Small HR and Finance Departments Use Frontline to Save Time and Collaborate
The HR and Finance teams at Great Plains Technology Center decided to toss out paper processes and embrace technology. Here’s how it helps them take back time, increase accountability, and collaborate better.
At a Glance:
- Lawton, Oklahoma
- Full-time Faculty & Staff
- Part-time Employees
Frontline Solutions Used:
- Frontline Absence & Time
- Frontline Central
- Frontline Recruiting & Hiring
Great Plains Technology Center (GPTC) in Oklahoma excels at preparing students for new careers. Focusing on occupations that do not require a college degree — medical technology, cybersecurity, welding, automobile repair, cosmetology, electrical services, graphic design, and much, much more — GPTC receives students from 9 partner high schools as well as adults looking for ongoing professional education.
Teachers at GPTC must be certified, and the center has nearly 400 employees between certified staff, full-time hourly employees, and part-time employees. Along with three team members, Director of Finance Lindsey Billen is responsible for the center’s finances, budgeting, and payroll. Human Resources Director Valerie Anderson oversees HR functions. Coming from a large industrial company, Valerie joined GPTC in 2019 and since then has been building the department from the ground up. For three years she was the sole HR employee until HR Specialist Leah Fultz joined her in 2022.
My File Cabinet Runneth Over
A few years ago, almost everything in the Finance office was done on paper. Each month, every hourly employee would track their time on a small timecard, recording when they checked in and out each day and tallying their hours. Supervisors would double-check by recalculating the hours. “But then I verify them all again, so I would have to calculate every single paper timecard again,” said Lindsey. “It’s just a long process.”
Auditing payroll also ate up time. Because payroll is the center’s primary expense, auditors would examine each timecard to confirm accuracy for employees being paid by federal funds.
In the HR department, Valerie also stepped into a sea of paper when she arrived at GPTC. “Files upon files.” Yearly contracts, onboarding, tuition reimbursement — they all required shuffling physical files back and forth. And collaboration between departments was clunky. Setting up a new employee required information to be typed into a Word doc and sent by email or dropped into a basket, a recipe for losing track of where things were.
Between inefficiency and the potential for errors — “There are so many mistakes you can make by hand-calculating a timecard,” said Lindsey — it was clearly time to find a better way.
“There are so many mistakes you can make by hand-calculating a timecard.”
Valerie agreed. “That has been my goal here at Great Plains Technology Center, to move us in the direction of being more electronic, making sure that things are automated and that we have better tracking and better record-keeping… the thing I’m probably most proud of is moving us from paper to a more electronic-based system.”
A System Built for Education
Initially, GPTC purchased a time-tracking system built for large companies, not for schools or other educational organizations. “We realized that it was much more industry-based, because they didn’t speak our language,” said Valerie. Rather than continue with a system that didn’t understand the intricacies of education, they began looking for an easy-to-use solution that would meet their needs.
“When we found Frontline and they knew what an ‘extra duty contract’ was, we thought, ‘Okay, this is good.’ When we realized that they spoke our language, that’s what interested us, and that’s why we made that decision.”
Great Plains Technology Center + Frontline Education
Now, Great Plains is seeing results. The staff uses Frontline Absence & Time to manage leave and track employee hours, and Frontline Recruiting & Hiring to make the hiring process easier. Frontline Central connects the two and serves as the hub for all employee information.
Because not all staff members are computer-savvy, an easy-to-use system was needed.
“It’s saving us so much time,” said Lindsey. “It’s user-friendly. Everyone pretty much likes it better than the old. We had a system for leave, but this one is just so much more user-friendly and has more adaptability in reporting.”
“This one is so much more user-friendly and has more adaptability in reporting.”
“What Leah and I both really liked was the ease of use, because [our old system] was very complicated and Frontline was very straightforward, and our managers and our directors felt comfortable with it, too,” said Valerie. When staff have questions about the system, Leah usually only must show them how to navigate it once. And because GPTC uses Frontline for all HR processes, each system has a similar easy-to-use interface.
Employees can clock in and out on Touchpoint time clocks or via an app on their phone, which tracks IP addresses to ensure that employees can’t clock in or out when they aren’t on-site. All of this ensures greater accuracy and eliminates timecard errors.
Because Frontline’s Time & Attendance system means that she no longer needs to recalculate each timecard, Lindsey estimates she saves a full day each month. “That lets me focus on things my role should be focusing on, so I can focus more on budget, revenue-generating ideas, expense cutting ideas. We’re trying to implement new security — security should be number one in schools, keeping kids protected. It’s created time for me to be able to do that.”
Valerie can also devote more time to strategic work. “I can work on things like job descriptions. We’ve needed to review our job descriptions since I’ve been here, but I have not had time to do that because we’ve had so much paperwork that we do in our onboarding process. Two, I’ve been able to work strategically across the campus, working with the supervisors on coaching and employee issues and things like that. I’m able to handle those high-priority and high-complexity issues.”
“It’s translated to me being able to work more strategically, because I can focus on big rocks now versus trying to figure out how we’re going to get all of these files ready for the auditor.”
A Mobile App
Leah said that in addition to clocking in and out, the staff uses Frontline’s mobile app to enter absences and track leave. “I hear wonderful things about the app. That has literally been one of the things that they absolutely love.” Valerie said that this is true of both employees and directors — no more navigating to a clunky web page. It’s all right there on a simple, attractive, easy-to-use iOS® or Android® app.
In the past, going through a payroll audit meant lugging out boxes of timecards for Lindsey and the Finance team. Now, she says, they simply access them digitally. “That helps because we get audited every year and we have to pull timecards. This will be nice to pull them right from the system and not have to go literally dig in a box to find them.”
Keeping an eye on time to ensure employees haven’t worked more than 40 hours a week, or were paid overtime if they did, used to be a headache. Now, supervisors keep track of hours online. When overtime or comp time is submitted, it’s immediately visible. “I can pull the payroll, look at the timecards, which ones haven’t been approved, or look for variances in time, so if somebody is working too much overtime or somebody doesn’t have enough hours in the system, it’s nice and quick. If we were doing that by paper timecard, that’s hard to find,” said Lindsey.
When new employees are hired, Frontline Central makes it easy for Valerie and Leah to square contracts away. “Our contracts have probably been our biggest pain point. Those contracts had to be individually, physically signed by the Board of Education. What we’ve been able to do is move that into Frontline where that can be digitally signed, so we don’t have to wait for the board meeting once a month.”
“Our contracts have probably been our biggest pain point. What we’ve been able to do is move that into Frontline where that can be digitally signed.”
Leah said Frontline Central makes it easier to share new employee information with the Finance department, especially for part-time employees who are paid hourly. “They sign it, the board signs it, and then it goes straight to her, so she automatically knows how many hours this person can work and what their pay is.”
When a new employee is hired, information from each person’s application flows into Frontline Central, and employees can complete required forms well ahead of time. Valerie said that’s a vast improvement over showing up on the first day and spending the first few hours in HR filling out their new hire paperwork like I-9 forms. “It has helped tremendously, especially since we’ve been able to build our forms into the onboarding packet and send that electronically out to our new staff.”
Forms and Easier Access to Information
Because employee information is readily available in Frontline Central, it’s much easier for Valerie and Leah to keep vital processes like teacher recertification moving along. “As an HR department, we’re able to help track who is due and who is not, but the employees have never had that visibility.” Now, Valerie said that employees can check on their own certification status and be more proactive about it. “That’s something we’ve been really excited about, because now they can keep up on their own and that burden doesn’t fall directly to us.”
GPTC has a tuition reimbursement program for staff. Tracking approvals and reimbursing employees has never been easier. “It comes to me (Valerie) for approval, it goes to Lindsey for the final approval, and then it goes to a magical electronic filing cabinet, which is wonderful. It would [previously] go through probably four different people, and all four of those people are in a different building, so it’s been able to centralize it.”
Valerie and Leah have also created request forms for trainings, extra duty contracts, summer camps, and other teacher activities. In the past, directors would often approve such activities without HR being aware. Now, those activities can be requested through a form in Central and workflows ensure the right people can approve or deny them and digitally track them the entire way.
Valerie said that digital tracking is vital and a huge shift from their old way of doing things. “Being an HR department of one, things get lost… two days later you’re thinking, ‘Wait a minute, where is that?’ And I’m looking for a piece of paper. Whereas I can go into Central or Absence Management and look to see if I actually got that done.”
Better Collaboration Between HR and Finance
Frontline also helps the HR and Finance departments at Great Plains collaborate more effectively. “I think the thing that has been the most beneficial has been the forms in Central. There is a lot of paperwork that flows back and forth between our two offices. Lindsey handles payroll, she handles time and attendance. We handle leave, we handle contracts. We’re able to better track and better understand where things are in process, because of the workflows. That’s been tremendously helpful.”
“We’re able to better track and better understand where things are in the process, because of the workflows. That’s been tremendously helpful.”
About Frontline Education
Frontline Education is a leading provider of school administration software, connecting solutions for student and special programs, business operations and human capital management with powerful analytics to empower educators. Frontline partners with school systems to deliver tools, data and insights that support greater efficiency and productivity, enabling school leaders to spend more time and resources executing strategies that drive educator effectiveness, student success and district excellence.
Frontline’s broad portfolio includes solutions for proactive recruiting and hiring, absence and time management, professional growth, student information systems, special education, special programs, Medicaid reimbursement, school health management, inventory control and asset management, payroll, benefits and financial management, and analytics solutions that help district leaders tap into their data to make more informed decisions for the benefit of their students and communities. Over 10,000 clients representing millions of educators, administrators and support personnel have partnered with Frontline Education in their efforts to develop the next generation of learners.
Learn more at www.FrontlineEducation.com