It’s all about timing

Time and attendance systems aren’t just about streamlining and automating a previously paper-based administrative task.

Efficiencies in time and money may help organisations justify the outlay for such systems, but continual long-term gains are possible through the realisation of increased payroll information, as well as more accurate and timely reports.

Making a successful implementation requires patience and dedication from functions across an organisation. Aside from compliance with legal directives, organisations can have complex rules about who gets paid what for working when, and the complete picture may not be possible to appreciate from HR’s viewpoint alone.

The good news is, while the transition to a new time and attendance system can be a challenge, HR will ultimately win by gaining extra space in which to take on more strategic operations.

Case study: Trailfinders

Type of business: Independent travel company
Employees affected: 1,000
Number in HR team: 6

With a payroll system that was not year-2000 compatible, Trailfinders took the opportunity to invest in a system which would not only ensure smooth operation in the new millennium but could offer automatic rostering to cope with an expanding organisation, used to giving staff maximum flexibility across 15 UK travel centres. Staff regularly switched shifts, staggered their hours and occasionally worked on Sundays.

“One of the things the company wanted to offer employees was the chance to go onto the company intranet to find information on their own working hours,” explains Manoj Modi, senior IT analyst at the company.

“Previously, they would have to wait until the roster manager printed off a monthly report and posted that on the information board.”

Having implemented a Smart Human Logistic solution by January 2000, Trailfinders upgraded to the eHuman Logistics product in 2002. While the project was IT led, HR had crucial input throughout, determining the rules and structure by which the automatic rostering system should operate.

“We have rostering people scattered throughout the company,” explains Modi. “And they’re each responsible for their team. Company rules were not always the same at each branch so HR had to identify clear guidelines to be programmed into the system.”

Modi notes any organisation taking on a time and attendance system must work diligently to identify the appropriate rules for their organisation.

Today, the solution provides up to date visibility of hours worked for employees and for those higher up in the company.

“Senior management now has access to more accurate reports enabling it to make policy decisions on that information,” says Modi. “It can even look back over a number of years to identify trends in sickness and absence and respond accordingly.”

Case study: Dow Corning

Type of business: Development and manufacture of silicon-based materials
Employees affected: 600, 300 of whom are hourly-paid shift workers
Number in HR team: 3

Having invested in a business-wide SAP system over the past six years, Lyn Evans, HR manager for the UK operation of Dow Corning, says the company’s time administration and payroll function was introduced about three years ago.

By his own admission, it wasn’t an entirely enjoyable experience. The company was so used to the existing paper-based process that any new system represented a significant culture change. Eighteen months after the completion, however, rewards have been experienced and continue to be realised.

“We used to have three or four people working full-time on processing time sheets,” explains Evans, “Now, we’re down to about one and a half people. They are able to do more general HR work aside from payroll. In terms of the HR department as a whole, we have been able to use the extra time to focus on more strategic issues.”

The Barry-based operation had a wealth of different rules governing pay rates for different working arrangements and payment errors were often the only reason why staff would have any dealing with HR. Under the new system, employees can use the same computer interface they use for carrying out their day-to-day work to access payroll information. The system updates on a weekly basis so errors are identified by the employees and can be addressed in advance of the actual pay run.

“It’s taken some training and education, but we’ve reduced the error rates substantially. Now, they occur only occasionally,” says Evans.

Evidence of how much the workforce has taken to the new system can be seen in the tangible movement towards paper-free payment. Because employees can view the information they need online and print it off when they want, the need for a monthly pay slip has all but disappeared.

“The key to a successful implementation is to work through the process with a good team who represent all of the parties involved in the workplace,” Evans continues. “Whether they’re systems people, payroll, HR or line management, everyone has different knowledge about how the payroll system works. By working through the difficulties and demonstrating reduced errors, we were able to make the system work.”

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