Get the timing right

by 15 May 2007

Time and attendance systems are central to any HR technology implementation, and newer systems are increasingly integrating into the overall business. Angus Kidman speaks to three diverse companies about their time and attendance software strategy

For retailer Beacon Lighting, upgrading time and attendance (T&A) software was the final stage in a long-term plan to develop a more efficient approach to employee time management. With 340 staff spread across 29 company-operated stores with operations in every state, as well as administrative, distribution and commercial functions, the older system had become increasingly difficult to manage.

“In the past, our time and attendance was being recorded in a complicated spreadsheet with a formula that would calculate daily and fortnightly hours,” says payroll manager Liliana Yott. “If the data was entered wrongly, error messages would pop up everywhere. The hours from this timesheet then needed to be manually entered in the payroll system.”

Adding to the complexity, distribution centre staff used a time clock system and required payroll staff to calculate appropriate penalty rates and overtime. Period end dates differed between the systems, handling staff terminations was also a time-consuming manual process, and different award conditions applied to employees in each state.

The first stage in improving the process was to shift to a single award for stores. “We introduced a Beacon Lighting certified agreement in 2005,” Yott says. “The objective of the agreement was to be seen as an employer of choice, and at the same time ensure everyone would have the same terms and conditions of employment. We then introduced one fortnightly period from Monday to Sunday, which took quite a bit of work.”

With those processes completed, Beacon Lighting began looking at its software. “One of the things we wanted was a T&A system that would work directly with our payroll system,” Yott says. The software also needed to effectively interpret award conditions, offer an easy interface for staff to run a wide range of reports, and be capable of future expansion.

“We were attracted to ADP mainly because most of the other systems, you had to get a separate program for the time and attendance component,” Yott says. The system was rolled out between June and November last year. “We took the time to run parallel to make sure that the system was doing exactly what we wanted it to do.”

“We created template rosters for each full-time and part-time associate in every store. Every fortnight when they create a timesheet, it copies from the template. They only need to record changes, not the full-time data every day.”Changes in the payroll master file, such as terminations, are also automatically reflected in store manager systems.

“It’s got enormous report capabilities and the facility to write extra reports as required,” Yott says. “Reports are always accurate because they pick up current data.”

What advice would Yott offer to others facing a similar shift? “Do not rush into anything. If you put in the time up-front, you save a lot of time later on. If you set it up in a rush and you miss something, it takes a lot of effort to fix it afterwards.”

Fujitsu ties it together

Better integration was also a key driving force behind Fujitsu ANZ’s recent migration to SAP for financial management, a shift which included moving all time-tracking activities, including time spent on projects by consultants and engineers, onto the platform.

“The primary driver was that we had multiple financial systems, but we wanted to consolidate onto one for all parts of the company,” says executive general manager, business improvement, Brian Murphy.

The project kicked off in February 2006 and was live by October. “Everyone who needs to record time now does it on SAP,” Fitzgerald noted.

Staff adjustment to the new process was fairly rapid. “Our consultants were generally on Oracle, doing a similar thing, so it wasn’t that radical a change,” Fitzgerald says. “For the average employees, the main impacts were on those who do timesheets and anyone who claims expenses. There’s a fair amount of training required for that, and we did a mixture of face-to-face and online training.”

“By far the biggest challenge was the change management side of getting prepared for it,” Fitzgerald says. “The technical side was challenging but feasible.”

“Don’t underestimate the challenge of getting the company ready to change, and their willingness to buy into it,”Fitzgerald advised. “The main lesson we learnt was the value of getting the right level of seniority and experienced enough people involved in the definition stages of the project. The temptation is always to leave it to more junior people to sort the details out – by the time more senior people get involved, you’re well down the rollout track and it’s very difficult to make changes.”

RSL Care rises to the occasion

For aged care provider RSL Care, running separate payroll and rostering systems proved to be an increasing nuisance. A not-for-profit organisation, RSL Care operates in 50 locations in Queensland and New South Wales, leading to some challenging rostering issues.

The organisation has a total of 2500 staff, with 400 on salaries while the rest are paid wages based on hours worked, says Adrian O’Neill, acting information systems manager. Some staff work in specific residential aged care facilities, while other mobile staff provide community assistance to the elderly in their own homes.

“The rostering requirements on both sides of the business are quite different,” says senior management accountant Randall Ovens, who helped oversee the rollout of the new integrated system from PayGlobal. “From a residential perspective, we have a set roster, so we need the ability to define individual requirements at a particular location. We assign those shifts to staff and then it’s a match-up process to see how many requirements have been satisfied and what has been unallocated. For community care, we’re not just rostering staff but we’re also scheduling appointments for clients, using a separate application.”

“Our primary reason to change applications was to have an integrated system,” Ovens says. “Now we only create the employee once in PayGlobal, and they’re updated nightly into the homecare rostering solution. There’s another interface to transfer the roster data back into PayGlobal – previously that was a double-entry task.”

“One of the big wins has been how good the self-service has been in streamlining our process,”O’Neill says. “We have a large number of mobile workers who spend their entire time going from location to location. Having the ability to look at this information at home will improve their communication enormously.”

That did require some planning, however. “A large number of our staff aren’t that computer literate, but they’ve been able to use the system successfully,” O’Neill says. “We’ve had to acknowledge that we’ve needed to train the staff. Don’t overestimate their ability. You’ve got to put the effort in to make sure the staff are trained properly.”

Thorough investigation of your suppliers will also pay dividends, O’Neill says. “We made a big deal out of handpicking the PayGlobal consultants that we wanted. We wanted consultants with a proven record of success, and we picked them by name We did our due diligence.”