Adopting time and attendance trends good for small businesses

Trend can help increase operational efficiancy

Small businesses in Canada are the lifeblood of many communities. For some, ensuring operational efficiency is a constant battle. Keeping track of the workforce, scheduling accurately and complying with legislative requirements can be challenging.

Many turn to time and attendance systems to more efficiently manage their human resources and payroll responsibilities. Like other areas of HR and payroll, these systems are changing to adopt new technologies. The options now include mobile technology, self-service application features, cloud-based solutions and biometric identification.

These technology trends can help payroll administrators working in small businesses streamline operations, comply with the law and engage employees. To better understand what is available, here is a look at the latest time and attendance trends small businesses are embracing:

Trend #1: Mobility

Technology and mobility are changing the way business operations are being conducted. Today’s workforce is used to managing many aspects of their lives on mobile devices. Many employers are finding it advantageous to extend this interest in mobility to their time and attendance processes. This can include employees using their cell phone or other mobile device to clock in or out from their worksite or elsewhere if they are working offsite.

While the trend toward mobile technologies is certainly supported by recent innovations, the real drivers for small business use are employer expectations and overall user acceptance and adoption of mobile solutions.

Time and attendance mobile solutions offer a cost effective approach to workforce management for small business. Payroll preparation time is greatly reduced as managers can easily track employee time, capture hours worked and approve timecards with one click while they are on the go, thereby avoiding the need to be tethered to a desk or to duplicate data entry on the payroll end.

And, while mobile time and attendance solutions are becoming more widely used, the expectation is the mobile format be extended to traditional time clock solutions in the form of tablet-based time clock devices with touch screen navigation.

Tablet-based clock solutions not only fill the niche of traditional stationary clocks, many – that have Wi-Fi capabilities – can also be used as a shared mobile clocking solution for field and shop-floor supervisors to carry with them to multiple work areas, where employees perform their tasks.

With tablet-based clock solutions, employees and supervisors can have easy access to a rich set of self-service functionality, including the ability to view schedules, authorize time cards, manage availability or request time away from work.

Of course, empowering employees with mobile time and attendance capabilities comes with special considerations for small businesses who traditionally have wanted to know not only when their employees are working, but that they are where they are supposed to be when they are on the clock.

When choosing a mobile time and attendance solution, small businesses should look for configurable geo-validation capabilities in the solution for safeguarding against time theft (i.e. tracking lateness and extended breaks) or "buddy punching," where one employee "punches" in for another.

Tablet-based clock solutions can provide flexible options for capturing employee time data including: PIN, biometric, bar code, RFID, magnetic stripe, proximity card and photo-documented punch methods.

All this ensures employees are not clocking in from a location away from their work and are being accurately paid.

Trend #2: Employee and manager self-service

Employee and manager self-service applications are an important aspect to improving small businesses’ operational efficiency. They remove the burden of having one administrator or timekeeper collect, review, approve and enter time for employees.

Not only do self-service features help streamline business operations, they also impact employee engagement, giving employees a sense of empowerment by allowing them to contribute accurate, first hand information that is needed for pay, operations and human resources.

In small businesses, "payroll administrator" is typically just one of several hats worn by a single person in the company. Putting access to a variety of time and attendance tasks directly into the hands of employees and managers – thereby shifting the burden away from a single administrator – is a requirement of many small businesses today.

Employers who are considering self-service applications must give some thought to training requirements, both for initial rollout of the application and future requirements for new employees. Some are very adept at quickly understanding how to use new technology. Others may be less comfortable with it and need more training on how to use it.

Employers may want to look for applications that are intuitive and offer training embedded within the application to help employees adjust to the change. Embedded videos and tutorials that allow employees to use the application as they are completing the training will prevent employers from needing to schedule demonstrations and training events or maintain training materials.

Employers should also consider the security features that come with the application to ensure that employee privacy is protected. For example, does the application time-out if an employee forgets to log out?

Trend #3: Cloud-based solutions

While the historical trend with larger companies has been to move from licensed software installed on their own networks to cloud-based solutions, small businesses are also going to the cloud. Many are moving directly from manual time and attendance processes.

Cloud-based applications are always available to businesses, their payroll department and their employees. They resonate with small businesses that typically have very small IT budgets. Cost benefits are many since there is no additional infrastructure investment required with cloud-based solutions, either upfront or for ongoing maintenance.

Employers considering moving to the cloud should do their homework to ensure their cloud provider makes data protection an integral part of the system. Employers should also find out if their provider has a contingency plan in case there is a security breach.

Trend #4: Extending capabilities as small businesses grow

Many small businesses with growth strategies are moving to time and attendance solutions they know will grow with them without requiring them to make costly and time-intensive moves to new platforms as their needs expand. They want solutions that meet their current needs, but also have capabilities for a broader range of future needs for managing their workforce.

Small businesses that are looking to grow should think not only about future needs to support a larger population of employees with broader time and attendance rules and capabilities, but also of support for full workforce management and human capital management functions beyond time and attendance. For example, a small business’ longer-term growth strategies may align with a need for labour budgeting, analytics, business intelligence, payroll and recruiting solutions.

Trend #5: Broader acceptance of technologies

Employers in Canada have long been interested in reader technologies on time clocks, including badge and biometric capabilities. However, employees – the actual users of these technologies – have traditionally been resistant to these particular types of innovations. This is starting to change as identification technologies become more ubiquitous in society. We see it in many places now, from big-box checkout lines to amusement parks.

While there will always be employee populations who are opposed to technological change, many employees are beginning to accept the use of this type of technology in the workplace. Small businesses are beginning to recognize that when applied to time and attendance, these identification solutions can help increase efficiencies and lower costs associated with time theft and error-prone manual processes.

Trend #6: Consistency in managing a workforce

Employees want to know they are being treated fairly and with the proper consideration, whether it is concerning scheduling, offering overtime equitably or adhering to labour standards laws and regulations. Employers want their time and attendance solutions to help ensure and record that this is indeed happening on an organizational level.

Time and attendance solutions must enable organizations to accurately pay their employees in compliance with all federal and provincial labour rules, while also taking into account company-specific requirements, such as union rules, shift differentials and rounding requirements. Small businesses in particular need help ensuring compliance because they do not have in-house legal staff and compliance consultants to turn to for advice.

It is said that adaptability is the new competitive advantage for organizations. For small businesses that understand and adopt the latest time and attendance trends and technologies, the reward can be seen in greater efficiency, legislative compliance, pay accuracy, employee engagement and, of course, competitive drive.

Jeff King is the director of Time & Workforce Management Product Management at Ceridian.

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