When Molly Kinnison was hired to head up the HR department at Ropes Courses Inc., a manufacturer and installer of adventure courses in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the company still handled all of its time-keeping on handwritten time cards.

As the only person in the HR department, she spent most of her time in those early years chasing down time cards, trying to decipher handwritten job codes and questioning whether people really worked eight hours a day, every day, without a break. “I spent a lot of time running around,” she said.

Once she got the cards in order, she sent it all to her payroll person who spent three full days a month manually typing the data, line by line, into QuickBooks. “It was exhausting,” she said.

And as it turns out, it was also expensive. The time spent monitoring data, overpaying employees for exaggerated time cards and the inability to accurately predict how many hours it would take to complete a project for customer bid, the company was losing thousands of dollars that they couldn’t even quantify.

“We would just have to eat that loss,” she said. And as the company grew — to more than 100 workers from 15 employees in 2008 — the losses and the challenge of keeping track of time steadily got worse.

Finally, in 2013, she went to her boss asking for help. “She told me that if I could find a better way to keep track of time, I should get it,” Kinnison said. So she Googled “time tracking tools,” tested a few demos and ultimately implemented CloudClock, a cloud-based time management system from Replicon Inc. that photographs workers holding up employee QR cards when they clock in or out.

Ropes Courses is hardly alone in dealing with losses due to exaggerated time cards or the minutiae of trying to track down that data. The American Payroll Association reports that three-fourths of employers lose money to buddy punching, with employees stealing an average of 4.5 hours’ worth of wages each week. A 2015 report from Software Advice Inc., shows 1 in 4 employees say they report more hours than they actually worked 76 to 100 percent of the time.

“Most companies are aware that time theft is a problem, but they aren’t sure how big or small the problem is,” said Mike O’Toole, director of publications, education and government relations for the APA. To deal with it, many companies are turning to similar solutions, implementing biometric time clocks that track thumb shape, scan retinas or do facial recognition. “It’s all about getting an authentic record of their time.”

Errr … That’s Not You

The new system not only freed her from chasing time sheets, but also it cut payroll costs because of exaggerated time cards, and it has given her clarity and control over where all the workers are and how much time it takes to finish jobs.

“There is no more buddy punching,” she said, though she noted that when she first installed the clock there were a few attempts. She shut it down quickly though when she brought photos of the guys clocking each other in to team meetings to show them that she meant business. “Now they know I can see what they are doing so they cut it out.”

She also regularly run reports to see exactly how much time different projects take so the company can more accurately bid projects, and indentify areas that need improvement. “If we projected that it would take 100 hours to do the steel on a course and it took 200 hours, we know to look into what’s going on.”

They’re Watching Us

These automated solutions eliminate a lot of the time spent managing time and provide clarity into where time is being spent — or stolen. This can be particularly useful for avoiding unanticipated overtime, and keeping employee schedules within demonstrable compliance, O’Toole said.

Though moving from a trust-based paper time-keeping system to an automated one with cameras or biometric scanners can be painful. “You can’t just install it one day and expect people to use it,” O’Toole said. “It’s a change process, and you need to take the time to communicate why you are doing it and how it works.”

Kinnison had a hard time at first convincing her crew that the camera-based time clock wasn’t meant to be a Big Brother-style monitor. “It was awful at first,” she said. For the first few weeks she spent most of her time listening to workers complain about the system, and insisting that it didn’t work or that they couldn’t figure out how to use it. But she patiently walked them through it again and again until they finally understood.

“I knew once we got everyone trained, it would be great,” she said. It took about a month but now they are all on board, and lots of the guys make goofy faces in the camera. “It’s funny, and it’s their way of letting me know they know I’m watching them.”

Original Source: Workforce

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