Check out the new eBook by Kronos!
Navigating the Affordable Care Act: An Employer’s Guide to Managing Costs and Compliance in an ACA World
Download this how-to guide to determining the best workforce management solutions to ease compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Learn how easy it is to track, automate, and analyze data from across your organization and generate:
- Accurate data about average hours worked
- Automated notification to employees of benefit eligibility change
- Real-time analysis of schedules, time records, and benefits
- Generating reports to evidence ACA compliance efforts
Kronos recently posted a variety of resources related to the Affordable Care Act on thier website. Visit http://www.kronos.com/affordablecareact.aspx
According to today’s Bloomberg article on the March US Job report: “Some companies are struggling to make do with fewer workers… Employers boosted hours to meet demand. The average work week for all employees increased to 34.6 hours.” Per the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as of January 1, 2014 these workers are all considered ‘Full-time equivalent employees’ and will be eligible for healthcare coverage.
By now the ACA has likely caused concern amongst your HR and Finance teams. At best, you have been proactive and spent time and resources learning about the new regulations and preparing for the imminent changes. Or, like many organizations, you may still feel completely in the dark and unsure of how to begin taking steps in the right direction. One thing to realize is that complying with ACA involves more than providing affordable healthcare coverage, and will have an impact beyond just your HR department.
Fortunately, for those companies that have automated time and attendance, HR, payroll or scheduling solutions in place, there are things you can do today to begin your compliance efforts in preparation for January 1, 2014.
Do your current systems give you the necessary visibility to determine which employees are full-time or part time? One of the first things you must determine is which employees are eligible for coverage using the “look-back” period (a 3-12 month timeframe to determine which part-time employees should be reclassified as full-time). Organizations must then provide coverage for those eligible employees.
Monitoring Workforce Schedules
Can you proactively manage labor hours to influence benefits eligibility and control costs? See current hours and projected schedules to arm managers with the information they need to control hours, and enable them to make scheduling changes easily.
Strategies for addressing ACA will vary from company to company. For employees that are over 30 hours per week and currently not covered by your current plan do you a) Make them FT and add them to existing plan; b) offer them an alternative, lower cost plan; c) adjust scheduling practices to find an the right mix of full-time and part-time workers based on your labor budgets; d) pay the penalties as they are incurred?
Regardless of your strategy, your workforce management system can be a major asset to your ACA compliance and labor cost control efforts.
Guest Blog post by Jennifer Ardery, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos.Inc.
While preparing to attend the National Retail Federation’s annual conference this month, I came across a few articles on the trend to offer in-store restaurants to boost sales. Retailers continue to strive for ways to bring customers back into the store versus shopping online. Creative ways to diminish showrooming – when customers check out products in a store, but then go online to buy – is critical to success.
One effective way for traditional retailers to combat online shopping is to provide a social shopping experience that includes good food, drink, and sometimes even entertainment. But how do you schedule that?
Sales at Tommy Bahama’s combination store-restaurants average more than twice sales at regular stores. So it’s no surprise its newest global flagship store in NYC called “Manhattan Island” includes a 1,300 sq foot bar on one floor and a 6,700 sq foot restaurant-bar on another. Nordstrom is adding a new restaurant to its California Bay Area’s store during its ongoing $19.6 million expansion project. And down at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, FL, customers have 4 in-store dining experiences to choose from: Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales.
We’re accustomed to having restaurants available in a shopping mall to make the experience more social and convenient. This is typical – A restaurateur schedules its workforce just like all of its other restaurants. But what happens when a retailer attempts to run a restaurant inside the store themselves? It can have great rewards in higher sales if done well. However, one thing is for sure; staffing the combined restaurant-store becomes even more of a challenge.
Here are 6 considerations when scheduling employees at the restaurant-retailer:
- Forecasting demand is more complicated operating 2 businesses in one. Labor forecasting software can help managers predict the number and type of employees necessary to meet anticipated demand.
- Planning the schedule to ensure the right person is in the right place at the right time becomes more complex. Over-staff and you waste payroll dollars. Under-staff and you lose customers. Staffing to anticipated demand improves both employee and customer satisfaction. Place special consideration on how meal time affects traffic. Automate the process of scheduling breaks to ensure proper coverage.
- Tracking skills becomes more critical. Is there one keyholder role for both the store and the restaurant, or two? Can the same cashier work in both operations or should that role be kept separate?
- Task management is central to getting control of those corporate-driven, promotional programs. Consider how you will manage all of the tasks that go into your next seasonal food event. District managers should have a tool to verify that event tasks are being executed consistently across stores. Schedule associates to work on indirect labor tasks during slower times. Focus on maintaining good communication between corporate and stores.
- Filling unplanned absences quickly with qualified people is essential to maintain customer satisfaction. Avoid counting on the same people to take on overtime which can hurt profits and morale. Automate the process of tracking who’s approaching overtime and minors approaching too many hours so you are more comfortable extending that next shift.
- Instant visibility into operations data helps managers make better, faster staffing decisions. Analyze coverage graphs and move people from overstaffed areas to departments that need help. Consider using your tablet to manage staffing levels and shuffle employees between departments to see the benefit that much quicker.
Tommy Bahama’s president, Doug Wood, put it best when he said to Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s challenging to operate, but if you execute it right, it’s magic.”
Are any of you retailers out there considering adding the food experience to your stores?
- Guest blog post by Jim Manfield, Product Marketing Manager at Kronos
If your company is like many others, your back office processes are still manual or semi-automated. This means your managers are often lost in the moment, wasting valuable time creating schedules, maintaining attendance violation balances, finding replacements for absent or tardy employees, chasing down missing timesheet data, or attempting to figure out if they can approve time-off for an employee because they don’t know which employees may already have that day off. What if your employees are punching in early and punching out late, racking up avoidable overtime costs? Or punching in for each other? Look familiar?
Can managers keep track of this with all of the non-productive activities they are overwhelmed with? The answer is NO. With no insight to workforce data, this can potentially cost companies like yours millions of dollars in avoidable overtime and increased payroll.
What can be done? According to Aberdeen’s July 2012 Workforce Management study, the need to improve overall workforce productivity through better data management was cited as one of the top two business pressures by over two thirds (69%) of all respondents. This means you are not alone. Many companies’ managers are lost in the moment.
What if your managers had the ability to quickly and easily identify schedule conflicts, view and approve time-off requests, or find replacements for absent or tardy employees? What if a system could track employee attendance and produce violation documentation for them? What if employees were no longer able to game the system and punch in early or punch out late, or for each other? How much money would this save you?
Enter workforce management automation.
With workforce management automation comes labor insight. With labor insight comes productive managers. Productive managers are able to manage their people, in the moment, when the need arises. They won’t be wasting time chasing down replacements, or timecard errors, or trying to determine if an employee can take a day off next month. No longer will they be spending their time tracking attendance, but will be managing the exceptions automatically identified for them. They will be managing their employees, enabling them to become better at their jobs. Automation will allow your workforce to become more productive while simultaneously increasing employee satisfaction. And with the emphasis on mobility in today’s workforce management systems, your managers will be managing in the moment from their own device, wherever they are, and will not be locked down in their office on their desktops.
The price tag of a solution like that must be too much for your company to consider, right?
No. With today’s cloud and SaaS deployment options, the costs are right. Your company cannot continue with lost managers; it’s time for them to MANAGE in the Moment, not be LOST in the moment.
For more information, please download our eBook.
First blog of the New Year… as I’m trolling through the resolution and prediction opinions hitting this week, it’s been a struggle finding anything that really inspired me, until this Forbes article yesterday. Cloud, Big Data, and Mobile are still at the top of everyone’s list of IT trends, which will no doubt impact how organizations track and manage their labor. But “wearable” is coming up on everyone’s list – with Google Glass and Apple’s iWatch leading the charge!
Your first response may be, that is “Big Brother” going too far! But think about it – most companies track their mobile employees this way already. They use GPS and in-vehicle devices to track activity. And things like task management and work-order assignments are used to monitor labor activity. So while today MANY employees can leverage their personal mobile devices – both tablets and smart phones – for some of these items, the concept of wearable technology makes them even more attainable.
So here are my top 5 workforce management applications of wearable technology.
- Badge replacement – This one is obvious and in some places already available. Think of a smart card with Bluetooth, RFID or other wireless broadcasting technology that could be paired with a clock or other data collection device.
- Employee notifications – Yes this could be done with a mobile app or text message today, but a watch, glasses or other type of technology may be more visible by the employee. Think about task assignments in retail, job or work orders in manufacturing, location assignment in healthcare, or a warehouse and even real time schedule changes.
- Compliance enforcement – think about employees receiving automated (or manager generated) meal and break reminders to an electronic device that requires acknowledgement, which could help to avoid labor law disputes.
- Staffing – do you know which employees are in which locations at all times? Think about transportation companies and how they track vehicles with GPS. Suppose you had a map of a facility with visibility into where your staff was at all times. Or, suppose you could leverage analytics with a heat map of where you may be understaffed and overstaffed to make adjustments as needed. A wearable app could provide visibility into where your staff is and what they are doing at any time.
- Training, Support, Communication – Employees could leverage real time, on the job training or support with via apps, video or chat.
If you own a business with 500 hourly employees, can you afford $1 million in fines?
The reality of PPACA and its impact on Small & Mid-sized Businesses is now a major concern for business owners. While the actual laws and costs are still unclear, requiring healthcare coverage for all employees working over 30 hrs per week, will dramatically increase labor costs for those with many hourly, part-time workers who often have varying, flexible schedules. Business owners are now handcuffed by uncertainties for 2013 – limiting their budgeting and planning abilities. Many have frozen spending, investment and hiring plans for next year, while others are forced to consider layoffs or reductions in hours for workers.
The retail and dining industries are getting most of the media attention due to the high percentages of hourly workers. But while large chains like Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) and Cheesecake Factory are highlighted for their plans to address the changes, it’s the SMBs like this Las Vegas-based restaurant that will most likely be the hardest hit.
Businesses are now weighing the pros and cons of limiting the hours their employees can work; the cost of hiring more part time workers to fill the void; and the potential impact on quality and/or customer service. While there are no blueprints for how every business adapts to the new healthcare laws, there are steps organizations can take to prepare and manage their labor costs through the transition – the most obvious being strict controls on how many employees can work over 30 hrs per week.
Automate labor tracking, scheduling and with the cloud
Organizations cannot afford to not have actual, auditable data on every hour each of their employees has worked, and what they are scheduled to work. Paper-based systems are no longer an option. This visibility is critical in organizations looking to stay on top of hours scheduled, hours worked and what the total will be at the end of a shift – for every employee. Without an automated system, even a 20-person company will be challenged with this burden. This is why a top strategy for small businesses is to move to an automated, cloud based payroll system ASAP.
Now is the time to consider your back office systems for employee scheduling, time tracking, payroll and benefits administration. The nominal investment in a cloud-based system can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional benefits costs, compliance fines and additional hiring charges – not to mention the employee, administrative and management productivity gains.
‘Tis the season of giving. And nothing pleases a company more than receiving gifts of gold in the form of wasted payroll being identified that can go directly to the bottom line. Or, when operations managers can show higher profit margins through accurate job costing. With bonuses and earnings results on the line, opportunities to reduce labor waste and improve cost allocations become the gift that keeps on giving all fiscal year! For many companies, these hot gifts of 2012 are the result of detailed labor activity tracking being added to their workforce management strategy.
Presents for payroll & operations – labor cost details
What is an activity? While most organizations use scheduling systems to put staff onto shifts and time & attendance systems to convert worked hours to payroll, many lack visibility into what each employee actually does on the job. In other words, what is the data between the punch-in and the punch-out?
An activity is a work order, grants, task, project, job number or part number that is assigned to labor and has a measurable output. The results of a completed activity can include measurements of quantity, scrap, waste, or quality. Even greater detail can be tied to a labor activity, such as equipment used, location or campaign. Measuring “productive time” provides the foundation for labor expense tied to a job. Tracking activities within the workday tells how much direct time (and expense) is spent on work orders, by labor and equipment. You can tell how productive your workforce is, and if that productive output costs more than you expected – and if it’s impacting profit margin. However, what is often lost is the wasted pay for non-productive paid time.
There are some types of activities that cannot be tied to measurable output. And, whether it’s planned or unplanned, these indirect charges and labor variance (often lumped into “overhead”) can have a dramatic and costly impact on profits. Activity such as meetings, set-up time, training, downtime, clean-up, maintenance, and administration/paperwork can skew labor standards and forecasts, potentially impacting job bids, quotes or service quality. Organizations must ask – how is this time and labor cost allocated? Is it tracked at all?
Reconciliation, WIP Visibility, Validation,
The addition of automated labor activity tracking to your workforce management strategy enables organizations to reconcile every minute of every shift, and allocate all labor costs appropriately and accurately – direct and indirect, planned and unplanned, regular and OT. Real-time visibility into current activities and WIP, including labor, equipment and output, allows organizations to make data driven adjustments based on status and progress towards delivery times, output or utilization rates. And provide accurate, confident commitments to external stakeholders and customers. Activity tracking can also provide labor with real time validation on expected output, task duration or sequence of events, ensuring quality and timeliness.
Electronic data capture tracks labor activity
Workforce efficiency and labor cost control start with data collection: You need information about the work, who’s doing the work, and the outcome of that effort. Of course, collection of this information can’t be cumbersome- inefficient data-capture defeats the purpose of improving productivity. Leading labor management providers offer a variety of data collection options as part of a workforce management solution. Timekeeping terminals that can capture activity information with a simple badge swipe, barcode read, RFID, or even a fingerprint ID. More advanced organizations are leveraging mobile technology – on-board computers, handheld scanners, smartphones and tablets, to provide even greater data capture flexibility.
Increase profits, reduce labor waste, and reconcile expenses
Successful organizations not only plan in advance, they execute in the moment with agility to react to real-time situations. Using accurate labor forecasts and budgeting based on detailed labor activity to plan ahead, but then leverage their workforce as needed based on changing conditions (increase in patients, higher store traffic, a slow manufacturing line, employee absence, power outages, etc.) Today’s workforce management systems provide new levels of visibility into the activity status, resources and staff on hand to identify areas that need to be addressed – allowing managers to optimize their workforce and drive higher profitability.