The single pane of glass gives us visibility from a single source into multiple systems and multiple payroll processes in various countries around the world. Aquent never had that before,” says Bolick. “Previously, we had individual point solutions in different locations that had to roll up into a single view. Now, Dayforce does a lot of that for us. That's important because management at headquarters in Boston now has visibility into Melbourne, Toronto, and soon into Britain for the purposes of payroll, HR, and other areas as well.”
Horton adds: “Aquent is not a black and white organization. We are very complex, and the Ceridian team has been able to listen to how we do business and how we pay people, and really create a system that works for us.”
One of the great advantages of living and working in an era of globalization is that it opens the door to collaboration that knows no borders, and a cross-pollination of ideas and talent that can lead to incredible advancements in creativity and innovation.
Dayforce helps Aquent look after its global workforce and harness its skills and expertise to bring that creative potential to its clients.
As it looks to the future, Aquent plans to continue to deepen the benefit it can gain from Dayforce and leverage it to develop a framework and roadmap for sustainable growth.
“The analysis of human capital data in staffing has only really begun to be explored,” says Bolick. “From a future perspective, we're going to see much more emphasis on how we use the human capital data to plan not only for Aquent but also for the talent that work for Aquent, and for the clients who rely on Aquent. Dayforce will provide ongoing insights into how we treat staff, how we plan for careers for internal staff, and how we go about hiring internal staff in the future across the globe.”