glassybaby empowers Firstline Workers with intuitive Microsoft Office 365 scheduling
glassybaby makes and sells glass votives and supports healing-based charities with its revenues. To free its passionate Firstline retail staff from schedule-related frustrations, glassybaby uses Microsoft Office 365. Store managers save up to six hours a week in schedule creation, and retail staff use their smartphones to arrange shift substitutions and build camaraderie using the built-in chat feature. The app helps glassybaby liberate its staffers to do what they do best: help customers.
In 1998, Lee Rhodes was a young mother of three when she was diagnosed with cancer. Amidst the darkness, she found joy in a small tea light dropped into a brightly colored handblown glass cup. “That bit of bright dancing light changed how I felt at the end of every day and got me through a very difficult time,” says Rhodes.
After regaining her health, Rhodes started making and giving away handmade glass votives, which she called glassybaby. Her goodwill evolved into a business—Seattle, Washington–based glassybaby—that in 2017 produced 287,000 votives and 20,000 drinkers (small drinking glasses) in more than 400 colors and has donated more than $8 million to a variety of charities since 2000. The votives are all handmade and sold over the internet and in eight stores in Washington, Oregon, and California.
Ten percent of all glassybaby revenue is donated to charities dedicated to healing people, animals, and the planet. When Rhodes was sitting through weeks of chemotherapy, she noticed that many fellow patients were missing treatment because they couldn’t afford bus fare, childcare, or parking. So she made giving back a central tenet of the company.
“You may think it’s the silliest business model in the world,” Rhodes laughs. “But that 10 percent defines who we are and attracts the talent that we have.”
Modernize a very artisanal business
The company’s manufacturing process is very artisanal—handblown glass—but wherever possible, glassybaby is trying to modernize with technology. It started out using Google Apps (now G Suite) for email, document sharing, and creating store staff schedules. However, glassybaby ran into limits with that service.
It was constantly exceeding its data caps in Google Apps, forcing employees to supplement with free services such as Box, which made management nervous. It didn’t feel comfortable having business documents stored on public sites.
As glassybaby added stores, the process of coordinating remote teams and creating schedules in Google Apps became too complex and time consuming. The Senior Vice President of Retail spent five hours every two weeks creating schedules for each store, and store managers would print the schedules and post them to their store walls, where they could only be viewed in person.
If employees needed to swap shifts, they had to call or text one another, track down their managers for approval, and ultimately pencil in the swap on the paper schedule.
“It felt like an impossible task,” says Vicki Fredman, Director of Partnership Development at glassybaby, of managing the company’s old scheduling system. In her previous role as assistant manager of the Bellevue, Washington store, she knew the pains firsthand.
“There was often confusion about who was going to show up for work. An employee might send an email that never got read, or a shift went unfilled due to a miscommunication between employees over a swap,” Fredman says. “We were making it work, but after we opened our eighth store, we knew we needed a better way.”
Switch to the Microsoft Cloud
In 2016, glassybaby switched from Google to Microsoft Office 365. “Office 365 was easy to use, affordable, and very well supported,” Fredman says. The company also standardized on the Windows 10 operating system, which provides enhanced security and a more intuitive interface.
Corporate staff at glassybaby moved all their files into Microsoft OneDrive for Business, which provided nearly limitless cloud storage and file sharing. The company provided Office 365 ProPlus to all 400 employees, including Firstline Workers like retail staff and glassblowers, which gave them access to Office apps across work and personal devices. It created shared team sites in Microsoft SharePoint Online where employees overcome the limits of time, space, and shift differences to work on shared documents. And it switched corporate email to Microsoft Exchange Online, delivering a universal toolkit for productivity, with the security and integrated experience needed for a growing company.
Several teams also use groups in Microsoft Outlook to easily share emails, calendars, and conversations with one another. And employees use the intelligent search and discovery capability in Office 365 to quickly find what they need.
Fostering flexibility and camaraderie
Even as its IT environment improved, glassybaby still struggled with coordinating schedules and providing a single hub for teamwork for its firstline workers. The company looked at HotSchedules and other scheduling apps but found them too difficult to use or too expensive. When glassybaby heard about capabilities in Office 365 that could simplify schedule management, it fell in love.
“The schedule management capabilities in Office 365 were absolutely perfect for us,” Fredman says. “The technology is incredibly simple to use, was included in our Office 365 licensing, and met the needs of our scheduling executive, store managers, and firstline retail staff.”
Firstline workers can access Office 365 apps from any device to post and check schedules, swap shifts, share content, and chat with coworkers. Managers can send messages to one person or the entire team.
“Many of our retail staff are high school and college students, and they are all about mobile apps. Office 365 apps are perfect for millennials,” Fredman says. “They love how easy Microsoft technology is to use and that they can dynamically interact with their work schedules. They don’t have to track down colleagues’ phone numbers; everyone is reachable in Office 365.”
An employee can send out a message: “I have class until 4:00 PM on Tuesday; can anyone cover for me?” When a teammate responds (and someone always does), the requesting employee asks his or her manager for the swap approval, and once the manager taps “OK,” the schedule is updated in real time for all to see.
For employees that need extra help managing their calendars, Office 365 serves as a handy personal assistant, pinging them with reminders: “Tracy, remember that you have a shift starting in 15 minutes.” And they don’t have to wonder who they’re working with, they receive an automatic reminder that tells them.
“With Office 365, we empower our firstline employees to solve scheduling problems themselves,” says Fredman. “It relieves them of schedule adjustment anxieties and frustrations; they just pull out their phone and tap. This lets them focus on interacting with customers.”
It has also turned into a time saver. “Office 365 frees up between three and six hours a week that store managers can transfer to doing more employee training, customer outreach, or event planning,” she says.
Fredman says that firstline employees use Office 365 to do more than arrange shift swaps; they use it as chat forum for talking about work and non-work topics, such as weekend plans, which fosters an esprit de corps and what Fredman calls “mind meld”—frequent sharing among colleagues.
“We’re a family at glassybaby, and we can use Office 365 to help keep all our staff on the same page and provide a way to share ideas and encouragement,” she says. “Office 365 helps us maintain our close culture and efficiency in the face of rapid growth.”
With Office 365, we empower our firstline employees to solve scheduling problems themselves.… This lets them focus on interacting with customers.