Customer Stories

The Second City calls a new partner to the stage

The professional theatre company wrangles chaotic payroll with Dayforce.

As you walk through the bustling halls of The Second City’s flagship theatre in Chicago, you will encounter people of all ages. From children in summer camp to aspiring professional comedians, the mood is electric. Comedy is something that everyone can relate to, and brings people together.

Human beings need to practice the art of being human. Improvisation does that,” remarks Kelly Leonard, Second City’s Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation.

Leonard has been with The Second City since 1988. He has been a part of decades of the company’s growth, and has overseen productions with many of Second City’s most notable alumni – Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Amy Poehler to name a few.

The Second City has been rooted in improvisation since it was founded in 1959. Viola Spolin, a social worker from the south side of Chicago in the 1930s, created games and exercises to help assimilate immigrant children in her care. Since these children shared no common verbal language, these games were meant to enable the children to better communicate and collaborate with each other despite their barriers.

Viola’s son, Paul Sills, saw the value of these games and brought them to his friends. Along with Bernie Sahlins and Howard Alk, the three formed the first improvisational theater in America, which later transformed into The Second City we know today.

With its roots in Chicago’s Old Town, The Second City started with one theater, one stage, six actors, and a couple of people working behind the scenes. After nearly 60 years, the company now employs 950 people in three different locations – Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

“Second City's mission is to make you think through laughter. Our stages are a platform to talk about things that are happening in the world – it's really important for us to say something,” explains Kerry Sheehan, The Second City’s Chief People Officer.

The nature of the comedy beast

Comedy is hectic by nature, and The Second City thrives on it.

“Improv is at our core, so we strive to be unpredictable. Every day we have to make sure that we're ready for the challenge, even though we don't know what that challenge will be,” says David Quinn, The Second City’s Chief Financial Officer.

The Second City is known for its comedy shows and improvisation groups, however they also have a corporate training center – The Second City Works – that is designed to engage employees and promote collaboration.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes. We have 950 employees that we're paying every week. We have several hundred teachers that work in our training center, and we're serving thousands of people a week through our performances, classes, and the corporate work that we do,” adds Sheehan.

Working with actors that belong to the actor’s union presents a unique challenge. Union actors are required to be paid on a weekly basis, and for simplicity’s sake, the rest of the employees at The Second City are also paid on this schedule.

“We are always in payroll mode,” says Sheehan.

With so much happening on a weekly basis, and a mix of full-time and part-time employees, The Second City realized that it needed a better way to manage its payroll.

“What we had before was unbelievable. It would induce fear in most people. There was no visibility, very limited controls, and it made it very difficult for us to know whether or not employees were being paid accurately,” explains Quinn.

The Second City partnered with Dayforce to replace this antiquated system.

“The fact that Ceridian was able to create the flexible system that we need to support all of our different groups of employees was definitely the reason that we chose them,” says Quinn.

Nothing holding them back

Since signing on with Dayforce, The Second City has seen huge improvements to the way that it’s managing its people.

“We have a chaotic work environment, at least as it relates to tracking time for our employees. We have employees that are unionized and their rates are set per show. We are paying teachers per class and not per hour. So, to have an adaptable system that allows us to track hours in the way that works best for our business, Ceridian blew that out of the water,” says Quinn.

“Now, as we schedule employees, we can see where we are on the budget before the week or the month even happens. This allows us to not only run a better business but to reduce costs. The company is able to grow without having a system holding us back,” he adds.

“It's really so much more than just a system that we are using to pay people every week. Now with Dayforce, we have one system that holds information from many different areas of our business. We now have a reliable source for information on employees, everything from basic demographic information to their performance tracking,” says Sheehan.

The reviews are in

Since implementation, Dayforce has been a hit with the team at The Second City.

It has dramatically cut down on the time it takes to commit payroll, which when processing on a weekly basis, makes a huge impact.

“To process payroll for 950 employees in 36 hours on a weekly basis creates a bit of chaos, but the fact that Ceridian has such a great platform with automated processes has allowed us to submit payroll more efficiently and accurately than ever before,” says Quinn.

Dayforce has also provided additional visibility and insight into The Second City’s scheduling and labor costs.

“Being able to see the labor costs as we're setting the schedule has allowed our managers to meet budget and continue to operate the way that they need. So, being able to cut shifts if a theater is not completely sold out and see the effect of those changes, it gives our managers more control over the planning and scheduling of their employees,” says Quinn.

One of the things that has surprised The Second City most about Dayforce is its ability to manage employees in multiple countries.

“Dayforce is able to cross borders between the United States and Canada with absolutely no hiccups, where most other systems would have to rely on a global partner. We’re able to handle it all through Dayforce, and it gives us that global view of our employees that I think every business would benefit from,” says Quinn.

Moving forward, The Second City is excited to continue growing its partnership with Ceridian.

“Second City loves to have partners – this goes back to our roots of being ensemble players. We love to work with other organizations, and when it comes to a vendor relationship, we really want to look at it as a partnership more than anything.” adds Sheehan.

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