Connecteam Employee App Saves Time & Money for “Surf Life Saving” Nonprofit Organization

Through Connecteam Employee App, Surf Life Saving Save Time & Money On Daily Operations As A Nonprofit Organization

As a nonprofit, Surf Life Saving is on a mission to protect its community in and around the beaches of New Zealand. This is all achieved through lifeguarding, surveillance, and water safety education services. These lifeguards are highly trained in first aid, search and rescue, and lifeguard operations.

Pia Harpour, the Community Education Manager of Surf Life Saving Northern Region explains, “We employ local lifeguards, educate the local schools and kids, so it helps us help the community and keep the coasts safe.” 

With such an incredible mission, Surf Life Saving was battling some of the same challenges most nonprofits face. For example, knowing when employees were available or not, managing timesheets, managing forms, reports, and checklists, streamlining communication, enhancing the onboarding and training process, and more. 

Pia of Surf Life Saving had many moving parts she needed to manage so she started to look for a solution that could solve all the challenges on her plate. And that’s when she found Connecteam.

We virtually spoke with Pia to learn more about her experiences with the Connecteam app and here’s what she had to say in her own words: 


Tell us about your company, what’s your story?

Surf Life Saving Northern Region manages coastal lifeguards but unlike other parts of the world, these coastal lifeguards don’t come under the emergency services. And in fact, in New Zealand, they volunteer on the weekends. In the peak season, we have paid lifeguards. 

One of the things we run, and what I’m passionate about, is the community education in schools. It’s my second season on the job, and as a not-for-profit, we don’t have guaranteed funding, unfortunately. Also I didn’t have a supervisor, an admin person who helps out with my teams, rostering (scheduling), upskilling these lifeguards as educators, advertising, and all that kind of stuff. I was dealing with a workforce of nearly 60 people by myself, across three different education programs, organizing public events, and managing 13 sites/venues that we educate out of across a huge area. With all those teams, we were going to educate 114 schools and have around 10,000 students educated over this summer period, if it wasn’t for the lockdown. So it was super daunting and hard until I’ve stumbled upon Connecteam.

I went on the hunt for EMS and was hoping to find one, that was both an employee learning management system for upskilling the teams AND an EMS but I was coming up short. Everything was one or the other. And then I found Connecteam and I honestly don’t think I would have made it through the season without it. I don’t think you understand the impact you’ve had on what my job is. And in the peak season, it’s 50 hour weeks and that might not sound like much but when you add on an extra 4 hours of driving time on top of it almost every day, it’s exhausting. 


Before Connecteam, what were you using for daily operations? What challenges did you face?

When I came into the job, the supervisor who I was taking over for, sat me down and said, “This is the CRM and it’s really difficult to use so make sure you use this very large manual that doesn’t have a lot of information in it and just follow the notes I’ve written throughout it.”

On top of that, you had to enter the information into a Google Spreadsheet, which left me and the staff wondering, is this the latest version of that spreadsheet? Have the lifeguards got the message of the sheet update? If they are unavailable for the new shift, when will they notify me? Have they even seen that a new roster (schedule) is out? If this lifeguard can’t work this shift, I will need to change the whole team for that shift or cancel the shift altogether. 

It was just neverending how many holes were possible. Not to mention, you then also have to message every single person when a new roster is coming out every single education day and we might be teaching 114 schools but some of those schools will have 6-10 days booked worth of education – and each of those days has a timesheet, a risk analysis form which is three pages long, and then every session has another piece of paper which is all about making sure whoever is chaperoning these kids understands all of this information we’ve given them. And I would have to collect all of those, bear in mind that people don’t even remember to bring them into the office or they live so far away that they can’t bring them into the office. It was ridiculous! 

I don’t know how the person manager before me did their timesheets before Connecteam, where they can just clock in and clock out from their mobile phone. Or if they forgot to add their travel, with Connecteam, they just click one button and add it in. 


Tell us about the features you use most and how they are helpful to your company and employees.


Real-time Availability:

Real-time Insight Into Availability (Surf Life Saving Case Study)

So the other manual spreadsheet (yes, two SEPARATE spreadsheets) we had to keep up to date was people’s availability. Often, we hire university students for this job because it’s a seasonal, summer job. Their availability would change but they’d update you a couple of days before. The availability function inside the roster is one of my favorites so I can see exactly who is available, unavailable, or how much of the day they’re unavailable for. It’s really clear who’s available to teach and that was a game-changer. 


Efficient Time Clock:

The job used to need manual entry of up to 60 timesheets a week/fortnight with time-consuming mistakes and missing adjustments. Now it’s so easy to see hours worked and add on all the extras as simple tick boxes (columns). If an employee is due overnight allowance or travel/mileage or has comments (shift attachments which employees use to enter notes), it’s all so smooth. Plus, employees have greater visibility; rather than handing in a paper timesheet and not remembering what was written, the records are all there. And if I need to ask questions about an entry I can message them from within their timesheet.

The efficiency doesn’t stop there; it’s a smooth process from employees to manager and the export options have saved our payroll person time hours as well. Connecteam gives us so much transparency and helps us work more productively. 


Dedicated Material (Workflows, Surveys, & Training):

Dedicated Workflows, Surveys & Training Folders Get Everyone On Board (Surf Life Saving Case Study)

We’re really big on health and safety and that creates a huge amount of paperwork. Having the building workflows function is amazing and that’s what’s brought on our sister organization to join Connecteam as well. As soon as the risk analysis forms we’ve created in the workflows are submitted by lifeguards across the country, I get an instant copy, and if anything is out of place, then I don’t have to waste time talking about, I’m already looking through it and can pass on details to relevant people or get them the added resources they need to operate safely.

It’s an extra pair of hands in reality. 

In addition, getting used to the new job meant that I didn’t get to review my instructors like I wanted to. Can you imagine going through a season of education without knowing if you’re actually doing a good job or if there’s anything you can improve on? I am super excited to put the instructor observational feedback form to good use this season and add them to the shift tasks in the roster. The senior instructor on the day can get that done and people can feel like they’re growing. Is it too cheesy to say that everything ‘connects’ so beautifully? 


Manager Fields:

I use statuses (manager fields), and I love them, in the offseason, I have the site/venue admins for each of my locations as users so when I put in a shift for educational learning at their location, tag them as a user, and see they accept that, I know that it’s in their calendar and they’re not going to double-book their space, they’re fully aware of that booking. And that goes for rostering/scheduling people as well. Having to make so many last-minute changes last season, it meant that I could see when they accepted the shift or rejected it. If they’re rejecting it they added notes, so I could see why, for example, if the distance to the venue was much further to where they live then I can schedule them to venues closer to home. The statuses and notes allow for so much flexibility to meet the needs of the team and get the work done.



Train & Develop Staff With The Library Feature (Surf Life Saving Case Study)

We use the library quite often to be able to train and develop our staff. We have all training divided up into locations so everyone can directly access key information from their own mobile phone like full venue arrangement, club procedures, emergency response procedures, health and safety, and so on. Each venue that they teach at runs slightly different and being able to access that information without them having to call me I think is empowering. This season, the library is being updated by the site/venue admins themselves! Another thing off my plate and we will connect a quiz built-in workflows to double-check they understand the key points of each of those documents.  


Easy Rostering/Scheduling:

Efficient Rostering (Scheduling) - Surf Life Saving Case Study

Connecteam has really helped us improve our rostering processes (scheduling). It takes me a couple of clicks and I create schedules for recurring shifts, daily needs, or large training events. And if I need to make changes quickly because something came up, I can do that without any hassle and an update is sent to all relevant employees so I can be sure that everyone is on the same page. This is such a big time saver for me because I don’t have to do everything by pen and paper or unrelated spreadsheets anymore. It cuts out the ridiculous combination of text, calls, emails, and social media which feels super unprofessional but was often the quickest way to notify everyone of schedule changes. I have more time to focus on the big picture. 


What ROI have you experienced? 

The supervisor role is 20 hours a week and our season is three months long and I’m terrible at math but we’re a not-for-profit so that’s a whole other grant you have to go for. And in the COVID environment, these grants are few and far between…

Connecteam is a huge money-saver for us. 

A Huge Money Saver (Surf Life Saving Case Study)

And I don’t mind saying that when I was researching and going through finding an EMS, Connecteam was actually the cheapest software. But it wasn’t just that. It wasn’t just that Connecteam was the cheapest, but also has more functions than any other software available. I’m so thankful for Connecteam. 


What were your impressions regarding the implementation process?

I think one of my favorite things is to be able to throw in a comment to the customer support team, asking how I do this, and if the team answers me before I find the answer myself (which is generally the case), then I can get on with it. The team is super speedy! It’s just incredible. 

I found Connecteam after my staff induction last year so I wasn’t able to properly train my staff on how to use it. The 35 employees who are between 17-40 years old picked up the app and could figure out how to enter their own timesheets, view their schedule, and message me. I did maybe three-team emails on workflows and accepting/rejecting shifts. For people who came in later in the season, it would take them an hour to master Connecteam. I would be able to take them through the entire process from getting to the venue and checking its safety to filling the daily hazard report to interacting with the teachers to the end of the day when they need to put their timesheet in and checking their roster. It would only take an hour and they’d be fluent in the app, that’s the most amazing part. It’s pretty clear on Connecteam where things are like the timeclock, the schedule, and so on. 

Adding the venue admins as admin users this season is slightly longer as all the employees are in the 30-50’s age group and require a little more help to get onboard so I create videos to show them how to use certain features so they can see exactly how Connecteam is relevant for them in their day-to-day. 


Would you recommend Connecteam to your peers? Why?

I have already been recommending Connecteam to various companies like mine. However, Connecteam is pretty relevant to any industry. Although I believe that every lifeguard in New Zealand will eventually be on Connecteam!


What surprised you about Connecteam?

I’ve never seen an app so quick to change and add features for your plan. It’s so cool that this happens so quickly and it’s so useful for my company to have access to new features. It’s also a true all-in-one app that’s incredible for the price. 

And two, the amazing customer service. For such a global company, it’s incredible to know I can ask anything and get a fast response from a dedicated team that I now know by name. Maybe a company slogan for you guys could be “Connecteam; the admin helps so you don’t have to hire anyone and they know your business, and theirs, inside and out”.


Going forward, what would you like to achieve with Connecteam?

The new task management feature came into play during our offseason and I am super excited to start using it. In addition, task management will be super helpful because we won’t just be doing risk analysis once a day but two or three times to ensure that conditions are still okay (especially when putting kids out into the surf). So that’ll be a handy thing. 

I really want to start using the learning feature of Connecteam like through video content and quizzes so my team can have a sense of growth and development. 


Anything else you’d like to add about your experience with Connecteam?

It’s super-important to move away from communicating with employees on social media platforms but they’re the easiest way to get a hold of people. Connecteam is an incredible and professional lift for us as an organization, to move away from social media platforms, to have everything on one smooth, dedicated work channel with clear records and that’s been amazing. 

Getting the system in place when the shifts were already happening was way easier than I thought it was going to be. Over a couple of nights with the help of the customer services team, I had uploaded over 100 shifts and 35 employees. 

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