Four Reasons Districts Are Switching to Web-Based Time & Attendance Systems
Odds are you aren’t lighting your hallways with torches. You aren’t using candles in the cafeteria or lanterns in the classrooms; electricity was discovered quite some time ago. And with that discovery came a new era of industry, innovation and opportunity. That era forever changed the way we work and is rivaled only by the innovation of the Digital Age.
Likewise, it’s no surprise that two-thirds of companies have embraced this new digital age by ditching old time and attendance tracking methods in exchange for web-based HR solutions. It is surprising, however, that a disproportionate number of school districts fall into that final one-third — those using outdated and risk-prone paper methods to track their time and attendance.
The good news is that each month, dozens of these school districts dip their toes in the electronic-time-and-attendance water (that sounds more dangerous than it is), and they’re saving a lot of time and money because of it.
School districts that still use a paper time and attendance system have an unavoidable accountability problem. It’s no secret that employees can and have made mistakes on their timesheets or even intentionally misrepresented their time. Web-based time and attendance software increases the accountability of your employees by tracking the actual time they work. Timesheet approvers can see those actual time punches (and rounded time, if applicable) to get an accurate record of when their employees actually worked as well as what building they clocked in and out of in the case of a crime or emergency.
Unfortunately, school districts’ accountability problem does not end with employees submitting incorrect or falsified timesheets. Perhaps the most prevalent accountability problem districts report is that of their principals, secretaries or other timesheet approvers rubber stamping those erroneous timesheets. This is a people problem, one that no time tracking software can ultimately solve. But that doesn’t mean a time and attendance program can’t improve overall accountability.
Paperless timesheets carry a record of who has edited, submitted or approved a timesheet along with the exact time that action took place. In addition, you can require your approver to certify the validity of the information being approved, as well as to enter a digital signature PIN to confirm he or she is the person making the approvals. These measures can go a long way in ensuring appropriate work is put into evaluating each timesheet.
Reason 2: Compliance
A second problem school districts face is compliance. With the full effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) looming, plus FLSA and FMLA regulations, districts are scrambling to prove their compliance.
The problem? A lot of districts can’t even claim with confidence that they are compliant. With large filing cabinets stuffed with paper records, proving compliance is at best a tedious process.
A+ Charter Schools
“Before, we were required to keep about seven years of paper records in notebooks, in filing cabinets.”
Then throw in this fact: paper gets lost.
Contoocook Valley School District
“Two years ago [we were] terrible at using the paper time slips. We would have inconsistency on people reporting their hours. We would have lost time slips that would appear months later because they were in interoffice envelopes that didn’t come to the right person. Time slips would not be signed or approved by the approvers.”
Auditors aren’t going to overlook these problems, and they won’t enjoy a long wait while you track down the records they’ve requested. This is one of the major reasons so many many districts, like A+ Charter Schools, have chosen to implement a web-based time and attendance system.
A+ Charter Schools
“At this time, they keep it online for us, in the cloud. I don’t keep any paper records. Everything is online and virtual.”
Department of Labor audits are nothing to take lightly, especially once ACA regulations are in full swing. In response, many districts have elected to implement a web-based system along with regular internal audits to ensure they’re ready when the DOL comes knocking.
Reason 3: Efficiency
The third problem school districts face is that of simple efficiency. Managing even a small school district is no simple feat. You’ve got teachers, subs, aides, maintenance, custodians, food service, secretaries, principals and more — each spread across multiple schools — all reporting to your payroll department.
Let’s say you use a paper method for your time and attendance tracking; even in the best of scenarios — where all timesheets are approved and on time, and every location has been appropriately enforcing the same standards — you’re still left with piles of paper that you then need to verify and manually enter into your payroll system. That alone takes a lot of unnecessary manual work, and that’s assuming a best case scenario.
Liz Walton from Contoocook Valley School District says, “Part of our issues in collecting those time slips would be due to a delay of school, or a snow day, or even just because somebody is out. In those particular cases when that happens, I would spend time chasing down people, whether by phone or by email, trying to get a hold of whoever is missing to get me their information as soon as possible, which could also mean a day or two delay of getting it to me.”
Some school districts spend a disproportionate amount of time just tracking records down and reentering information from paper into their payroll system. That time is an expensive resource, and with web-based time and attendance software, you can reallocate that resource to other areas that don’t get enough time.
A+ Charter Schools
“What used to take us about three weeks to do has now gone down to about three days on my campus users’ part, and when it gets to me, it was only about 15 minutes.”
Finally, and most obviously, a web-based time and attendance program makes your paper consumption more efficient. You’ve probably already figured out how. But does the word paperless scare you? Even if you’re just looking to cut down on your paper use, not get rid of it entirely, time and attendance software can go a long way in optimizing your process.
“We were using a paper-based system, and to store the reports for our district, which is a small district, it took a whole file box to store a year’s reports and we had to cram it in there for it to even fit. Now with the [web-based] system, I have a very nice report, and it probably fits in three inches for a whole year. So the consumption of paper is much better and we don’t have to have the storage that we did, because in small districts we don’t have storage places either.”
Reason 4: Accuracy
The fourth main problem school districts are facing (and one that directly informs the first three problems) is that of accuracy. You already know that paper timesheets require you to manually enter time into your payroll system, which is expensive in regard to time, but do you know how much it’s costing you in errors?
Nucleus Research, the American Payroll Association and the Aberdeen Group have all done studies showing that organizations overpay their employees by an average of 1.2% due to human error — representing $120,000 in payroll errors for every $10 million in payroll wages. They have also shown that electronic time and attendance systems can eliminate up to 95% of this cost. How much could you save with 95% more accuracy?
Automatic savings, in combination with accountability, compliance and efficiency, make staying with antiquated paper time and attendance methods a costly mistake. Will you join the thousands of school districts that have already embraced the future of web-based time and attendance systems?
Daniel is a magazine editor and freelance writer who spends most of his time procrastinating reading.