4 Steps for Better Timekeeping and Absence Management

Regardless of where you work or how long you’ve worked there, there’s a good chance you’ve run into some problems with timekeeping or absence policies. Maybe the hiccups came in the form of manually logging your own hours. Maybe they came in requesting leave. Maybe they came in accruing paid time off.

You’ve probably wondered why no one has come in and made the whole thing a lot more efficient.

GovLoop’s State & Local Gov Innovators Virtual Summit tackled this topic today in the webinar “Gov Time Management Done Right.” Emily Jarvis, GovLoop’s senior online and events editor, led the discussion with Talona Felix, Time and Labor Administrator for the city of Mesa, Arizona, and Toni Kellam, Principal Business Consultant and Absence Management Specialist at Kronos, which sponsored the event.

Kellam kicked things off with a string of statistics underlining the upside to automated timekeeping in government work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, she noted, the average rate of unplanned absence across industries is 2.9 percent. In the public sector, however, that number jumps to 3.4 percent.

That may seem like a small increase, but it can translate to unsustainable incurred costs, Kellam said. She included four steps for agencies looking to implement timekeeping and absence software.

1. Build a business case. To do that, agencies must examine their current processes. Right now, what does your process look like for all absence programs (paid time off, Family and Medical Leave Act [FMLA] or leave of absence, unexcused absence, etc.)? Where are your problem areas? Have you had compliance issues in the past?

2. Examine your absence strategy. Organizations have previously looked at ways to boost attendance in simplistic ways without looking at the issue more broadly. Try to examine your processes more holistically, making sure absence control policies are all working in tandem. For example, make sure paid time off works concurrently with extended leave.

3. Train managers and supervisors. This probably goes without saying, but you need to make sure your managers understand how to handle incidental absences and which extended leaves are protected by the job. If an employee is consistently calling out sick, for instance, it might be time to discuss FMLA — and what that entitles them — at greater length. Make sure your managers are treating everyone fairly and equally, across the board.

4. Provide tools to ease administrative burden and improve compliance. These can come in many forms, including an electronic notice of when employees have exceeded their unexcused absences, for example. To reiterate, the goal here is efficiency and equal treatment for all.

Following Kellam’s presentation, Felix shared her hands-on experience with the issue. She brought real world anecdotes into the fold, including a story about an interaction with one of the city’s managers that has stuck with her since it happened.

“One day he called me and said in a very shaky voice, ‘Talona, I just had the saddest conversations with one of my employees. Now I need to help him, but I don’t know how,’” Felix recalled.

An employee had explained to the manager, Barry, that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Inevitably, it would impact his work, and he wanted to know the leave options available to him.

Barry, in turn, had called Felix with one question on his mind: “’How can I help him?’”

As it happened, there were a number of ways in which the city could help this employee, but the manager wasn’t aware of them all. And at a meeting after this call, Felix recalled, six groups of employees came together to figure out how best to assist the employee fighting cancer.

These two events led Felix on a multi-year mission to simplify the timekeeping and absence policies for Mesa’s 4,000 employees. She set out with five improvement goals:

1. Provide a central contact for department managers and employees.

2. Enhance customer service.

3. Reduce the number of retroactive changes and subsequent consequences of those changes being completed.

4. Ensure federal, state and municipal laws are being followed.

5. Curb abuse!

Mesa transitioned from paper time cards to Kronos software, and that flip has improved the system dramatically, Felix said. She feels the city accomplished each of the goals it set out to.

From 2013 to 2015, the city lost more than $45,000 in improperly overpaying just 10 of its employees. Now the technical advancements have patched the holes and made employees and managers alike more aware of their rights in absence.

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