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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Replacing My Hospital’s Time and Attendance System

January 20, 2018 What I Wish I'd Known Before 2 Comments

That our hospital’s Time and Attendance policies were not being applied throughout the organization equitably in all departments.  We found a lot of departments that were providing extra incentive pay to nurses in order to boost their salaries. Other departments were making up their own on-call pay programs for their personnel.

That employees were getting around showing up late by not punching in and then later stating that the system must not have worked when they “clocked in.”

Anything that directly or indirectly to do with payroll is EXTREMELY sensitive. Expect people to freak about any test results that don’t match the result of the existing system in payroll, down to the penny.

If your facility is non-union, and has been working to stay that way despite onslaughts by SEIU and others, expect to deal with lots of very complex pay premiums. Don’t be surprised if disgruntled employees and/or organizers try to make something sinister out of the system change.

Place time clocks in areas with enough room to hold all the employees standing around waiting to clock in in the morning and clock out in the afternoon.

If your internal sponsor is the HR director, make sure that you reassure that person early and often that the system change won’t accidentally result in pay changes.

Hospital pay rules are more complex than any other industry, sometimes exceeding the capability of non-healthcare specific payroll systems to handle them. It was shocking to find how many departments were running their own unapproved overtime, call time, and bonus programs in direct contradiction to hospital policy. It takes a lot of time and finesse to find these exceptions and then some HR backbone to bring those departments into compliance instead of building rules just for them.

If your implementation involves installation of hardware, allow lots of time to make it happen. Hospital construction can be very tricky from a permitting standpoint.

Plan to run tests through month end and end-to-end with payroll to make sure everything is perfect before you agree to a cutover plan.

Don’t let Procurement sunset the contract with your existing vendor until you are absolutely confident in your cutover dates.

Policy over technology. Users run in the door and swipe at 8:14:59, then get ready for work, and out the door at 4:45:01.

Pay attention to the choice of letting employees clock in by telephone and limit that to in-house phones.

Expect managers to express shock and indignation that it’s their job to review time clock reports against reality. And to look the other way if they’re worried the offending employee might quit over being paid accurately rather than generously.

I wish we had understood the complexities of overtime, the number of salaried employees that are required to clock-in/clock-out even though their pay doesn’t change (and the frequency with which they forget or delay their swipe), and I wish it was understood exactly how much manual overriding would be needed over the first four payroll cycles to make sure employees were appropriately paid. I also wished we had budgeted for all of the overtime required for staff that were perpetually on call to handle these and other issues during the transition period. In short, I wish we knew everything since what we actually knew was nothing, and our vendor was complicit in helping us fail pretty spectacularly during the process.

Will employees be able to access accrued PTO in their current paycheck (leaving a zero PTO balance) or will their pay be docked even though they have PTO remaining? This “feature” has to be manually overridden by our HR personnel with management approval.

How difficult is it for employees to enter multiple days off in a row. Do they have to do every single day as a separate entry or is the multiple-entry feature seamless and user-friendly?

That a focus on staffing workflow impact is equally or more important than the specific technology. That includes integration with upstream and downstream systems.

Don’t underestimate the creative nature of employees clocking in and out. Before we got wise and changed it, some would stop and clock in and or out at our remote locations (30-45 minutes away) and then drive in to the hospital. We noticed a spike in overtime. Also we noticed an incredible number of time sheet edits by non-management folks who had the authority previously. Their role went away and the authority moved to managers (some of whom argued it wasn’t their job?) Every management level now had to sign off for their areas. The number of edits decreased but it took a long time and a lot of oversight.

A story about a payroll system. I don’t recall the name but it was a Mom & Pop vendor (Mom was the CEO and Pop was the techie) selected by the HR division. On January 31 with no other option, we had to mask out the SSNs on a couple hundred (or more) printed W-2s, then run them through the printer as blank sheets with a correctly placed SSN cell from Excel. We moved on to a new vendor and the company was gone the next year.

They were in negotiations to be acquired by a competitor and there equipment would be sunset within the year.

It’s not the system that causes issues. It’s the clock in/out & OT calculation policies & procedures.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. As a strong proponent of taking a sociotechnical approach to HIT issues, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the overwhelming social nature of the lessons, but I was. It brought up an old memory in which one of our programmers would leave his car running by the curb, run in, click-in, and head back to his car and go golfing. Then he’d come back by the hospital after his round to clock-out and head to lunch. He loved the new system, since previously he actually had to go to work.

  2. Having implemented time & attendance for over 20 years, this is not surprising. A T&A implementation is perhaps the most complex project an organization undertakes for many of the reasons stated in the post. The main reason is that management is unaware or does not acknowledge the varying pay practices across their organizations. They underestimate the implications of these practices and are unprepared to deal with them during a T&A project. It is not unusual to find that these practices are costing organizations millions of dollars a year, year after year. I ask clients, “are you prepared to pay everyone to policy?” Look at the some of the pay practices listed in the post. For every $1 of over payment, you can count on there being a $1 of under payment. How do you want to correct that? What is the risk?

    Time and attendance projects are not all about timekeeping. They are really policy and compliance projects with significant bottom line dollars implications.

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