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Modern timekeeping systems lead to better staffing; Potential advantages: expedited staffing assignments, employee recognition, better hiring, less turnover.

Recruiting and retaining the best employees is a critical issue in the ultracompetitive healthcare industry, especially for skilled positions such as nurses. Many healthcare organizations try to improve recruitment and retention by offering prospective employees signing bonuses, enhanced benefit packages, and flexible work schedules, but as competitors offer similar incentives, it is difficult to maintain a consistent advantage. Plus, increasingly lucrative compensation packages can create problems of their own, including increased costs and scheduling difficulties.

Fortunately, there's a better way to improve employee recruitment and retention, and many healthcare organizations already have the necessary tools for this in their time and attendance software solutions. Modern time and attendance software offers three key areas of functionality that, when properly leveraged, can help companies improve morale and productivity and, in turn, boost recruitment and retention: electronic approvals of time worked, creating a culture of accountability; attendance point programs, encouraging and rewarding perfect attendance; and advanced pay rules, offering the chance to amicably resolve difficult labor problems, such as scheduling employees for less desirable shifts.

Accountability Through Approvals

The term approvals refers to a process whereby one or more persons review and electronically sign off on an employee's hours--whether daily, at the end of each pay period, or a combination of both--before the data are processed by payroll. For example, some organizations use a one-level approval, in which a supervisor or manager approves employee hours. More detailed processes incorporate a sequence of approvals by employees, supervisors and, finally, payroll administrators.

Most modern time and attendance systems include functionality for approvals, yet many businesses don't enable these features for fear of changing processes or creating new tasks for their staff. However, approvals are valuable in that they help ensure that all employees are consistently held to the same standards. For example, without a daily approvals process, a tardy employee might purposely "forget" to clock in, knowing that the supervisor will most likely fill in his or her scheduled start time when reviewing time cards at the end of the pay period. Top-performing employees are rewarded by eliminating such seemingly preferential treatment. Individuals know that they'll be recognized and paid for adhering to attendance policies, which encourages other employees to change their behaviors.

Because approval processes foster a culture of accountability that naturally appeals to the best employees, this positively influences recruitment and retention. Best of all, because approvals are easy to both implement and use, the organization can achieve positive changes with relatively little effort.

Points and Perfect Attendance

A relatively new feature of time and attendance software, attendance point programs, takes the reporting of exceptions--such as instances of tardiness, unexcused absences, and missing time punches--to a new level. Employees are assigned a balance of points for a predefined period, such as a calendar year. Each time an exception occurs during this period, the corresponding employee's balance of points is modified according to the company's policy.

Some exceptions might have a greater demerit value than others, and employees who cross thresholds of demerit points receive penalties, such as warnings or even termination. Employees with perfect attendance receive rewards, such as bonuses or extra paid time off.

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Attendance point policies are often misperceived to be negative and counterproductive, but in practice they reinforce accountability and reward the top-performing employees who managers value the most. Workers who adhere to company policies and avoid exceptions are rewarded, which boosts their morale and productivity while encouraging others to follow suit. Those who repeatedly violate company policy are more easily noticed by supervisors, who can intervene and try to correct the behavior before it affects residents or other employees.

As absenteeism is reduced and good conduct is rewarded, the corporate culture becomes more positive and productive. Employee turnover, recruiting expenditures, and training expenses are decreased, and those changes, in turn, positively affect the workload and attitude of committed, productive employees. What's more, a corporate culture that nurtures enthusiastic, productive employees becomes a recruiting tool itself, as word of mouth spreads among both current and prospective employees.

Advanced Rules, Increased Benefits

Time and attendance software systems are capable of handling a wide range of pay rules, yet businesses typically focus only on implementing rules that are already defined in the employee handbook. The advanced pay rules available in today's software systems can be leveraged to encourage specific behaviors, solve key problems, and improve job satisfaction for both employees and managers.

For example, scheduling personnel for late-night and weekend shifts is often a challenge for healthcare organizations. Those shifts are perceived by employees to be undesirable, and the ongoing scheduling headaches created by these perceptions can strain employee-management relationships. In many cases, these problems can be solved by incorporating a new time and attendance rule, such as a shift premium or a weekly premium to give additional compensation for specific shifts or combinations of shifts.

By creating tangible incentives for employees to volunteer for specific shifts or jobs, healthcare organizations can improve the morale and productivity of both employees and managers. Employees don't need to be coerced into accepting schedules or jobs they don't want, and managers have more time to devote to tasks other than scheduling. As the corporate culture becomes more positive, the increased cost of new pay premiums is offset by new savings related to lower turnover, improved productivity, and streamlined scheduling processes.

Summary

Since time and attendance systems are on the front line of employee-management interaction, it is advantageous to use them to adapt to changing business and labor needs. The advantages of the modern systems are many. By selecting and implementing the right time and attendance policies and procedures, administrators can create harmony within the organization and improve workforce morale and productivity. That, in turn, decreases turnover and related recruitment and training expenses.

Doug Peterman is President and Cofounder of Unitime Systems, a Boulder, Colorado-based developer of time automation and labor management software founded in 1993. He has worked in the field of automated time and attendance for more than 15 years. For more information, call (800) 611-4762 or visit www.unitime.com. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail peterman0706@nursinghomesmagazine.com.
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Title Annotation:featurearticle
Author:Peterman, Doug
Publication:Nursing Homes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:1022
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