Many reasons to track time

Don’t read this article. You might find out why time management technology is so important to HR

I predict that many readers will skip this article because most HR professionals don’t see time management as part of their mandate. Allow me to present the case as to why you should be reading this.

Many organizations view time management as a policing activity ensuring that workers start on time, take breaks of the appropriate duration, leave at the set time. The motive is often to control perceived abuse, whether it is coming late, leaving early or too many absences.

Yet I have never met one single supervisor who, when asked, could not name the employee who is the worst offender of time management policies. And when asked, those supervisors don’t complain about a lack of time tracking tools. What they want is for management (and HR) to provide better policies and procedures, especially to discipline and discharge those offenders.

So if supervisory staff can list the time-offenders, what value does a time management system add?

The management of time and attendance is a neglected and misunderstood management activity in many organizations. Perhaps the problem is that there are so many organizational units involved:

•HR looks after leave and absenteeism;

•payroll centres on paid and unpaid leave and overtime; and

•finance is concerned with direct and indirect labour allocation and costs.

Most importantly, time is a key concern for front-line managers. If you are looking for ways to demonstrate HR’s value to the organization, ask yourself how much time supervisors and managers are spending to do such activities as:



•absence reporting;

•finding additional workers to meet additional workload;

•finding replacement workers for absences; and

•time capture.

Most of these issues are significant in most industries, and some are significant in every industry. Manufacturing, retail, health care, education, services — each industry has its own set of time management challenges.

The common thread running through all industries is that management wants to ensure the investment in people is paying off with results. Labour distribution analysis of productive and non-productive time (and why) can pay big dividends.

More and more white-collar workers are tracking their time — not to aid in policing but to track where their efforts go, what project, client or job are they working on. Meanwhile many jobs, in industries such as manufacturing, are shifting away from the concept of hourly pay and toward salaries. But the companies where this is happening also track the contribution to the work being done, turning the focus to value assessment.

State-of-the-art options

Can technology help? Yes.

The long-standing “time card/time clock” method is alive and well, and many organizations use this tried-and-true method to track what work a person has done — just fill in the rows. Time cards can also be virtual, filled in on a PC.

Mag-stripe and bar-code cards are popular. These are sometimes only for time, but more frequently also used for security, combining a door access card with time. Some organizations have incorporated interactive voice response (IVR) into the mix, either as a stand-alone tool or in combination with ID cards. One of the extra benefits of IVR is that it can be accessed by any employee from home — to automate absence calls and replacement — all from any location by phone.

Some organizations do have a need to certify that people are who they say they are. If you read the latest computer advertisements you will have seen that biometrics, usually those that use fingerprints, are now readily available, eliminating the need for a card. And retina scan readers are available to identify a worker, again with no card involved. These tools can be combined with a simple keypad, including a wireless PDA. The growth of wireless technology has largely eliminated the need for costly wiring.

The other side of the technology equation lies in analyzing the data once it has been collected.

For that we turn to reporting tools like Crystal Reports or Cube Manager to present the results, including comparisons to external metrics. Charts and graphs can be presented to show exact production statistics, and can be tailored to the role of the reader.

Users of portal technology can put this kind of information on a corporate home page so that the latest results are a finger-click away. Statistics can be generated by product, facility, department, employee-type. The views are endless.

Time management is an important and neglected part of the management process. Targeted time collection methods can be combined with state of the art reporting to make it a valuable tool in your management tool kit.

Ian Turnbull is managing partner of Laird & Greer Management Consultants, specializing in HR, payroll, and time system selection and management. He is co-author of HRMS: A Practical Approach (1999, Carswell). He can be contacted at [email protected] or (416) 618-0052.

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