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Automating time and staff performance26th of September 2012
Cleaning companies typically have many employees who may be working at different times, at multiple locations, on different rates of pay. This can mean complex and time-consuming administration procedures when carried out manually, however there are now software solutions that can automate all employee-centric processes.
For any company employing large numbers of people, today’s business environment is more challenging than ever. There are economic changes, new laws and an increasingly complex workforce to contend with. Cleaning companies by nature employ significant numbers of people who may be working shifts at all times of the day, at multiple sites and perhaps on varying hourly rates of pay.
Managing the administration involved in such an operation can be complex, time-consuming and is prone to human error if it’s manual and paper-based. That’s why more and more businesses are investing in the latest software solutions specifically designed to manage workflow and take care of all those human resources and payroll functions.
Kronos is a market leader in developing such solutions and its systems are used by well-known businesses around the world, including contract services specialists Aramark and G4S. ECJ editor Michelle Marshall visited another one of its clients – London Waste in the UK – to learn more about the applications of a workforce management programme.
Situated just outside central London, the London Waste site was constructed in the 1960s when the government at the time decided landfill was not sustainable and decided to build incinerators. The site has been through numerous changes in terms of ownership in that it has been under public sector and private ownership. Currently it is under public authority ownership but that is set to change in the near future.
The Europe-wide drive to recycle more waste has also brought radical developments in the processes around waste management so the London Waste site is now very different to the original 1960s plant. Now there is a compost plant plus a recovery area where metals and other reusables such as hardcore are removed from rubbish by mechanical and manual means. The rest of the rubbish generated from around this part of London goes into the incinerator, which now generates electricity for 100,000 homes.
It is expected the plant will continue as it is until 2020, when it will require major investment – the European Commission is now pushing hard and striving for new ways of recycling and recovering waste so there may be a demand for different facilities.
These various changes in ownership and the development of the site have resulted in a workforce that has a vast range of different terms and conditions, depending on when they joined. The nature of the plant means people are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and some people are not seen by their managers on a regular basis because of varying shift patterns. A number of staff also work at other sites.
All these factors meant managing the workforce was a real challenge, which led the management to examining the benefits of introducing a computerised system.
Chief information officer at London Waste Mark Beattie explains: “Our first contact with the Kronos system was 10 years ago. At that time we were concerned about manual inputting of information from time sheets. We could only input information based on paper records completed by the employees themselves – from what they said they had done in terms of hours worked, etc.
“We also had the complex issue of different pay and various terms and conditions among our employees and Kronos had dealt with this type of challenge with many companies it had worked with before.”
All data captured
So the Kronos management system was introduced as part of a rolling programme. “Certain groups of staff have similar terms and conditions so they were grouped together,” Beattie continues. “A Kronos representative then worked through all the different options and permutations of how people work, and how they are paid. Kronos then wrote what we call a pay rule which meant all the data could be captured, processed and from that pay slips produced.”
From those basic functions performed by the Kronos system in the early days, London Waste was led to analyse more closely how all its staff were being paid, its lateness record and sickness policies, etc. Audit trails had become more transparent so the company found it could use data captured by the system in any HR-related issue that arose. Nobody is exempt – all staff members, including the managing director, ‘check in’ each day.
There are a number of options for this daily ‘checking in’ process. For example a feature called Workforce TeleTime allows employees to log in for the day by telephone even if they are out of the office at a meeting, for example. And at remote sites staff can register their arrival in various ways.
Beattie explains the process for employees. “Every member of staff has an ID, which they swipe against the clock in the entrance to the building. They do the same again when they leave at night. There are multiple clocks placed around the site and staff are only authorised to swipe in at certain clocks.”
Often there are maintenance staff who may be working in the building at night and they receive an extra payment for coming out at that time. The Kronos system logs this automatically and puts it through for payroll processing. Staff can also access their future shift patterns - and in fact any other work-related information - all from that same clock on the wall, which has an application called InTouch built in.
London Waste has experienced additional benefits of the system beyond its functionality since implementing it, says Beattie. “It is also very good at generating precise data about employees. We can analyse trends, for example are staff in certain departments arriving late more than others, or leaving early? It’s easy for us to spot patterns, behavioural habits, and capture management information.
Analyse the workforce
“As a business, once you have all this data you start to analyse the workforce much more closely, and any problems really come to light. And from a safety point of view it’s very beneficial because we know exactly who is on the site in case of emergency.”
The system can also be used to allocate overtime in a fair and independent way – it can show no favouritism. “This is a great advantage,” Beattie explains, “because if someone complains they are never offered overtime it can actually be recorded that overtime was offered and turned down for example. And it’s also been of great help in allocation of staff for certain times and certain tasks.”
Holidays are also pre-booked on the Kronos system – holiday entitlement is recorded and cannot be exceeded because every employee’s allocation is input onto the system. If a member of staff is supposed to be at work and does not arrive, the system assumes they are sick if a holiday has not been booked. If that turns out not to be the case, it can be rectified by the supervisor.
“Sickness trends have also been closely analysed thanks to the system and the sickness rate among our employees has reduced dramatically,” adds Beattie.
It’s clear then that for London Waste the implementation of this automated system of workforce management has brought numerous benefits. But how did the staff feel about the Kronos programme being introduced? Beattie replies: “At first they felt they were not trusted by the management – they were quite open about that. There was definitely a reluctance from them.
“But the system can actually work to the employees’ benefit too, because they know they are being paid fairly, all data is transparent, there is less scope for human error and everyone can check they are paid for the hours they have worked. All employees have been informed they can see their Kronos record whenever they want to. So far there’s been no disputes about it and we are rarely asked by employees to see their records.”
Updated with changes
The Kronos programme is now a central feature of the London Waste operation, Beattie says. “We run a fairly small business but we have a lot of technology and investing in a workforce management system has really helped us to move forward. We were not concerned about taking on other sites because we knew the system could accommodate that easily.” London Waste employs 250 direct staff and 500 people in total are covered by the Kronos system because of various contractors working at the site.
The programme is also regularly updated with legislative changes – the Working Time directive for example. Any minor amendments to it can be made in-house by the London Waste staff who have been trained in the system’s use - they do not have to be done by Kronos which would incur extra charges.
“An independent empirical judgement of time and performance” is how Beattie describes the workforce management system. “We have developed a solution that was tailored by Kronos to our business model – our business did not have to change in order to fit in with it.”