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Deputy saves Winter Wonderland Hyde Park 12.1% in labour costs

London, United Kingdom
hospitality industry Hospitality

At a glance

  • Scheduling time reduced from 16 hours to 30 minutes
  • Reduced labour costs by 12.1% in first year
  • Accurate time sheets, quicker payroll processing, fewer pay errors

The Story

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park is London’s spectacular Christmas destination offering the ultimate Christmas festival experience in the heart of London. It’s located in London’s famous Hyde Park, and is the biggest Christmas event in the UK with more than three million visitors annually. 

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park schedules 817 shift workers with Deputy across their big draw ice attractions- the UK’s largest outdoor Ice Rink, the Magical Ice Kingdom- as well as 4 of the major bars. Winter Wonderland is run by IMG Events who also manage Hampton Court Palace Festival, Big Festival, Taste of London, Lift 109, the viewing experience and the ice rink Glide at Battersea Power Station.

"It's our first full scale return since the pandemic and it feels good to be back."

- Fiona Sadler, Senior Manager Recruiting

winter wonderland hyde park deputy

The Challenge

Every year at Winter Wonderland, a small army of shift workers man the lights, rides, ice skating rinks, and ensure date nights and get togethers run smoothly. Their schedules are orchestrated by Wasib Awan, Box Office Manager at Winter Wonderland.  

Prior to Deputy, Wasib managed scheduling for Winter Wonderland on Excel spreadsheets. “I would line up everybody’s names on Excel, columns and rows, and if your name was on, you were booked. I’d then need to personally send reminders out a day before to let people know they were on shift. It was sort of a system,” he says with a wry smile. 

Over time it became clear that the manual system didn’t work. “For staff it was difficult for them to know what shifts they were working and it was time consuming. They couldn’t find their shift until they’d read through the entire sheet to find the shift that was specific to them in the rota,” he recalls.

In addition his team, primarily Gen Z and Millennials live on their phones. Excel sheets didn’t work for them. 

Wasib would send the rota out at least 10 days in advance and wait for staff to get back to him confirming their availability. Availability was communicated either via email or on paper and he would then reconcile these two processes. It would take two days to create the rotas. Calculating breaks and demand planning was manual and complicated. 

“On Deputy you can cap people’s work to 40 hours a week and make sure everybody gets at least some sort of a break during the week. But with the previous process it was all manual. I had to manually check that nobody was working 14 days in a row without a break. It was time consuming.”

Gauging demand and labour need was also more based on human experience rather than scientific data. “I’ve been here for so long, that I could  guess the number of staff we needed on each shift. It mostly worked, but sometimes I’d end up with 5 extra people on the day who weren’t really needed and who I had to find work for. Our accuracy range for demand planning was around 5-10% I would say.”

Payroll accuracy was also a burning issue. “We used to get timesheets that we couldn't read, particularly from bars where people had spilled drinks all over them or timesheets with aliases and nicknames so payroll didn’t know who was who and being paid what. So it was just a nightmare to try and keep track on manual bits of paper of what was essentially nearly a thousand people. It was so time consuming that we employed one person whose sole task was to transfer the manual timesheets into an Excel sheet for payroll. It was just crazy,” recalls Fiona Sadler, Senior Manager Recruiting.  

Irene Hall, deputy HR Manager and Payroll Manager for Winter Wonderland, seconds this. “We’d spend 10 days to two weeks uploading each timesheet to payroll. The manual process led to a lot of data input errors, and time wasted querying those errors after the event."

“Excel sheets are not amazing to open on a smart phone. My staff live on their phone, everything's done on the phone, and Excel is not great for that.”

- Wasib Awan, Box Office Manager

hyde park winter wonderland deputy customer story

The Solution

Payroll errors, complicated scheduling, poor communication - it was such a perfect storm that Fiona felt compelled to put together a business case for an automated scheduling solution and present it to Winter Wonderland's key financial decision makers. 

They needed a solution that would reduce payroll disputes, eliminate human errors and make them more efficient. According to the team, Deputy has more than delivered. 

Fewer Payroll Errors, Less Time on Admin

“Deputy allows staff to check their timesheets before they are submitted which has helped reduce errors significantly. Deputy’s OpenAPI also integrates easily with HR and payroll systems, which has made exporting timesheets to SAGE payroll simple and straightforward. We’ve saved a lot of time on that front, and the timesheet export from Deputy and upload to Sage is seamless," says Irene.

“Deputy ticked off all the right boxes for us. I could see that it was instantly going to create the efficiency we needed, and free up time for our managers to focus on managing our shift workers on site rather than working on mindless admin,” says Fiona. 

Deputy was also affordable and made sense financially for the six week large scale hospitality event. “We didn’t want an all-in-one solution that we’d be locked into for a year after the event had ended. We wanted to pay for what we were using for the period we needed the solution,” she says. 

Improved Trust and Communication

Deputy also improved trust massively between staff and management. “There were no disputes anymore about who worked where and when. It introduced transparency both for managers and employees. Staff could see clearly exactly what hours they were getting paid for,” says Fiona. 

“There’s definitely more trust and transparency - they can see what shifts they’ve worked, and that the shifts have been recorded and approved. In the past after we’d run payroll for say 100 staff, 15 would come back to us querying their pay. Now we might get one person, and it will usually be down to personal error, either they didn’t clock in or I hadn’t approved their shift,” says Wasib.

Winter Wonderland has used Deputy now for 4 years, barring 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

In addition to increasing trust, reducing payroll issues, and making scheduling simpler, Deputy has helped Winter Wonderland navigate workforce demographic challenges. “The majority of our staff are in their early 20s. It’s much easier to get information to them on an app than through an email. It’s also very user friendly,” says Wasib. 

Lower Labour Costs and More Accurate Demand Planning

Estimating demand planning inaccurately is also now a thing of the past.  “Demand planning and staffing is so much more accurate now. We can start with a conservative number of people on shift, and fill up any last minute shifts quickly. Anyone available would get a push notification when shifts open up,” says Wasib. 

“Previously, we had to book a contingency staff on the old system. This contingency could be between 10% to 20% based on the days, Transport issues and holiday period. We do not have any contingency on most days and just 2-3% on the busiest days. To make up for the last minute cancellations.”

"In the first year of using Deputy we were able to reduce labour costs by 12.01%", says Fiona.

“We considered other vendors initially but Deputy were just so easy to work with and friendly. We felt looked after right from the get go,” she adds. 

Increased Staff Satisfaction

Winter Wonderland is so pleased with Deputy  that it is now being extended to Hampton Court Palace Festival, their ice rink attraction, Glide, London’s brand new only riverside ice rink and Lift 109 the viewing experience at Battersea Power Station.

The staff are more than pleased as well. "Deputy helps me balance my shifts with other priorities such as my studies and my job in the NHS. It was a real challenge doing this prior to Deputy," says Ayisha Hamid, Box Office Supervisor.

“Deputy has been a game changer for us. It’s transformed the whole payroll function. It’s really made things so much easier, with many fewer errors. It’s just brilliant basically."

- Irene Hall, Payroll Manager

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