How A Design Agency Bridged the Digital Divide with Zenefits

January 19, 2016


Instrument is a digital creative agency with dream clients and culture. When Google needed an online campus for budding entrepreneurs, Instrument developed a network of intuitive websites. When Nike wanted to celebrate everyday athletes, Instrument designed cutting edge web tools. But when Instrument needed to onboard new hires, the company—known for its simple, elegant solutions to complex problems—was still sending its talent to ugly, unusable websites. Luckily, studio manager Dawn Weeman recognized—and remedied—this digital disconnect.

Fixing mixed messages with modern HR

For an eco-friendly, innovative and completely digital company like Instrument, HR paperwork was a double anomaly: manual data entry wastes time and printed forms kill trees. To communicate with their broker by fax, Dawn, who manages HR services at Instrument, would have to scan, PDF, and use a fax service for each form. “My job is to not just administer benefits, but to make employees feel taken care of,” explains Dawn. Unfortunately, she ended up spending valuable time double-checking spreadsheets instead.

“I didn’t want to hire someone else to do it. I wanted to eliminate the data entry job entirely.”

By automating administrative HR tasks and uniting HR services in one place with Zenefits, Instrument saves 1,000 hours a year. “Zenefits has been a gamechanger for onboarding,” says Dawn. Not only does Zenefits eliminate her pile of paperwork and tedious tasks, but it provides a positive, modern experience for employees.

New hires can start engaging—exploring the org chart and requesting vacation time—before day one. And unlike badly designed broker portals, Zenefits’ online dashboard makes it easy for employees to find information and sign up for ancillary benefits. When employees arrive for their first day, Dawn is able to custom tailor their onboarding session.

Employees say: “This is the best onboarding process I’ve ever been through.”

That powerful opening impression sets the stage for high performance, and keeps Instrument’s internal practices aligned with its brand message.

“Crazy-simple” compliance even during growth

Instrument doubled its staff in the last four years. “Going from a startup to a bigger company, we have to keep up with hurdles and be ready for auditing,” she explains.

“A lot of HR is dotting all the “i”s and checking all the boxes. Now, Zenefits does that for me.”

Dawn is able to handle previously tedious procedures in a couple clicks. “I just did a bulk EEO request, and it was magical,” she raves.

Zenefits helps streamline other manual processes and keeps Instrument I9- and PTO-compliant. “It’s easy for I9 contractors to sign up and for managers to approve hours. Plus, everyone has a copy of everything,” says Dawn. PTO used to mean asking the CFO for time off, putting it on the team calendar, and sending out reminders—and employees would inadvertently use more than their accrued time. “Now, employees request time off through Zenefits, managers get an email with at-a-glance approval, teams have a link to a master calendar, and it’s easy to know who’s in and who’s out.”

When ACA compliance became a concern, Instrument’s previous broker referred Dawn’s pressing questions to an unnecessary webinar. “Four hours later, and I still didn’t understand,” she says, shaking her head. With Zenefits, ACA compliance is “crazy simple.” Dawn just finished reviewing her company’s data using Zenefits’ ACA Automation Tool.

“It was really smooth. The [IRS] extended the ACA deadline—probably since no one else could figure out how to do the forms because they don’t have Zenefits to help!”

So, when should you modernize your HR and automate your compliance?

In 2016, if you’re still onboarding on paper, and using spreadsheets for compliance or manual calendars for PTO, the time for change is now.

Out of all the software integrations and implementations, Dawn says the one that has made the biggest change in her job and is also “the most fun” is Zenefits.

“It’s like having another HR person here—an accurate, friendly person who is always in a good mood, available 24 hours a day.”

Dawn no longer sweats compliance, and Instrument is ready to take on larger jobs. Says Dawn: “I’m able to do more interesting things and keep the company focused on the main tasks—building great websites and interactive experiences.”



Jeremy "Sprout" Brautman is a writer, problem solver, and big fan of growth. When he's not trying to solve problems to help small businesses grow, he can be found developing amenities to increase occupancy at his urban Ladybug Hotel.

Category: Small Business Success Stories

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