Solution Review


Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), now Portland’5


Previous paper-based employee scheduling methods required two weeks each month of slow, methodical work transferring hand-written data from page to page.


Celayix eTime Xpress and Web Xpress automate schedule creation based on employee availability, established business rules and upcoming events, and the latter is available online for employees and volunteers.


In Portland’s thriving arts community, the performing arts have an impressive home at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), which is the fifth largest performing arts center in the nation and home to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Keller Auditorium and Antoinette Hatfield Hall, which houses the Newmark and Dolores Winningstad theaters and Brunish Hall. Located in the vibrant downtown cultural district, PCPA hosts world-class music, theater, dance, lectures and more.

Each month, PCPA schedules 2500-3000 shifts for its 150 part-time employees in dozens of events at five theaters, a convention center and an exposition center, while incorporating union rules and employee availability. PCPA also schedules 550 volunteers for 1500-2000 additional shifts in five theaters each month using a very different set of business rules. Previous paper-based methods required the admissions staffing manager and the volunteer coordinator to spend two weeks of each month in slow, methodical work transferring hand-written data from page to page.

The part-time union employees include: ushers, greeters, gate people and lead supervisors. Volunteers include: office assistants, tour guides, gift shop attendants, ushers and greeters. Staff members and volunteers are therefore a diverse group ranging from college students to octogenarians, who all support the busy performance schedule.

Each month, admissions staffing manager Bill Looker builds the employee schedule based on event labor requests, employee availability and union requirements. Factoring all requests and rules is like a puzzle. For example, those with more seniority get higher priority regarding shifts.

For years, Looker pieced together employee schedules manually using paper-based methods. Each month, theater staff came to the facility to provide their availability by hand, and then would receive resulting paper schedules by mail.

Volunteer Coordinator, Margie Humphreys had a separate process that included sending out two expensive mailings each month, a lot of paper and several hours later. PCPA realized there had to be a better way for management and employees to handle the monthly staff scheduling cycle.


“Now, it takes me just one day to create schedules compared to nearly two weeks before. It’s like a dream.”

Bill Looker
Admissions Staffing Manager, PCPA
Celayix – `Fits Our Needs Better`

With an eye toward bringing employee schedules into the digital age, the PCPA team researched online scheduling software solutions. From the companies that presented to the PCPA, the team chose Celayixe eTime Xpress and Web Xpress.

When Celayix representatives came on site to demo the workforce management software, Looker and other selected team members put it to the test. They showed Celayix reps their current employee schedules, volunteer preference process and relevant union rules, and asked how the software could accommodate it all. From the demo, it was clear the flexible solution could handle virtually any business rules that PCPA needed to enforce.

“Other software systems were nowhere near what Celayix had to offer”, Looker said. “It can handle our seniority rules, allows for real-time employee schedule updates online and fits our needs better than anyone else.”

The system’s flexibility allows Humphreys to create theater staff schedules using completely different business rules than Looker’s team. For example, all volunteers must work a four-hour minimum shift each time and complete a certain number of hours per year, which Celayix helps track and ensure.

“Celayix helps keep our volunteers organized and provides a level of accountability that we did not have before with paper employee schedules”, said Humphreys.

Scheduling Made Easy for Managers, Employees, Volunteers

True to expectation, the team worked with Celayix to customize the business rules regarding theater staff scheduling and then automated actual employee schedule creation. The software ensures that PCPA schedules everyone fairly according to a mix of criteria, including seniority, availability, requested time off, leaves of absence, peak days and “free pass” days that employees can take at any time.

Web-based Celayix provides a central location for employees and volunteers to input their availability. They can use any computer or a terminal set-up at PCPA. For the roll-out, managers held training sessions over the course of a week. Even those skeptical participants, who had “never touched a computer”, learned the system relatively quickly.

“We trained 150 part-time staff and over 400 volunteers in one week, with a 99 percent success rate – even with people who didn’t know what a mouse was!” Looker said. “Now they can sit at home in their pajamas with a cup of coffee and enter their availability. They don’t have to go anywhere and can print out their employee schedules from home.”

Faster Employee Schedules, Happier Employees

Today, PCPA has dramatically reduced the time to create employee schedules each month. Looker also has more time at work to do the rest of his job, such as managing, hiring and any personnel issues that arise.“Now, it takes me just one day to create employee schedules compared to nearly two weeks before. It’s like a dream,” he said.

Employees and volunteers also access theater staff schedules faster now by going online to the portal, rather than having to go to PCPA. Plus, the information is always accurate, compared to before when paper employee schedules could be outdated before Looker and Humphreys could make changes to them. Even those initially unsure about the switch wouldn’t go back to the old way.

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