Kronos Compliance Court Now in Session at SHRM 2014

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

More than 14,000 HR professionals are gathered in Orlando this week for the annual SHRM Conference and Expo. As wage and hour lawsuits skyrocket, it’s no surprise that this year’s conference agenda includes more than 25 sessions focused exclusively on compliance. Here at the Kronos booth, we’re educating attendees on how workforce management solutions can help reduce compliance risk.

SHRM1Organizations of every size across every industry can be susceptible to wage and hour and other compliance violations. No company wants to be charged with criminal or legal suits. But labor laws are complex and frustratingly fluid, making it increasingly difficult to manage compliance. Consider this:

SHRM2No matter what the compliance issue, when an employee files a claim or an auditor shows up, you need to respond with confidence and speed. In our booth at the SHRM conference, we staged a “compliance court,” helping attendees to evaluate how prepared they would be for an audit or investigation:

  • Are you compliant with I-9 regulations?
  • How would you respond to an audit from the EEOC?
  • Can you ensure time cards are in accurate and complete reflection of actual hours worked?
  • What documentation do you have for your defense against wage and hour claims?
  • How will you address the variety of regulations presented by the affordable care act?
  • How do you gather enough detailed information to determine if an absence qualifies for FMLA?

Kronos Workforce Ready customer Pioneer Metal Finishing showed SHRM attendees how to successfully navigate our compliance court by being prepared with accurate workforce data. Disconnected software applications and manual processes for managing employee data – one system in HR, another in payroll, and another for time and attendance – mean your data may be out of sync and out of date. Pioneer explained that with Workforce Ready, organizations are better able to identify, monitor, and resolve compliance risk before issues have a chance to spark wildfires and result in fines or lawsuits.

Unlocking the Big Value of Big Data

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

There’s been so much overuse and misuse of the term “Big Data” that it can be difficult to understand exactly how Big Data can help solve specific business issues. Many organizations are simply drowning in a sea of unorganized information, unable to leverage its full potential.

When it comes to workforce management, the problem isn’t just collecting the data; the real challenge is making the data easier to access and understand so that you can easily identify and resolve workforce challenges. To generate value –whether that’s decreased overtime, cost savings, a more productive workforce, or simply improved day-to-day operational management — you need to combine data with effective analysis and take action based on information-driven decisions. In other words, you need to bring order to the chaotic data for it to have any value.

It’s not just what you look at, but how you look at it

The Workforce Analytics dashboard provides on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.
The Workforce Analytics dashboard provides on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.

After workforce data is gathered, it needs to be viewed in context. The first step is to find a technology solution that has the ability to integrate multiple sources of data and present a consolidated view of relevant information to end users without eliminating the ability to dive down into details when needed. Your Big Data strategy needs to incorporate a workforce management solution that can provide on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.

It’s important to ensure that front line managers can interact with the data they need to make decisions – even when they’re away from their desks. (See Workforce Tablet Analytics at http://www.kronos.com/labor-analysis/workforce-tablet-analytics.aspx.) Don’t assume that more reports are the simple solution to Big Data challenges. Traditional reports don’t yield necessary insight because they’re created in rigid, purposefully inflexible formats to present standard answers to straightforward, repetitive questions. Traditional reports reflect simple information points without any context. For example, a traditional report can tell you that OT is above expectations, but you can’t tell why. Was it bad scheduling? Increased demand? But a true analytics solution enables you to work with your data. Managers need to be able to drill into the data quickly – without combining multiple fragmented reports. When the data is viewed in context, you have actionable data so you can make the right decisions to keep cost, productivity and service on target.

Remember that data is only useful if it’s presented in such a way that decision makers can take action. An Analytics environment, unlike traditional basic reporting tools, extracts and organizes workforce data in a format that allows labor managers to easily access and work with it in the context of their business issues. Managers who have visibility to real-time status can make adjustments to better control labor costs and improve workforce productivity.

Turn data into insight

Data Visualization_Heat Map
Data visualization tools make it easier to spot trends, understand relationships and identify problem areas.

Data visualization tools, such as those available in Workforce Analytics, enable users to easily create a dashboard and visually explore workforce data using a variety of interactive charts and graphs, helping managers to find meaning in otherwise raw, hard-to-understand data. They can easily spot outliers, patterns and trends. And uncover problem areas at a glance. This kind of visual interaction is much more engaging than traditional grid reports and makes it much easier to diagnose problems, understand root causes, and take action to improve workforce performance. (Watch a demo of data visualization tools in action at http://www.kronos.com/labor-analysis/labor-analysis-software.aspx.) Used effectively, Analytics is more than a simple query and report tool; it’s a decision support system that presents actionable information so that you can continuously improve your business.

Data-driven decisions

Big Data is re-shaping the way decisions are made. Managers have traditionally made “gut-decisions,” or they rely on a trial and error approach rather than use fact-based judgments when managing their workforce. This is mostly because managers today can’t easily see how their decisions impact workforce productivity or labor costs. There is no status to guide decisions. There are no expectations – no performance targets or thresholds. Across departments or from month to month, results are unpredictable and performance is inconsistent.

But this all changes when you have data presented in the context of acceptable thresholds. You’ve now empowered managers to be accountable for workforce performance, and they know what action needs to be taken. Visibility to actionable data leads to evidence-based decision making. Now you can tap into the potential of Big Data to make intelligent decisions that lower labor costs, improve workforce productivity and boost profitability.

ACA Readiness – Can your existing systems get you started?

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.

Look-back period…

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.

How do you Manage in the Moment?

No matter what industry you are in, the status quo in the workplace has changed. As organizations are running leaner, looking to maximize productivity and efficiency with their existing (or reduced) workforce, the demands on labor have sky rocketed. The combination of routine incidents like unplanned employee absences, combined with the real-time influences of online change orders, social media marketing campaigns, and even unusual weather have caused chaotic management challenges for labor managers.

How do you (or your managers) react to changing conditions in the workplace? How can you redirect labor resources instantly, when and where you need it, and still keep schedules, paycodes and labor levels accurate and up to date? How can manufacturing line managers track work-in-progress in real time, and make adjustments in mid shift to ensure maximum operational efficiency and completion of orders on time and at a high quality?

With virtually every workplace subjected to dynamic work conditions and unpredictable labor impact, the ability to manage in the moment is more important than ever; which is one reason why the iPad has infiltrated the workplace.

“Employee demand for iPad in the corporate environment remains strong, and CIOs continue to embrace iPad in an unprecedented rate. In just over a year since its debut, 75% of the Fortune 500 are testing or deploying iPad within their enterprises.” – Peter Oppenheimer; CFO, Apple April 2011

The iPad has evolved from a mobile device used to simply surf the Web, watch movies, and read ebooks into a professional, productivity-driving device used around the globe across many industries. Business managers who depend on enterprise software to do their jobs are now untethered from the confines of the back office with access to operational information wherever they are in the workplace. Businesses in turn have also realized that managers are much more productive when they can leave their office and work directly with employees and customers.

With a client-based, desktop computer application, managers are often faced with the challenge of addressing operational situations while being removed from the action – and often the reactionary changes can’t be made to the workforce management system until it’s too late to impact operations. To be most effective, managers need the ability to make informed decisions and take action on issues in real-time where and when the activity happens. Make adjustments to schedules on the fly when employees go home sick. Adjust staffing to cover visibly busy departments – or check to see if any other departments are overstaffed and can spare some coverage. View reports and drill down into information in the moment, to see how overtime is directly affecting your operations. Tablet-based analytics apps deliver on-demand visibility and insight into your workforce’s impact on business-critical metrics and trends like labor costs, sales per labor hour, overtime costs and more, allowing retail district or regional managers to make fact-based decisions from any location at any time.

Expect this trend to explode in 2013, as more and more enterprise software vendors extend their connectivity and visibility through the use of tablet applications.

Workforce Management Maturity Evolution Part 4 – Innovate

This is the final installment in a four-part series on workforce management maturity. With advancements in cloud-based technology, mobile applications and simplified enterprise applications, organizations are able to transform their workforce from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage. Part 4 discusses the final phase of workforce management maturity – innovate.

In Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great, those few companies that distanced themselves from the competition all had common traits among them. The concepts of “Level 5 leadership”, having the right workforce “on the bus”, and transformations that were the result of focus and continuous improvement over sustained periods of time eventually led to achieving greatness.

There are many organizations that have evolved through the first three phases of the workforce management maturity curve, getting the value of their workforce to one of a Flexible asset, and perception of their workforce into an “Agile Workforce.”  However, the best-in-class organizations that have moved into the Innovate phase now view their workforce as a vital workforce and a competitive advantage. For them, their employees are their most critical asset who, when provided with the right tools, training and support enable these organizations to achieve great results that their customers value and their peers and competitors envy.

Big Data and the Workforce

Throughout this series, the application of technology and process change has enabled organizations in each phase of workforce management maturity. Most organizations in the Innovate phase are embracing Big Data initiatives to identify triggers that influence growth, profitability, brand reputation, and operational excellence, as well as organizational transparency and accountability. In the Innovate phase, organizations incorporate labor metrics into their big data strategies, to transform their workforce into a network of individuals all working together to achieve a desired result. (Consider Southwest Airlines, where every interaction with their workforce is one that is focused on delivering a high level of customer service).

The correlation of labor data with operational measurements of inputs & outcomes can yield powerful insight into the impact of your workforce on business growth, brand perception and ultimately shareholder value. However, basic data mining does not equate to a big data strategy that will enable business innovation and continuous improvement. Lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business is the biggest obstacle in achieving success with big data. Organizations must transition the analysis from an IT function to a business operations function – combining measurements, analytics and business intelligence tools with visibility and controls for business leaders to understand and act on.

Workforce Analytics drives Innovation

When workforce analytics is combined successfully with operational data, actionable information will lead to operational comparisons and adjustments. Initial tracking of labor metrics like absenteeism, turnover and overtime can evolve into industry-specific trends and analysis. Retail stores can see the impact in increased operating margins, profit per employee and a stronger brand reputation. Healthcare providers can correlate treatment procedures, provider education/training, and technology with patient diagnosis and outcomes. Manufacturing firms can achieve operational excellence through lean labor principles.

When your workforce evolves from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage, your organization can make that leap from good to great!

Workforce Management Maturity Evolution Part 2 – Planning

This is the second in a four-part series on workforce management maturity. With advancements in cloud-based technology, mobile applications and simplified enterprise applications, organizations are able to transform their workforce from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage. Part 2 discusses the next phase of workforce management maturity – planning.

The second phase of workforce management maturity evolution is Planning. This phase is about putting your best team on the field to try and address the challenges in managing overtime and ensuring the right amount of coverage.  Once you have automated many of the manual processes that are obstacles for your workforce, the focus should turn to deploying the right person in the right place at the right time – or in other words provide structure to the important business process of matching labor to volume.

Organizations that are in the Planning phase see the value of their workforce as beyond just an expense, and more of a resource – categories of people with certain skills & hard to retain. Similar to an asset like equipment or materials, the workforce is an important component of their business with skills and capabilities that need to be deployed the right way in order for financial objectives to be met. 

Within the planning phase are processes that drive organizational complexity. How these processes are managed can determine an organization’s maturity.  Planning how to deploy a workforce effectively begins with matching labor to volume – short-term labor planning. Based on past data and trends, they should translate business/activity volume forecasts to labor forecasts and create labor standards. This information combined with workforce constraints and requests should yield a labor schedule.

Mature organizations have typically developed sophisticated labor standards, accurate forecasts and schedule optimization capabilities that provides standardization, centralization, visibility and control. By eliminating manual scheduling processes, organizations can reduce excess labor costs from over scheduling and the quality or service level impacts of under scheduling. Overtime and supplemental labor usage is reduced and balanced schedules greatly improve staffing. Moreover, employees are much happier. The time and effort required in manual scheduling processes is eliminated, and schedules automatically adhere to rules, requests, skills, certifications, availability and experience.

How does your workforce know when they are scheduled to work next? How is the right level of coverage for each shift determined? Are employee shift requests and seniority taken into account when a schedule is created? Are there any seasonal or external influences that could impact demand on your business this scheduling period?

With cloud-based workforce management on demand, even small to medium sized organizations can leverage and benefit from enterprise-class technology at a fraction of the cost and resource requirements.

In part three we will review the next phase of workforce management maturity – Execute.

Cloud-Based Workforce Management for SMBs

Small to midsized businesses and organizations (SMBs) need an enterprise-class workforce management suite with an affordable price point in order to remain competitive and continuously improve in order to grow their business. Cloud computing advancements have enabled leading vendors to deliver enterprise-class workforce management specifically designed for these organizations. Cloud services have now become the mainstream deployment option of choice for SMBs as opposed to on-premise models, and now workforce management SaaS is available via the cloud for SMBs.

SMB Labor Management Challenges

It’s no mystery that SMBs have many unique IT and business challenges. The area of workforce management a growing challenge for many SMBs. While enterprise applications often included HR, Payroll and labor management modules as part of a financial suite or ERP package, for decades SMBs have tackled workforce management needs with paper time sheets, hand-written time off requests, and schedules often done on a white board. The use of spreadsheets was considered advanced and manual calculations and data entry resulted in error prone business processes.

Software license and maintenance fees, implementation services costs, custom development needs and extensive IT resource requirements made the much-needed functionality for these organizations financially unattainable.  With minimal budget and typically very little back office support (HR, Payroll, I.T.  are sometimes the same person) SMBs usually have to settle for an internally developed, homegrown system; or a system cobbled together from multiple vendors that doesn’t do a lot for them in the way of integrated Timekeeping, HR & Payroll.  Usually these are low end, stripped down products from the larger vendors. Sometimes SMBs turn to service bureaus and outsourcing providers. They usually have experience with one or more outsourcing vendors or a local service bureau for Payroll and the software they use doesn’t have much HR & timekeeping functionality since it’s geared mainly for payroll.

Managing your own applications means keeping them updated and upgraded yourself.  Or, you have to hope your vendor’s solution is up to date and then upgrade regularly to remain technologically current.  But, many providers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain these systems and keep pace with technological advancements – in both product capabilities and the user experience.   Most service bureaus remain focused on only the payroll function, with add-on applications being a

Enterprise-class Workforce Management Simplified

Small to midsize businesses are continually trying to get the most from every available resource.  But, a vital asset that offers potential savings and productivity is often overlooked — your workforce.  Outsourcing your payroll, HR, and other workforce management applications to a SaaS model eliminates the technology headaches that can plague internal deployments. It reduces costs. Lets you offer the same premium employee packages provided by your larger competitors. And offloads the entire IT burden from your organization so you can focus on what you do best — growing your business.

The opportunity may be as basic as automating manual processes for capturing and tracking employee time and attendance, thereby reducing costly errors to which all manual systems are prone.  Or it may be upgrading legacy time and labor or payroll technology that can’t scale with your business or limits the ability to analyze your workforce’s effectiveness.  Perhaps you’re simply tired of being “nickel and dimed” by your current vendor who charges you to access your own data and makes it difficult to predict your month-to-month payroll processing costs.

Small and midsize businesses are feeling the financial pressures of a tight economy and having to compete with larger organizations with more resources. A workforce management solution tailored to the needs of SMBs can help them uncover and reduce hidden costs, leading to improved productivity and smarter decision-making” Lisa Rowan, program director of HR, learning, and talent research, IDC

Cloud-based workforce management for SMBs is fast and easy to install and get up and running, with minimal time and resources required.   Employees can use these systems with little to no training.  Business processes are automated, streamlined and simplified while users always benefit from the most current technologies.  Most importantly, similar to most SaaS offerings, users can use only what they need at a given time and fluctuate their usage as needed with no penalties or long term commitments.