Ashik Ahmed
CEO and Co-founder Deputy

Ashik Ahmed is the CEO and Co-founder of Deputy, a workforce management platform that simplifies shift work for millions of hourly workers and businesses worldwide.

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Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 247. Today we’ll be talking to Ashik from Deputy about the use case or business case for why his customers choose Deputy.

Deputy’s scheduling app integrates with leading payroll, POS and HR systems for a smooth experience from day one.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William

Show length: 30 minutes

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Announcer: 00:02 Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s use case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment in HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: 00:25 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Ashik Ahmed from Deputy and we’ll be learning about the business case or the use case for why his customers purchase Deputy. Ashik. Would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Deputy?

Ashik Ahmed: 00:43 Hi, William. Thank you for inviting me. Great to be here. My name is Ashik Ahmed. I’m the CEO, CTO and co-founder of Deputy. Deputy is a workforce management software. It has a simple mission, and I love our mission, is to simplify shift work. There’s two billion shift workers in the world. And for 5,000 years of humanity, since work has existed they just haven’t had the attention, interest in how their life can be better. And Deputy’s mission is to simplify it, to make it better. And we believe when we do so, the world becomes a better place and every community around the world will have thriving workplaces. So thriving workplaces in every community is our vision.

William Tincup: 01:28 Oh, I love it. And first of all, I love just simplify shift work. Which it sounds easy, not easy. If it were easy, it would be done by now, right? So what have been some of the roadblocks to simplifying shift work at least historically that you’ve run into, that y’all are overcoming.

Ashik Ahmed: 01:52 So let me first define what shift work is, and then I’ll go into what are the challenges that come with it? So basically shift work is like somebody who’s probably an hourly paid worker most likely. They can be salary paid, but they don’t necessarily work nine to five. Okay? There isn’t anything, such a fixed schedule. But they will be working different hours in different weeks and different days, can be in workplaces that are 24 hours. And these people, they’re all around us. And for better part of humanity, we take them for granted. So you walk out, you get on the bus or train. Okay, the bus driver or train driver is probably a shift worker. You go to a restaurant, somebody serves you. They’re shift workers. Okay. If you have to go to the hospital or a medical place, most likely the nurses and the doctors, they’re shift workers.

Okay. You’re flying an airplane. Okay. Usually, most 99% of them are shift workers. You go to a factory who’s producing the goods that we consume. That’s shift workers. So they’re everywhere. Now, for all those examples I gave you, the shift work challenge in terms of, “Hey, how do they get scheduled?” Like when they’re coming to work, who is coming to work, who they’re working with, where they will be going, what they will be doing. The four Ws basically, who, what, when and where, that’s employee scheduling. And that itself is a very much a challenging thing to solve. Historically- [inaudible 00:03:38]

William Tincup: 03:38 Yeah, yeah go ahead. Finish your thought.

Ashik Ahmed: 03:42 Sorry.

William Tincup: 03:43 No, no. Finish your thought. I’m sorry.

Ashik Ahmed: 03:45 Okay. All right. Yeah. So to give you an example, let’s just say a restaurant. Okay? Let’s just say it’s a bit of a large restaurant and you have about 50 people working for you. In a week, if you’re operating from say 6:00 AM to 1:00 AM, rather a long span of hours as far as a restaurant is concerned, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there is 38 trillion if I get the number right of possible combinations of how you can do the scheduling in terms of who is going to come when, people’s preferences, who they want to work with, who they don’t want to work with. Some may have their other outside work commitments. Some people may have two jobs in here. And then there around are labor and regulatory challenges.

There’s so many different things that comes with the scheduling thing. And then also you have to make sure that your business has the right level of staffing based on when it’s going to be busy or when it’s going to be quiet in your workplace. I’m pretty sure all of us over here have walked into a restaurant or a shop to find that, “Hey, they’re so busy that they don’t actually have enough people to serve the customer,” customer gets frustrated and they leave. Or you have also probably would’ve walked into restaurants where, “Whoa, I’m the only person and there’s five people waiting around to serve me.” Okay. Both of those things are actually bad for the business. You either lose customer loyalty or you’re spending so much that you go out of business.

That’s just employee scheduling challenges that most businesses face. And I can tell you that even before Deputy, even with Deputy in today’s world, 85% of all businesses are still doing this in pen and paper, some doing it in Excel. Some think they have adopted a cloud solution by putting it in Google Sheets. Okay. So it’s a massive challenge. So that’s part one. Part two is making sure these people are remunerated correctly. And because of the work they’re doing, people might be getting overtime. There’s delayed meal break penalties. Depending on the country you’re operating in, they have local labor laws.

These are all very, very heavy compliance challenges that people need to adhere to. If you don’t, you get sued, you get fined. You can go basically go bankrupt and lose your reputation in there. And the final thing what Deputy looks after when it comes to the world of simplifying shift work is actually looking after the needs and wants of people. Knowledge workers, we are quite blessed to actually have a lot of tools like Slack, Zoom and sit behind a computer to do our work. Most hourly paid workers are not using a computer or a laptop to do their work. Okay? And depending on the industry, they might not even be allowed to use their phone on the job because of hygiene reasons. How do you communicate with these people? How do you keep them motivated? How do they know what is expected of them? That’s the employee communication part. So these are the three big challenges Deputy solves. The employee scheduling, the labor compliance, time and attendance, and finally looking after the needs and wants of people.

William Tincup: 07:22 So with scheduling in particular, we’ll kind of unpack each one of them, one of the things I’ve noticed at least historically is swapping schedules is almost like the schedule was written in concrete or on some type of marble. And the ability for employees to switch schedules needed approval, needed to go through this kind of formal process and kind of a lot of bureaucracy, et cetera. What have you seen? Just what’s needed? Again with the backdrop of simplifying shift work, what’s needed from a scheduling perspective?

Ashik Ahmed: 08:05 Well, the good news is Deputy has already solved it. So look, the biggest challenge any business has is that every single day somebody will call in sick or some life event for which you can’t come to work. And somebody has to own that problem now. And most managers absolutely dread it. Most managers absolutely dread that phone call that, “Hey, I can come to work.” And the manager now has to play a massive Tetris game to figure out how to handle this. And yes, you are right. In some places, the schedule is written in concrete and it cannot be changed because the manager doesn’t want to actually own that problem. But hey, guess what? Life happens. Life happens. Okay? When life happens, you have to change your shift. Most shift workers I know in this world would change their job because of flexibility of their schedule, then pay. Okay?

What do you think has given the rise to Uber and all this gig economy in there? Because of people’s flexibility, being able to do things. Okay. And now we are facing this challenge in the world where we have labor shortage. Okay? Businesses can’t hire people. Well, if you’re going to put your schedule in concrete, guess what? You’re not going to get people. Okay? And guess what? This kind of alternative kind of culture of like, “Hey, this is our way or the highway,” is not going to have people come and work for you and you are basically going to be short staffed and not be able to deliver service to your customer and go out of business. So it’s super important that people understand that, “Hey, you need to actually provide flexibility to your staff member.”

And look, Deputy does this really easily. Okay? For a staff member, they can just pick up their smartphone. Deputy’s available as a free app. They can go to their schedule, see their shift and tap on that shift and actually be able to swap that shift with anyone. Okay? And the business rules will be observed. Every time somebody’s scheduled in Deputy, Deputy does six checks. Number one, the individual is not double booked to work somewhere else. Number two, they’re trained and qualified to do a shift. Number three, they’re not going to be on vacation. For example, if there’s PTO or [inaudible 00:10:50] other things. Number four, that they have availability. So PTO and availability are two separate things. You don’t have to apply for PTO every week. So for example, you’ve got an MBA class on Friday nights. Number five, they’re not going to be fatigued or stressed.

Number six, they’re preferred to work there. Okay. You can have your entire workplace trained, but certain VIP areas, you only want certain people to come in. Deputy does an enormous amount of calculation in the background to ensure that you have the right person doing the right job at the right time at the right place. So shift swaps are automatically sorted in Deputy, I’ve met business owners and managers who would spend two days scheduling, two days they would spend per week to get the schedule right for next week. Now with Deputy, we have an auto schedule feature where they just press that button and we build the schedule automatically by trying all sorts of different permutations and ensuring that you are not going to have any scenario that someone’s going to say that, “Hey, I didn’t want to work that shift.” And not only that, it would be cost optimized per your labor demand based on the point of sale that we have integrated with or other business indicators, demand metrics we have on Deputy. And then on top of that, still life happens. People are able to trade their shifts.

William Tincup: 12:14 Right. First of all, that’s lovely. Let’s move to compliance. Again with the backdrop of simplifying shift work, what do we need to know about compliance?

Ashik Ahmed: 12:29 So first of all, most businesses find out that they’re not compliant by getting fined. Okay? That’s what I’ve seen around the world with so many different businesses. And usually the larger you are, the bigger target you become either for a regulatory body to target you, or there are legal companies who just goes after for class action and other things. So depending on the state you are in United States, California or New York for example or even in Illinois, there are very different labor laws. Okay? And it applies to different industries. For example, in New York, if you are a fast food company and you have more than 20 locations I believe, you have this thing called New York Fair Work Week Laws that applies to you. It doesn’t apply to everybody, but it applies to businesses that are more than 20 locations. I think it’s 20, might be 10 as well, as far as how you can schedule your employees there or not. And are you familiar with this, William by any chance?

William Tincup: 13:52 Yeah, of course, of course. I was going to ask you about not only their preferences in terms of days off like school, but when we talked about restaurants and hospitality, you’re dealing with a lot of folks that are also navigating other parts of life let’s just say, let’s say school might be a part of that. There’s certain days they can and can’t work. So there’s preferences. But you also have, at least here in the States you’ve got overtime requirements. Yep. I think it’s still 40 hours, over 40 hours is considered overtime and paid differently. And again, that’s dependent on federal, state and municipal regulations of course. But especially with shift workers, I think of compliance in that regard. It’s like, “Okay. How do we navigate towards the schedule that they want?” which we talked about a bit. But also, “How do we make sure that they get the hours that they want, but also that they don’t go too much over the hours that they need as well?”

Ashik Ahmed: 15:02 Oh, absolutely. So you have the scheduling challenges obviously of a fair work week, when you can change, what you can change, by when you have to notify somebody. That’s one side. You do have the overtime challenges that comes in and different states have different… I think California is over eight hours per day for example. Oregon might have a different requirement. Couple of months ago, I learned Nevada has a rolling 24 hour period in terms of how overtime is calculated. It’s a mind bender. It’s a mind bender in terms of figuring out how rolling 24 hour will work. And then on top of everything, you have break compliance. Okay? That’s something that most people are not very familiar with for example.

William Tincup: 15:54 Tell us a little bit about it. Yeah.

Ashik Ahmed: 15:55 So for an eight hour shift in California for example, you must get one 30 minute unpaid meal break and you must have two 10 minute paid rest break. And one of the breaks must be taken within first five hours of shift. And the other one can be kind of staggered depending on the shift and times in there. These things, they can be really challenging in terms of how you go and schedule people to take break when you’re scheduling and also enforcing the fact that they have gone and taken that break. [inaudible 00:16:39]. And by the way, the unpaid meal break for 30 minutes, it has to be 30 minutes. Like someone cannot come back to work at the 27th minute for example. And yeah, there’s been companies who have been subject to class action because they weren’t able to demonstrate that they had appropriate break compliance built in in their time and attendance software.

William Tincup: 17:06 Wow. Yeah. And again, you just highlighted Nevada. That’s just one state. And so one state was one kind of crazy way of looking at a 24 hour and breaks, being able to keep up with that from an employer perspective. If you’re so in the weeds of just trying to get work done to be, you need something like Deputy to help you kind of keep compliant because you can get twisted up with that pretty quickly.

Ashik Ahmed: 17:39 Easily, easily. And William, the funny thing over here is when I go and read some of these regulations, this is my biggest kind of strife in life. These rules are quite often set up to penalize the business owner. And the way they’re written, they’re so hard to understand. Okay? It’s hard for the business owners to understand, and I doubt any shift worker themselves know what they’re entitled to.

William Tincup: 18:11 Oh, a hundred percent. I can just go ahead and, yes, that is absolutely a hundred percent true. And if they did, I’d be shocked if they actually knew what they were entitled to. Let me ask you a couple questions more on the Deputy side on the buy side. And we’ll start with buying questions that you love to hear. So this is again kind of trying to educate practitioners in terms of what’s available. So I think we’ve done a pretty good job of painting Deputy, the solution and what it does and how it helps people. Now let’s get into the buying side and talk a little bit about that for a couple minutes. Obviously you and your sales team and everybody at your company, you talk to a bunch of folks. You’re trying to revolutionize the way that shift work is getting done and making it easier for everyone. What are questions that you just love to hear from practitioners?

Ashik Ahmed: 19:16 Look, it depends the audience, okay? Who we are talking to now. The HR team, if I’m talking to the HR team, they’re definitely more focused around the compliance part, the understanding all the labor laws and exactly how Deputy helps them solve that labor law. Okay? That’s one thing that is very, very common and we love educating our customers about how to be a more compliant business when it comes to labor laws, a hundred percent. If we are talking to the people in the operations side of the business, it’s definitely more around the scheduling part, the challenge of scheduling. One thing that even though they might not say this, William, I ask them and see what they say is, “What happens when somebody calls in sick? Can you tell me, what is the policy when somebody calls in sick?”

And I have heard all sorts of crazy answers. I actually once was at a very renowned, I’m not going to name who they are, brand in the US in one of their facility. And the workers I remember telling me this, okay? I asked them, “Hey, what happens if you don’t want to come to work, a family emergency happens or something like that?” Her answer was that, “Well, if I miss one shift, I’m fired. So rain, hail or shine, okay, I have to be there. I have to be there.” [inaudible 00:21:05].

Announcer: 21:04 That’s insane.

Ashik Ahmed: 21:08 That is insane, but that’s how it is. And this is a couple of years ago by the way. This is before the pandemic and they had a lot of talent lined up if I [inaudible 00:21:19] my position. So I have to make it no matter. I’ve also heard, actually this is even a funnier story, I was actually interviewing a candidate for Deputy once in a restaurant. And I wanted to demonstrate what happens. So I asked the waiter, I said, “Okay. Hey, what happens if you don’t want to come to work?” And he goes, “Look, over here we have a 1-800 number I can call, and I can just leave a message saying that I’m not coming and that’s it.” “Wow. Great. Who looks after that phone call?” He’s like, “I don’t know. Somebody does.”

And I’m like, “So would your manager know?” And he’s like, “Yep.” So the manager comes in, I ask the same question. He’s like, “Oh yeah, we have someone whose job is to monitor that voicemail. And then they will go and find someone.” And I’m like, “Did somebody call in today?” He’s like, “Oh yeah. About two people have called in already. We’re running around trying to find cover.” And I’m like, “What happens on busy nights?” This is actually a restaurant in Las Vegas. And they’re like, “Well, on busy nights we will pay 10 people extra just to be on call to come in.” Talk about the inefficiencies. So before they asked that question, I actually asked the question, “So just tell me what happens when somebody calls in sick. Okay? And then obviously we demonstrated in terms of how, how simply Deputy can solve this.

We talk a lot about getting the right level of staffing in place based on getting your demand data coming from point of sale and other places and doing labor forecasting, as well as demand planning. And then having ensuring that, “Hey, you have the right staff coverage in different times of the day.” We talk about culture, especially how to keep your workforce really, really aligned. We are not HR, William. We are not a HR software. We call ourselves a workforce management software. So workforce management software sits between HR and payroll. Basically, your source of truth about who your employees are is your HR software. And how people are paid is your payroll software. But we are the middle layer to ensure that this is what happens day in, day out.

And if you want to connect with your employees, shift workers, if you want to let them know what’s happening at work, the biggest thing we do at Deputy is we have a feature called newsfeed where you can communicate with your workers in terms of, “Hey, what’s important today?” What’s required of them. They can actually read and confirm that they have read the messages. That’s where the whole culture and communication piece comes in. So these are kind of things that the buyers ask and we work with them.

William Tincup: 24:13 I love it. I love it. Okay. So favorite part of the demo. When you show Deputy to someone for the first time, what’s that aha moment? What’s that bit where you’re like, “Okay. I know that they’re going to love this.”

Ashik Ahmed: 24:34 Depending on who I am speaking to, the one thing that absolutely is the magic wow of Deputy, and I don’t think any of our competitors do this or do this as well as we do, is the auto schedule. If you didn’t have Deputy, any scheduling software, you’ll have to create shift, allocate the people in the shift and play a lot of Tetris to get it right. In Deputy, you can come in and press this button called auto build or auto schedule and Deputy will build your entire schedule. Literally, you can press that button, go make a coffee, go talk to a team member, go speak to a customer. You come back. All your schedule’s done in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. So that’s definitely one thing.

And the second thing, and I’ve actually had great feedback from our customer [inaudible 00:25:32], is that they can just pull out their smartphone and see who is at work right now. What time did they start? And if you get that phone, somebody has called in sick, you can just tap on their shift and literally do a find replacement from the phone without having to pick up the phone and call 20 different people to see who’s going to pick up the shift or not.

William Tincup: 25:53 Love it. First of all, I love that. And I know that we could probably spend another 30 minutes talking about the technology behind how that actually happens and how you optimize, but let’s save that for another day because I think that would be fascinating. But last question is, yeah, your favorite or your most recent customer story that you just are in love without naming names, without brands and stuff like that. But just a customer story that you’re just in love with these days.

Ashik Ahmed: 26:22 A story that I quite often repeat, and this is a true story. So this is one of our customers and I’m happy to name the customer if that’s okay, William-

William Tincup: 26:37 Yeah. Sure.

Ashik Ahmed: 26:37 … because they’ll be happy to… So it’s a customer called Gelato Messina. They’re Australia’s number one gelato. If you’re ever in Australia, William, or [inaudible 00:26:46] I recommend Gelato Messina. So this one time I was at one of their stores. It’s a Thursday night, 10:30 at night. I was there buying gelato. My wife was there. My three year old. We’re staying up pretty late, being a good parent that night. And yeah, I was buying gelato and I was wearing my Deputy T-shirt my or our [inaudible 00:27:12] T-shirt. And a gentleman behind the counter asked me, do I work for Deputy? I said, “Yes. I work for Deputy.” My wife was there and corrected who I am. Next thing I’m getting staff discount on the gelato.

And so I’m like, “All right. Hey, any feedback about Deputy? Is there anything Deputy can do better?” And [inaudible 00:27:32] goes, “Look, it’s been the biggest change in my working life.” I’m like, “Whoa, that’s a really big statement. What do you mean? Why?” He’s like, “Look, in my past jobs if I didn’t want to say come to work, I’d tell the managers, ‘Hey, I want to go to a concert next weekend. I’ve got this shift. Can I not come to work? What can I do?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, go find your cover.’ So I’m going, calling all my other colleagues and things. I’m trading kidneys, I find cover. And then I’m calling to say that, ‘Hey, can Mary do my shift?’ And they’re like, “Oh, Mary costs more than you. Sorry, no.'”

“And I’m down two kidneys already for all the swaps everything. And now with Deputy, I can just, I don’t know want to work on Saturday because I’m going to go to a concert, I can tap on that shift. I can go find my cover, swap my shift. Who’s working Monday? Do I like work? Do I like the people on Monday? No, I don’t. I’ll go to the following week. Okay I am able to be in complete control of my life without bothering anyone.” And he told me something that was probably the most profound thing I’ve ever heard. He was like, “I don’t think I’ll ever work for a business that doesn’t have Deputy.”

William Tincup: 29:00 Wow. High praise right there.

Ashik Ahmed: 29:04 That is. And at that point, this is just a couple of years ago, we measure NPS in Deputy really vigorously to understand, “Hey, what is our buyer saying?” Word of mouth and referral is the biggest driver of growth for Deputy as a business. And up until then, we used to measure NPS of our buyers and it fluctuates between 45 and 50, which is already very high. And we were never measuring NPS for shift workers. And then I asked the team, “Okay. Hey, let’s start measuring the NPS for shift workers.” That came at 70.

William Tincup: 29:39 Oh yeah. Oh yeah, for all the reasons you said. It’s life changing.

Ashik Ahmed: 29:44 And I realized at that point, that was probably one of the most profound things ever for me, it’s like all my life I have focused on, how do I improve the life of the business owner and the manager? I used to work for my co-founder and I created software for him to make his life better and his team’s life better. And I wanted to see that story getting repeated around the world, other business owners actually benefiting and really improving their lives. But then I’m like, “Wow. And there you are, my biggest fan.”

William Tincup: 30:19 Drops mic, walks off stage.

Ashik Ahmed: 30:22 That’s right.

William Tincup: 30:23 First of all, I don’t think you can get a higher praise from a user, from someone that’s using the technology that y’all build. Thank you so much for coming on the Use Case Podcast.

Ashik Ahmed: 30:34 Thank you for having me, William. It was great.

William Tincup: 30:36 Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

Announcer: 30:42 You’ve been listening to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up at recruitingdaily.com.

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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