How do unimaginable amounts of snow impact business outcomes?

The better question might be: How do they not? I sit hear writing as it snows outside, but it barely makes the local weather report today as we’re only getting an inch or two. Now local meteorologists say things like ‘we might get a blizzard this weekend’ or ‘there’s only 10 inches of snow coming Tuesday’. Working in the Boston area, I remember many winters past when 10 inches was a lot. This winter, I’ve experienced a foot or more the last 3 Mondays – not a great way to begin the work week.

My backyard: Yes - that is a fence.
My backyard:  Yes – that is a fence.

You’ve seen it on the national news. At this point, people are officially getting depressed. Feeling trapped – like they are “going crazy.” I choose to find the comical side of all of this. It’s not like we can change it. Let’s make the best of it. Laugh about the ridiculousness of it all. Enjoy the view. Share stories about the first time you saw a woman get out of her car to help push a stranger’s car out of a drift as he was getting onto a highway. I sat mesmerized thinking it would never work, but it did.


So what are a few of the ways bad weather impacts employers?

Unplanned Absences

Simply put, less work is getting done, especially if those absent are unable to work from home. There may not be enough staff available to meet business demand. The staff members that come in are probably more stressed as they are trying to pick up the slack. Production levels go down. Customer service and revenue can suffer. Labor budgets can quickly bust as contract workers are called in and full-timers go into overtime. SHRM and the Workforce Institute have found ways to help mitigate this impact.

Employee Housing Costs

For many businesses that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and hotels, working from home isn’t an option on a snowy day. The businesses typically put up employees in hotel rooms before and during a big storm to ensure they have enough staff on site to operate. Some local hospitals house employees at the hospital itself and cover meals. These expenses add up and influence the bottom-line.


This is the first time I can remember Massachusetts’s mass transit system, the MBTA, being shut down for over an entire day. Employees without a car can’t even get to work if they want to, especially if they can’t afford a cab ride.

Image via MBTA

Over 1900 flights were canceled during the last storm. Think of all the canceled sales meetings and customer visits canceled due to Boston area employees unable to get to their destination. When the next big storm happens, because I know it will, I’ll focus more on the employee experience during this ridiculous weather pattern.




If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, please enjoy. I promise – we’re not resentful – much. After all, we Bostonians have the autumn leaves, Fenway Park, and of course the Patriots. Those make up for it all.

Image via Patriot’s Facebook Page




3 Ways to Optimize Employee Work Schedules

The term ‘optimized’ tends to get thrown around a lot, especially when talking about employee scheduling. But what does it really mean?

The basic dictionary definition – “to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible” – is good, but a bit vague when it comes to workforce management. Perfection is an unrealistic goal since even the best planned schedules typically require some fine-tuning.

EmployeeScheduleRulesAndPreferencesHow do you make complex schedules, even close to perfect, when there are so many variables to consider? From taking skills and certifications into account, to avoiding excess overtime and meeting fluctuating demand, planning best-fit schedules is no easy task.

Here are 3 important ways to optimize employee schedules:

Align labor to meet fluctuating business demand.

Overstaffed? Employees are standing around on your dime. Understaffed? You’re losing sales, customers, and production volume.

By aligning labor to business demand, employees are much less likely to feel overworked. Assign more employees in busy times; less people in slower times. Sounds easy, right? But it’s not when you take company policies, legislation, overtime, skills, etc., into account. Some leading organizations balance workload even further by categorizing the level of difficulty of the task at hand – then balancing difficult tasks amongst the team.

Balance skills and experience to form highly effective teams.

Scheduling teams with a mix of skills and proficiency levels decreases stress, increases productivity, and minimizes labor cost waste. Who wants to be the only experienced person, working with a team of people who joined the company yesterday, at the busiest time of day? Not many. Conversely, it doesn’t normally make sense for all of your most experienced employees to work together, often at higher pay rates. Balancing experience levels can also balance labor expenses.

It’s not just about tracking skills to see who’s qualified to work a particular job. It’s about having a mix of employees with varying skills and experience that can collaborate by working together to achieve common goals.

Business VisibilityRequire the visibility to re-balance schedules when the unexpected arises.

Even the best planned schedules often require adjustments. Perhaps the flu has hit one department. Perhaps a customer order was canceled in another. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the visibility across the organization to move available and qualified employees between departments or job roles to manage over- and under-staffing? Providing staffing managers the tools to make this an easier process helps minimize the need to change employees’ hours and maintain business as usual.

Do you see a pattern here? Scheduling is a balancing act. Take the guesswork out of scheduling by automating the process of aligning labor to demand and gaining better visibility to employee attributes. More often than not, there is room to further optimize a schedule for better bottom-line results and better employee satisfaction.

What do you consider to be an optimized schedule?

Increasing Garnishments for Credit Card Debt Add to Payroll Administrative Drain

Guest blog post by Kristen Wylie, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos, Inc.

One in 10 working Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 are getting their wages garnished. This stat comes from a national study on wage garnishment published by NPR and ProPublica earlier this week. These garnishments include the expected child support payments, tax levies, bankruptcies and liens. But increasingly, workers are seeing their pay docked due to credit card debt, medical bills or student loans.

garnishmentIn fact, according to ADP research that contributed to the NPR study, about four million workers — about 3 percent of all employees — had wages taken for a consumer debt in 2013. NPR and ProPublica revealed that one retail giant with 250,000 employees nationwide doubled the number of employees who had their pay seized for consumer debt in the past seven years (about 5,000 of the retailer’s employees currently have ongoing garnishments for consumer debt, and about 2,500 employees for student loan debt).

This increase in employee garnishments is a growing drain for already burdened payroll administrators, particularly in industries with the highest percentage of garnished employees. In manufacturing, nearly 50 percent of companies have garnished employees; in transportation and utilities, it’s more than 40 percent.

Different garnishment rules and processes create a legal maze that can be difficult to navigate. Consider the disparate sources that need to be coordinated for garnishment disbursement: courts, disbursement centers, spouses, lawyers, custodial parents, etc. And each may require different forms and terms.

Managing garnishment compliance is further complicated by widely varying state laws. For example, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina largely prohibit wage garnishment stemming from consumer debt, yet more than half of U.S. states allow creditors to take 25 percent of after-tax wages.

According to Amy Bryant, a payroll consultant and author quoted in the NPR article, it’s easy for employers to make garnishment mistakes which may lead to the organization becoming liable for a portion or even the entirety of the debt in some states.

Employers need to be confident that all payments are being made accurately and on time to the multitude of receiving parties in each state. Whether you process garnishments in-house or outsource the task, select a technology partner that can help you streamline the time-consuming process with confidence. With the right solution in place, you’ll be able to minimize compliance risk and penalties, reduce operating expenses, and increase payroll efficiencies.

Can it pay to be sick?

Guest blog post by Jim Manfield, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos, Inc.

With summer winding down and the kids back at school, it got me thinking about what’s right around the corner… Halloween? Nope. Thanksgiving? Nope. Holiday shopping? Nope. What else could I mean but cold and flu season?! I can already hear the melodies of sneezes and sniffling from around the office now. Good times ahead!

I recently was alerted to the following news: – and it struck me. IT CAN PAY TO BE SICK, at least in Connecticut – the only state requiring employers to offer their employees paid sick days, and soon in California. But with this comes the tracking of sick day accumulation, usage and ensuring your company stays in compliance. Just what the already overtaxed HR staff needs.

Managing your employee information is essential.   A sound workforce management strategy should include the automation of time & attendance coupled with, accruals and absence management to relieve the burden on HR and reduce the administrative headaches and compliance risk associated with leave laws, like the one that the California Legislature passed.

Is recruiting employees from a struggling competitor a proven talent acquisition strategy?

If one of your largest competitors is struggling, is that a prime time to poach their top talent? Would recruiting employees from that competitor be considered good gesture in an effort to avoid employee hardship, or a calculated talent acquisition strategy?

By now the entire country is aware of the situation with Market Basket Supermarkets – the executive disagreement, employee protests, and pending collapse of the overall business. The HR industry has been especially interested in this saga, as seen here on The Workforce Institute’s blog and on the local news channels daily here in the northeast. My colleague Joyce Maroney was interviewed just last week as you can see here.

Personally, I am a Hannaford Supermarket customer (primarily based on proximity to my home) and am in my local store multiple times per week (the result of having 4 teenagers). On a recent visit to the store, I saw one of the most interesting talent acquisition strategies I’ve ever witnessed.

At the entrance my Hannaford store was a big, pink sign with a handwritten message:

MB SignMarket Basket Employees

Let us help you through this difficult time.

Hannaford is hiring temporary help for the remainder of the boycott.

Inquire within for details.”

I wasn’t sure if this was a kind gesture, a marketing ploy, or a strategic hiring initiative?

Needless to say, if the Market Basket employees were so loyal to their former CEO that they chose to boycott their employer and risk losing their job, the idea that they would actually leave and go to a competitor seemed far-fetched.

Yet with recruiting, and talent acquisition being such a challenge for so many organizations, particularly in retail, landing one skilled, experienced employee from this effort could prove highly beneficial. The idea is by no means unique. There are dozens of blogs and news articles on how to recruit talent from your competition.

I am curious to know if recruiters look for competitors that suddenly face an issue that could impact their workforce and target them specifically. Let me know what you think.

Hidden Absence Costs Add Up

The cost of unplanned absence is having a huge impact on organizations’ payroll. Do you know your number?

To learn more about the pitfalls of unplanned absence and how to gain control of these costs, SHRM and Kronos will present survey findings and best practices in this Thursday’s webinar: Hidden Absence Costs Add Up, How You Can Keep Them from Weighing You Down.

Learn how a fully automated absence management system can help:

  • Efficiently manage scheduled and unscheduled absence
  • Identify and rectify costly absence trends
  • Use real-time data visibility for quick fixes to last minute absences
  • Minimize compliance risk associated with FMLA

To register visit:



What’s the easiest way to plan better employee schedules?

Guest blog post by Jennifer Ardery, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos, Inc.

Begin with an accurate forecast. You can’t use guesswork to align labor to demand. At a minimum, you should look for historical trends. forecastingSeasonality may be the biggest variable at your organization or day of the week, or maybe the same local event affects your business year after year. There are typically patterns that drive fluctuating demand, but they are difficult to find manually. Having the flexibility to re-forecast when unexpected occurrences arise is important too.

An accurate forecast is the foundation for creating a best-fit schedule – requiring less staffing changes once the schedule has been posted. Forecasting demand to come up with an equitable workload plan is important in all industries, although the benefits can be experienced differently. I’ll cover a couple of examples.


Traditionally, hospitals use the static, budgeted census, to determine how many nurses are needed to satisfy patient demand. However, it is common that on one day, a unit will have a staffing shortage, but need to send staff home the next day due to over-coverage. This practice often results in generating inadequate schedules that require numerous daily staffing changes as it does not take predictable, fluctuating demand and historical data into account.

Leading organizations require more intelligent volume forecasts to plan best-fit schedules that align staffing to demand. By predicting future patient volumes, staffing managers:

  • Gain confidence that resources are properly scheduled to meet fluctuating demand by day, month, and shift;
  • Experience reduced reliance on overtime and expensive agency resources by minimizing over- and under-staffing; and
  • Increase employee and patient satisfaction as resources are scheduled when and where they need to be.


Today’s leading retailers typically require forecasted demand down to 15-minute increments. Store managers may be able to manually estimate the number of employees needed to cover an average week or month, but most likely not for a particular shift on a particular day. Typically, automated forecasting solutions use algorithms behind the scenes to allow store managers to create accurate forecasts based on a wide range of definable metrics, including sales, transactions, customers served, units sold, etc.

By aligning labor with anticipated customer demand, you can help ensure that both employee and customer needs are fully met. An accurate forecast will help:

  • Schedule the right person, in the right place, at the right time
  • Keep your budget in line with expectations by reducing overstaffing
  • Improve productivity, customer service, and sales conversion by avoiding understaffing


How do you forecast at your organization? Does it help build better schedules?