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This post is a collaboration between Replicon and our friends at Handle, who offer an automated collection process of unpaid construction invoices.
Since stay-at-home policies were put in place in the U.S. to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, many businesses have faced difficulties in their operations. With these challenges, companies need to find ways to operate that keeps workers safe from COVID-19.
For industries with a large workforce such as construction, it can be doubly difficult to put new systems in place and mobilize them to adapt to the new normal. Many states have declared construction workers as essential and may need to continue work in support of the fight against the virus but in a limited capacity. Consequently, part of the workforce will need to shift to doing work from home.
It is during these times that new technological innovations really shine. For instance, project time tracking solutions have become quite essential for construction businesses as they continue to operate in this uncertain climate. Here are some of the ways that cloud-based, mobile-first time tracking apps are helping construction businesses during COVID-19:
1. Keep employees in the loop
Staying on track is quite challenging especially when the members of a construction team are in multiple locations. With the uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 crisis, things can change without any prior notice and businesses will need to adapt as fast as possible. The key then is to enable your remote and field-based employees to know what tasks need to be done and when.
A comprehensive time tracking solution can deliver real-time results for multi-locational businesses to improve visibility, accuracy, and control. Foremen and supervisors can delegate the exact tasks and projects resources are working on along with their schedules and durations ahead of time so that employees are prepared for the workload. This way, employees can provide accurate inputs around their work – even when mobile – that directly tie into all other project metrics like costing, productivity, profits and more. Some solutions offer specially configured crew timesheets and mobile timesheet apps that can accommodate complex time tracking scenarios around job costing, team time entry, and differing pay rates. Cutting-edge timesheet capabilities have also accelerated automation into the industry, freeing supervisors from manual-entry headaches and significantly improving productivity. For the new wave of employees working remotely, streamlined project time tracking can encourage accountability; seeing the tasks in the queue enables workers to take ownership of their own schedules at their own pace as the work-from-home setup continues.
2. Keep track of compliance
Being compliant is a yes or no – not a “maybe” or “mostly” – and when the answer is no, businesses can wind up paying for their mistakes big time. As globalization and sheltering-in-place phasing continues to spread companies across regions, states, and countries, both the complexity and importance of maintaining compliance grows exponentially. Reconciling the challenges of statutory compliance can be difficult enough without the added complication of local union rules and collective bargaining agreements, but this much is clear: manual solutions and local vendors won’t cut it any longer.
With these variations in business policies, local legislations, and requirements in general, it’s more vital than ever to use a centralized platform expressly designed to manage wage-and-hour compliance across geographies. The construction industry of today requires a comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution that can consistently apply overtime, meal breaks, and other labor laws everywhere they operate; one that works integrally with their time-keeping system to reduce errors, stay up-to-date, and offer the flexibility to support any compliance need, especially as new legislation necessitated by COVID-19 is introduced.
3. Get on top of payroll and costing
The payroll aspect of a business has largely enjoyed a not-so-visible back-office role. However, the onset of COVID-19 has made it necessary for businesses to make changes to payroll, especially with the incorporation of new sick pay and leave entitlements, application of labor laws, government subsidies and relief packages, and of course, calculation of salaries and wages for a workforce using a new work arrangement. All these inputs directly feed into project and job costing processes as well.
Accurate payroll begins with an effective time and attendance solution. Having time tracking software for construction workers in your arsenal lets you manage exceptions, validations, and adjustments on one unified platform. The ability to set validation rules make it easy to check for submission of documents needed to approve time off, and enable supervisors and managers with real-time updates about time entries and time-off submissions. Dynamic approvals can support complex scheduling and time tracking for all employees, providing validated, error-proof time data for streamlined payroll and job costing. When projects, costs and billable hours are tracked and recorded with accuracy, you can avoid any payment issues that can be further complicated by this coronavirus crisis. In addition, the centralized data housed in your time tracking software can be used to evaluate employee productivity and other data-driven metrics as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
4. Embrace the cutting edge: AI and touchless time clocks
Despite numerous advancements, today’s tech-hungry civilization develops faster than many legacy systems can keep up. The best form of time tracking provides the most automated, unobtrusive process possible – asking the least of supervisors and employees while collecting the most data, but many organizations still relying on older, inflexible infrastructures are hesitant to accept the need for a digital transformation. Leveraging new time tracking enhancements in mobile tech, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can help construction businesses keep pace with an ever-evolving landscape of technology and maintain a competitive edge as the pandemic redefines time and attendance.
Incorporating modern, mobile-first interfaces into the fundamental time tracking framework can provide businesses with the precise data they need to make proactive, informed decisions. Now, crews can improve productivity with laser-accurate workforce time data and location tracking, using state-of-the-art chatbots, GPS tracking, and geofencing technologies. New concerns around high-contact clock-in surfaces have emerged for essential workers punching in and potentially spreading the virus, but with touchless facial recognition, employees can simply walk up to their time clock and automatically punch in without touching any surfaces. This sophisticated combination of both facial recognition and voice assisted technology can provide crews with an innovative and convenient approach to clocking in and out worry-free. Staying ahead of the curve and utilizing cutting-edge, self-service technologies like these will pave the way to creating tenable, intelligent solutions for clocking in and out.
5. Ensure all systems can talk to each other
Aligning time, data, metrics, and outcomes is necessary to understand key performance indicators such as productivity and profitability, but it can be challenging when organizations rely on multiple systems such as payroll, HRMS, CRM, ERP, and more without any real cohesion between them. But justifiably, many businesses prefer not to disrupt their existing ecosystem with costly fixes, especially when accounting for financial setbacks as a result of the coronavirus.
When modern time tracking can harvest time and cost data from an organization’s infrastructure, it can ultimately eliminate the need for invasive participation and manual entry to make time tracking 100% accurate. Modern plug and play solutions allow seamless sharing of all project time and cost data with other solutions in an ecosystem like CRM, Accounting, Invoicing, ERP, HR and Payroll. These integrative capabilities can minimize change management, accelerate deployment, increase employee adoption, and save huge costs in the long run.
The Road Ahead
The pandemic has caught many businesses off guard, but this is just a temporary setback. It is important to catch our bearings and learn to adjust our core business functions through the crisis. Fortunately, new tech innovations such as time tracking software are there to keep our business intact not just in this crisis but in our new normal after COVID-19 has subsided.
Looking to make life a little easier for your construction company? Check out Replicon’s Project Time Tracking solutions for more information:
About the Authors:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.