Best Practices for Remote Employee Timekeeping

The coronavirus situation has affected the global economy and shattered lives. But it has facilitated one notable change that has transformed markets across sectors. Organizations are now more enthusiastic about remote work, and millions of staff now complete their tasks from their living rooms.

Some of the world’s leading entities now work with full-time remote staff, including social giants Facebook and Twitter. Even companies that weren’t open to the idea, now acknowledge the massive impact of digital migration and remote work tech solutions.  Even with the right technology and a large team, it’s still not easy to achieve your efficiency and remote timekeeping goals. But, you’ll always stay on track if you follow the following remote employee timekeeping best practices:

Plan First, Action Next

Before assigning the different remote tasks, it’s crucial to create an effective plan of replicating the office experience in productivity and time efficiency. You may create a document highlighting what’s expected from each team member while working from home. Also, come up with a practical means of tracking the progress of different tracks then create a strategy for remote problem-solving.

While creating a plan, ensure your employees don’t feel too restricted. Give them the space to discover other things on their own. For instance, if you have teams in different time zones, create a plan to keep them in sync without taking up too much of their personal time.

Encourage Staff to Switch Off from Work

When working from home, remote employees are likely to lose track of time. Since the house now also serves as an office, they may have the urge to continue working until late at night. To avoid this, create and maintain a fixed number of working hours to keep a healthy work-life balance.

Encouraging them to switch off their work chat and email means they’ll never feel exhausted when they begin working on the next day’s tasks. They’ll stay productive and efficient and save lots of time.

Communication Rituals

Developing a more efficient and centralized communication system within the organization can mimic regular rituals that you’d have in your headquarters. This gives a feeling of camaraderie that all staff members are around are working towards the same goals. As a result, they’ll be committed to complete their part of the task in good time, or probably earlier, so that they can take care of other personal business.

One common ritual among organizations is leaving a “Hi” on the company’s general chat platform when they check in. This brings the everyday experience into the digital space, giving staff the feeling that everyone’s reporting to work and handling their tasks. Another communication ritual is that every remote employee submits regular updates on their tasks’ progress at specified milestones.

Provide The Right Tools for Recording and Tracking Time

Instead of being the overseer of their timekeeping efficiency, it would also help to be part of the solution. You can avail electronic timesheets and spreadsheets or have them send their work hours via email to their supervisors, but these approaches are outdated and will waste even more time.

Various time-tracking and efficiency tools are available on the web, and providing them to your staff would benefit you in different ways. For instance, ASAP’s payroll tracking system eliminates assumptions regarding your staff’s actual hours, allowing you to track the hours by phone or computer from any location.

Monitor Projects

It’s not easy to track projects and know what’s being handled when a worker is away from your headquarters. But if you want your projects to be easier to follow, project monitoring software would come in handy.

These tools allow everyone to see what everyone is currently working on, completed projects, and those still in progress. You can also monitor how long your staff are taking to complete their tasks. If anyone is taking more time, ensure they understand your expectations.

Of course, addressing all these while focusing on core business isn’t easy. That’s why you need a professional specialized in payroll, human capital management, and time and attendance. ASAP Payroll has been an industry leader in this, providing custom solutions and comprehensive services since 1989.

Reach out to us to get your free quote, or sign up for our newsletter.

Guide to Paid Time Off (PTO)

Paid Time Off (PTO) is usually a policy that companies institute to allow their employees to be paid for time that’s taken for vacations, illnesses, holidays, personal days, and other times when the employee may not be present at work. Sometimes these days are accrued throughout the year or the employer can set aside an amount of time that may be based on the number of days of seniority an employee has with the company.

Time-off benefits can be a very valuable part of any employee benefits package. While employers aren’t legally required by federal law to give employees days off for federal or state holidays, it’s a smart way to retain them, while providing job satisfaction. Employers can specify which holidays employees can take off. It’s the same for vacation: There’s no federal requirement, but smart employers grant paid vacation and sick days.

Protecting Both the Worker and Employer

With PTO in place, employees have the right to use the time flexibly at their discretion to support work-life balance. This has helped to thwart employees asking permission from their manager to be absent from work.

Studies in previous years show that between 1976 and 2000, the average American worker took more than 20 days off a year. Fast forward 15 years, and you’ll find that number has decreased to 16 days off annually. Overall, this has a negative impact on worker performance.

Because your employees are unique, some value travel, while others enjoy quality family time. Some want to sit at home with a book, while others want more time to train for a marathon. Plus, events often arise that are unplanned, such as a sick child, a car that breaks down, or a last-minute emergency dental appointment.

Prior to COVID-19, our 9-to-5 work schedule was not always conducive to the demands that tug on our lives. For this reason, as an employer, you should consider implementing PTO to allow your employees time to take care of themselves without fearing financial punishment.

Essentially, PTO allows employees to accrue time-off based on hours worked. For a certain number of hours worked, an employee earns a specified amount of PTO that’s credited to the employee’s “bank,” typically after a pay period. If an employee takes one day off, that’s considered eight hours of PTO.

PTO often replaces a company’s vacation and sick day policies. Instead of offering separate buckets of time-off for different reasons, you offer PTO as an “all-in-one” opportunity for employees to take time off as needed. It’s not really important whether they take the day off because they’re actually sick or because they simply need to recharge in front of Netflix. Irrespective, they’re taking time off that they’ve earned and are using it at their own discretion.

It’s easy to see the administrative and leadership benefits of PTO, because you avoid the hassles of tracking why an employee is out and logging the missed day into one system over another. Plus, it empowers managers to demonstrate trust in their employees.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), recently, 87% of companies recently offered PTO plans, with 91% offering paid vacation plans based on how long their employees have worked at the organization. For PTO plans, the average days awarded per year are based on the employee’s length of service, ranging from 13 to 26 days.

In the instance of a small business, employees who take time off can be a tricky situation. For example, as the owner, if you only have two employees and one takes a vacation, this means that you’ve temporarily lost one-third of your workforce. That’s why it’s critical to plan and coordinate when you offer your employees vacation benefits.

While we all know the importance of striking a solid work/life balance, we don’t always know how to implement formal company policies to give employees legitimate permission to take time off. And, without company approval, many employees leave free vacation days on the table.

Not offering employees time off can have an impact your company’s bottom line. In fact, employees who use vacation days are more likely to receive a promotion or raise, because time off allows them to recharge and maintain peak productivity levels, which is undoubtedly good for your company’s long-term growth.

Creating a PTO Policy

To ensure your company’s optimal success, below are guidelines that can help to create a culture where your employees will feel secure taking the time they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Keep in mind that while all business are different, don’t be discouraged. Creating a policy that works for your business is doable.

First, you’ll need to be familiar with and understand the legal aspects on a federal and state level. Then, you may want to evaluate your PTO policy based on the status of your employees, whether they are hourly, salaried, or union workers. It’s worth noting that employees who have the option of taking time off and receiving payment for it tend to be happier and more appreciative than those who don’t.

Steps to guide you when developing your PTO policy:

  • Learn the legal regulations for your state.
  • Compare your PTO policy with your competitors.
  • Set aside special dates and the types of coverage you want.
  • Meet with your accounting team.
  • Determine if you want team members to accrue and roll over their PTO or just use the time by the end of the year.
  • Determine how your employees will be grandfathered into the policy.
  • Have your employees request PTO at least two days in advance, unless the employee is sick.
  • Put the policy in writing.
  • Set up training sessions to introduce the new system.
  • Onboard employees to any new technology or PTO management tools.
  • Review the effectiveness of your PTO over the course of the year, then revise accordingly.

Be sure to present your PTO policy in easy-to-understand language so that every employee will be familiar with all the terms and conditions. If this poses a problem, you can always contract a professional writer or content editor to help you develop the policy.

Benefits of Combining Time-off Days

There are advantages to blending together vacation and other time-off days:

  • Employees perceive this as a benefit, provided it’s communicated well. It can be posed as an improvement compared with tracking separate accruals, because it can serve as an incentive for employees to take less sick time and have access to more vacation time.
  • Employees are less tempted to make excuses when they want to use a sick day but aren’t ill enough to see a doctor.
  • Often, it’s easier to administer this system up front, because there’s no question about which accrual the leave comes from. It can be simpler to administer, which can result in cost savings and consistency when tracking leave time.
  • It can help to reduce employee burnout, provided employees are encouraged to use their days.
  • Merging time off can help employees feel more empowered, because there’s no need to justify requesting time off. They simply take days, as needed, and are free to allot vacation, sick, and personal days to them, as necessary.

For every pro, there’s a drawback to consider…

  • Some employees may feel slighted if sick days weren’t previously monitored closely under a system of separate categories. They may feel penalized by having sick days count against their days off.
  • This system could mean higher financial liability when terminating employees. By separating accruals for vacation and sick days, employers are usually required to pay out only accrued vacation days, not unused sick days. In this way, the whole accrued bank must be paid out.
  • Employees tend to view the bank as vacation days and, therefore, may take more time off. However, while extra days taken as a vacation can benefit employees and employers alike, they also can mean more time that needs to be covered by coworkers. Employers may have to modify work practices to accommodate this.
  • Employees may be reluctant to take sick days if they see this lessening their vacation time, meaning they’re more likely to work while feeling ill.

If your company decides to separate vacation and sick time, then the amount of vacation time that employees are given is really up to you. Most employers link the length of time that an employee has worked for them to the amount of vacation afforded them. Ten vacation days might be offered after one year of service and be increased accordingly by one vacation day for every year of subsequent service. In the instance of milestones of service, such as five and 10 years, employees may earn an additional week of vacation.

Because small businesses are hit harder when employees take vacation time due to having less staff, vacations need to be planned strategically. If employees want to take all their vacation days at once, this requires more planning than merely taking a few days off here and there. What if employees want to take a vacation during a busy period (tax season or the winter holidays)? You’ll need to institute a policy/system that directs how to handle two employees wanting to take the same week off.

Too, the law doesn’t require employers to pay sick leave benefits and personal time off. But unpaid sick leave can get sticky. It may be legally required if a business is subject to either federal or state family and medical leave laws. You may be required to provide certain time-off benefits to your employees. While some of these can be offered at the employer’s discretion, several are mandated by federal and/or state laws, including time off to vote, jury duty leave, family and medical leave, pregnancy leave, and military leave.

Unlimited PTO

Unlimited PTO works the same as regular PTO, except you don’t assign a certain number of allotted days to your employees. Instead, you trust them to take necessary time off, as long as they get their work done.

This type of results-driven workplace culture is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the startup and technology industries.

Offering unlimited PTO might seem like a crazy idea. You might think, “Wouldn’t this result in an empty office, with a bunch of employees permanently lounging poolside on a beach?” In reality, employees with unlimited PTO typically don’t take any more days off than employees with an assigned amount of PTO. In fact, a marketing automation company found that, after they implemented unlimited paid vacation, their employees took fewer days off.

Unlimited PTO can help you attract and retain today’s younger generation’s top talent. Additionally, this impressive benefit can incentivize employees to work harder and care about your company more. While you might be wary that some employees are taking advantage of the time off, you can mitigate those issues by enforcing regular performance reviews, ensuring that each employee continues to meet their deadlines.

Brian Halligan, CEO and founder of HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, points out three important elements to implementing a hands-off approach to employee vacation time:

  1. The state-of-the-art vacation plan these days is a relic of an era when people worked 9 to 5 in an office. Today, with COVID-19 and technology tools, such as the internet and mobile devices, employees work where they’re comfortable (often at home) and the hours they’re comfortable with (frequently in the middle of the night).
  2. He always found it strange when an employee would hand him a PTO form for a weekday, but never a credit form for the time they worked on a Saturday or Sunday. Since weekend days worked aren’t tracked for credit, the weekday time off just didn’t seem fair.
  3. Halligan says they hire very smart people who are very focused on contributing to the growth of his company and trust that they will use “common sense” with regards to taking an appropriate amount of time off.

How to Take PTO

This may likely sound ridiculous to people from select European cultures, but for Americans, it’s an all-too-familiar problem. There are a few reasons many Americans end up leaving paid vacation days on the table, including a sense of obligation to work hard all the time, and a sense of guilt when their day isn’t “productive.”

It’s time that all employees globally understand the benefits of time off. For example, working fewer hours correlates with higher levels of productivity in the form of increased GDP (gross domestic product). Additionally, an employee’s workplace happiness can help improve team morale.

If you offer your employees PTO and they’re anxious about taking it, consider the following steps.

  • Have them plan their time-off well in advance. Have employees consider when they might need it most. For example, after spending a month attending conferences, traveling, or attending all-day meetings, perhaps they’ll need time to recharge. Or, perhaps they’ll need a few days to relax in the sun in mid-January.
  • Have employees give their manager notice as far-in-advance as possible. We know they’re responsible adults, but make sure they check what needs to be completed before they leave.
  • Have them email their immediate team, letting them know they’ll be out-of-office well in advance, if possible. Make sure you let them know what you need in adequate time, so employees can get those projects done prior to leaving.
  • Remind them to set an automatic out-of-office reply to emails, and have them include an employee or manager’s email as an alternative if an emergency comes up. Also, make sure they set their company messaging system, to “away.”
  • Have employees consider blocking time on their calendars as “Busy,” so colleagues can’t book them for meetings. This will help them cross tasks off their to-do list.
  • Trust your team. Know they can handle the workload when you’re gone and vice versa when they’re out of the office.
  • Know that these strategies only work if your employees plan to take PTO in advance.
  • PTO is designed to reduce any guilt your employees might feel. With PTO in place, they’ll be better as a result.

Calculating PTO

Depending on the company or organization, PTO can be calculated in a variety of different ways. Some companies may have a set amount of days identified in their employee handbook that allows you a specific number of days off per year. An example would be if an employee landed a job and the employer’s policy was 10 days of PTO for the first year, 15 days the second, and 20 days the third year.

Some employees may have to accrue their PTO as they work throughout the year. An example is a full-time employee who works 40 hours per week. For every 40 hours worked, that employee may accrue 1 hour of PTO. If the employee saved up all their PTO during the year, they would have approximately 52 hours in a year to use. Assuming this employee works the average 8-hour shift, then this would break down to 6.5 days of total PTO during the year.

Also keep in mind if you, the employer, allow employee PTO to roll over to the next year or do you follow the “use it or lose it” rule. If all the time must be used within the same year, the employee would lose whatever time they had to use towards vacations, sick days, holidays, personal days, etc. if not used by the end of the year. Also note that sick, vacation, and personal days may be treated differently with some establishments.

NOTE: PTO is generally not included when calculating overtime. It matters how each employer and company sets up their rules related to PTO. Simple math can be used if a specific amount of time is accrued based on a specific number of hours worked. Also, employees can always keep track of their PTO by subtracting the days that they’ve have taken off from their allotted days. Based on this, if an employee has accrued 1 hour for every 40-hour workweek, the math below would be used to calculate their total PTO:

  • 1 hour x 52 weeks (1 hour per 40 hour week based on 52 weeks in a year)
  • This brings the total to 52 hours of PTO
  • To see how many days instead of hours the employee qualifies for PTO, simply take 52 (weeks) and divide by the amount of hours worked per day. Example: 52/8 = 6.5 days

Need Help Keeping It All Straight?

It can be challenging keeping track of which employee is off work and how much time each has used; plus, the vacation schedule for your business year can get complicated. ASAP Payroll Service can calculate PTO through its payroll system. We have ways to set it up, based on your company’s policy, if an employee gets a standard 2 weeks for the year or if they accrue over time. Let us know if we can help you devise a system customized to your needs. Contact us at 317 887-2727 or by fax at 317 887-2741.

Ramifications of Buddy Punching and How to Avoid It

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. small businesses are affected annually by “time theft” or buddy punching. It occurs when a coworker punches your timecard in your absence. That employee accepts pay for time they didn’t actually work, such as staying clocked in during breaks, not clocking out to run errands, or checking social media during work hours.
Think about it. You’re running late for work and there’s no time to clock in. You send a quick text to a coworker asking them to clock in for you. Or you need to duck out a few minutes early and don’t want the boss to know. You ask your coworker to clock you out at the end of your shift. Perhaps you can’t show up for your shift and you contact your buddy for the favor of punching your timecard in/out for you.
Life happens, and it may not seem consequential, but a few minutes here and there of a coworker buddy punching for another can add significantly to your payroll. The American Payroll Association states that three-fourths of employers lose money to buddy punching and employees get paid 4.5 hours’ worth of unworked wages weekly.
An employee who buddy punches for another on their timesheet may not think it’s a serious matter, but it is. It adds up in lost revenue in a year’s time, when numerous employees cover for their cohorts. It can easily go unnoticed and entails signing another employee in when that employee isn’t present. While it’s often done to aid employees who are running late, in extreme circumstances, it can also be done when the other employee is absent. These employees don’t just steal an hour here and there. More extreme cases use buddy punching to take entire days off or accrue extra overtime. Over the course of a year, the cost of buddy punching could average close to $1,560 per employee. With the majority of small businesses generally employing less than 20 people, multiple employees using buddy punching could run your payroll expenses upwards of an additional $30,000 annually.

While workers might think of this as a method of helping out one another, it causes significant loss for many companies. The money wasted through this type of fraud can lead to budget shortages, staffing issues, and even layoffs.

When running a business, payroll expenses can be difficult to manage. It’s hard to predict how many hours you need to cover payroll or what your next quarter will bring in terms of workers hired. Regular payroll issues are hard enough to deal with, but fraud can make things even more challenging. Common payroll fraud like buddy punching can wreak havoc on your bottom line. To prevent buddy punching, you need to know how to spot it in order to ultimately spend your payroll dollars more productively.
Then, too, many companies estimate work time in order to close the payroll period before the pay period ends. For example, suppose you paid your employees on the 15th of the month for the pay period covering the 1st through the 15th. In this case, you would need to estimate their time worked for the last few days prior to the close of the pay period, because your payroll service requires 2 days for processing. You would need to send your payroll hours in for processing on the 13th, with estimated hours for the 14th and 15 th. Now imagine that an employee is late for work on one or both days for which you estimated hours. Under these circumstances, you’re considered the “buddy puncher,” because you would be paying your employees for time that they didn’t work.

Here are some measures that can help you prevent employee buddy punching:

  • Create a policy that holds employees accountable.
  • Use passwords to access your system.
  • Install a biometric timeclock.
  • Enable geofencing.
  • Use GPS tracking.

To effectively stop buddy punching, you need to be thorough. It’s not a matter of just finding ways to physically stop it from happening—you need to convince your employees that it’s a real problem that can have a negative impact on them. However, changing attitudes, just like changing habits, can be difficult. But setting up systems to ensure that punching in for others is more trouble than it’s worth can send a strong message. Your goal should be to not only block your employees from signing in for one another, but to also create an environment where doing so will be seen as a major breach of your company’s policies. A solid combination of enforcing policy and prevention will be your best defense against erroneous logins and other types of payroll fraud.

Establishing/Enforcing Policy

Buddy punching may be a sign of a deeper problem if your employees are regularly taking advantage of the timekeeping system, punching in for each other, and not being able to make it to work on time. This is an opportunity for you to take a closer look at your overall attendance policy.

Address the issue of buddy punching head-on. If you haven’t already instituted a formal policy, now’s the time to issue a zero-tolerance policy for anyone touching another worker’s timecard or using your timekeeping system under a different name—for any reason.

Hold your employees accountable. As you onboard new employees and work with existing ones, take them through training that emphasizes that they should only sign themselves in and that signing in another for any reason is strictly forbidden. Both new and existing employees should clearly understand that significant penalties can be enforced not only for those who benefit from being signed in, but also for those who perform the dastardly deed.

Your policy should stress that such behavior not only puts the employee who’s asked to sign a friend in at risk, but also the employee who “benefits” from this behavior. All employees need to understand the serious consequences of this and see it as not merely performing a simple favor for a colleague. Rather, it’s something that will negatively impact their own ability to keep getting paid.

You don’t need to call out specific employees; announce the buddy punching policy to your team as a group so everyone’s aware. Then print out a copy of the new buddy punching policy and post it where all staff can see it. If you catch an employee buddy punching, make sure they understand it’ll be grounds for termination.

You can also try a few other low-cost attendance tips:

  • Check out the quarter-shift method, whereby scheduling on the :15 can reduce lateness by 50% when looking at employees who are late, thus reducing those kinds of costs times the number of employees you have.
  • Be sure you consistently enforce your attendance policy.
  • Conduct return-to-work interviews after employees’ unscheduled absences.
  • Don’t always be seen as the “payroll police.” Reward/recognize your employees for good attendance.

Set Up Passwords

To reduce the temptation to buddy punch for another employee and protect against this type of fraud, put serious obstacles in the path of your employees. Instituting passwords is one way. Instead of your employees simply signing their names or punching a card, give each their own password that gives them access to the system. Be sure to set specific standards when issuing passwords, including long sequences, numbers, symbols, and capitalizations that make them harder to share or input by another coworker. Then educate your employees re not sharing their timekeeping login, because it could ultimately mean sharing their personal data. If they give a coworker their password, they might be giving them access to their personal information.

Instituting passwords has two major benefits:

  • It makes it more difficult for employees to login under another’s name. Then, too, it allows you to track who signed in immediately before and after the “phantom” employee, making it easier to see who’s breaking the rules.
  • Insist that your employees regularly update their passwords and be sure they keep the information to themselves. This also helps to reduce the number of potential security breaches for your clock-in processes.

Install a Biometric Timeclock

A biometric timeclock is more sophisticated than simply entering a password; biometrics ensure that only the assigned person can sign into a system. This is generally done through fingerprint or facial-recognition access. Using a biometric timeclock ensures that only authorized employees can sign into your systems. In some instances, this level of security may be the only way to deal with employees who are buddy punching. You should note, though, that biometrics tend to have some issues in terms of reliability and up-time; however, addressing maintenance issues is usually preferable to handling any kind of payroll fraud.

Biometric time systems can confirm the right employee clocks in. Only 3% of employees who commit time theft use a biometric timekeeping system. These systems eliminate buddy punching by using a unique fingerprint, handprint, or even a retina scan. They can be almost a foolproof way of keeping your employees from abusing your timekeeping system.

However, biometric time clocks can come with higher upfront costs and associated legal responsibilities. And, several states have passed laws that protect employees’ biometric information and stipulate how their information can be used. In certain instances, you must have your employees’ written consent to collect and store their biometric data. Then, there are legal procedures that must be followed related to destroying data once employees leave and their biometric data is no longer needed. You could also be responsible for notifying employees if a hack or data breach occurs.

Consider Geofencing

A geofence is a virtual perimeter that identifies a real-world geographic area. It relies on GPS, WiFi, and cellular data to create an invisible “barrier” around your business. It’s a type of security technology that trips a response whenever a certain GPS- or RFID-enabled device enters an area. It lets you decide how close your employees need to be to clock in, whether it’s the parking lot or the front door. Once the barrier is set, an employee can only clock in after their device signals that they’re inside the perimeter. Employees either have to be within a certain distance to manually clock in on the app, or they’re automatically clocked in once they’ve entered the barrier. This prevents them from clocking in away from work or having someone else clock them in. Geofencing makes it impossible for anyone to punch into your system unless the computer recognizes them as being in the proper area. These systems generally make use of RFID-enabled badges or specialized phone apps to ensure that the employee signing in is where he or she is supposed to be. Geofencing isn’t perfect, however. A clever employee can defeat it, but geofencing makes it more difficult than using a traditional timeclock system. It’s a good choice for businesses that have easily defined work spaces and a limited number of employees who work remotely.

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking is an alternative to geofencing if you have employees working in remote areas. GPS tracking can tell you where an employee is located when he or she clocks in. This allows you to make sure your remote employees are at the right job site and prevents their friends from signing them in. GPS tracking generally requires special equipment or phone apps; however, it’s becoming more common among businesses where employees work at multiple satellite locations. While the technology has its pros and cons, it will help you to better deal with the problem of buddy punching.

Review the Benefits of Updating Your Timekeeping System

A web-based timekeeping service will:

  • Have your employees use a password to time punch the clock
  • Photograph employees when they punch in and out
  • Have employees electronically sign their time sheets
  • Maintain an audit trail for every punch
  • Control the hours employees are allowed to punch in

Invest in a New Time Tracking System

Forking over money for a new time tracking system means spending funds you didn’t plan on spending the month before. However, it’s an investment that will pay for itself. As mentioned earlier, based on the number of employees you have and calculating over a year’s time, the financial loss to your company can far exceed what it will cost you to put a time tracking system in place. Often, the equipment can run in the $500 range. That’s a marked contrast to the revenue you would be losing in a year’s time.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Attracting and retaining skilled workers has grown exponentially more challenging, according to Manpower Group (www.gomanpowergroup.com, with 54% of companies globally reporting talent shortages—the highest level in over a decade. And, the U.S. Bureau of Labor claims there are 670,000 more job openings than unemployed potential workers (based on statistics prior to the 2020 coronavirus).

Applicant tracking system (ATS) software provides companies with recruiting and hiring tools that assist with human resources, recruitment, and hiring needs. While different systems offer their own unique features, ATS is primarily used to help companies organize, navigate, and hire vast numbers of applicants. What began as a resume parsing software 15 years ago has evolved into a variety of choices for strategic hiring and recruiting platforms.

Today, robust applicant tracking systems can integrate with background-check providers to easily handle checks and authorizations, send offer letters, and predict an applicant’s potential performance within a company.

When an applicant applies for a job online, initially, the resume is processed by an ATS before it’s forwarded to a recruiter or hiring manager. Whether or not that recruiter sees the candidate’s resume could depend on how well the resume is optimized for ATS algorithms.

It’s very common for top employers to screen for several jobs simultaneously. As a result, hundreds of resumes are received for any given opening. An ATS logs these resumes and helps recruiters and hiring managers stay organized and EEOC compliant. While these systems can help to narrow down the applicant pool, the process isn’t perfect and top candidates can still slip through the cracks.

According to Jobscan, a web service that helps job seekers land more interviews by using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze a resume or LinkedIn profile against a job description, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS as part of their recruiting strategy. KellyOCG, a global provider of workforce strategy and solutions, with operations/expertise in every aspect of the talent supply chain, has determined through a survey that approximately 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software.

It’s common for an applicant’s resume to run through ATS, whether they’re applying directly through a company or by way of job sites, such as Indeed and LinkedIn.

ATS benefits recruiters and employers by providing features, such as:

  • Resume importing and sorting
  • Candidate stage tracking
  • Passive candidate sourcing
  • Job board management
  • Branded career sites
  • Multilingual applications
  • Employee referral management
  • Mobile applications
  • Interview scheduling and video interviewing
  • Interview feedback tools
  • Recruiting analytics
  • Predictive performance analytics
  • Background checks
  • Managing offer letters
  • Monitoring the quality of hire algorithms
  • Building employer brand and engagement through a customizable product
  • Job board management and candidate sourcing capabilities
  • Supporting multiple languages for a great candidate experience
  • Application simplicity via mobile and referral management
  • Interview scheduling feedback features
  • Data and recruiting analytics to determine recruiting effectiveness
  • Integrating with other talent acquisition and management tools

Applicant Tracking Systems…

… simplify managing requisitions and candidates; ATS can also integrate within a pre-existing career site to provide a seamless candidate experience, while automatically collecting and organizing applicant information. On average, companies receive around 250 applications per job opening. Once the application is submitted, the ATS can also rank the resume and application based on the required education, experience, skills, etc.

ATS can also assist with screening and interviewing. It offers video interviewing capabilities and interview scheduling tools that can help recruiters provide candidates with a better experience. They can also integrate with background check providers for easy checks and authorizations, send offer letters, and even predict an applicant’s potential performance within a company. In addition, it’s important for ATS to be mobile friendly and provide applicants with the convenience of applying anywhere, anytime.

How an ATS Works

With all the responsibilities recruiters and hiring professionals must deal with, approximately 75% use recruiting or applicant tracking software. Automation frees them from dealing with small, repetitive tasks, leaving time for more meaningful processes.

Word of mouth is powerful. While it’s important to attract the right candidates for positions within a company, if the application process doesn’t go well, candidates may never again apply for additional openings. And, they won’t hesitate to steer their friends away from such companies.

Most ATS merge with job boards, giving the team the benefit of distributing job postings across multiple job board platforms. ATS can also use automation to assist in filtering applications, screen candidates, and schedule interviews. For example:

  • Help recruiters coordinate multiple schedules simultaneously
  • Allow candidates to view interview availability and choose the date and time that works best for them
  • Dramatically reduce recruiters’ chances for errors disrupting the interview process and improve the candidate experience

Features, such as interview scheduling, help to speed up a recruiter’s time to hire and land talent before their competitors. Scheduling interviews can be time-consuming. ATS software helps reduce the administrative work involved in the hiring lifecycle. And, recruiters don’t juggle just one candidate, but hundreds, if not more. Plus, interviews can be scheduled with the click of a button, on the candidate’s own time.

ATS lets hiring teams analyze large data sets from recruitment activities, such as sourcing, screening, interview scheduling, etc., to helping recruiters better understand the difference between efficiency and time wasters.

Finding the Right ATS for Your Company

The system you select needs to align with how you work, making sure it’s not counterproductive to your team. How can you configure the system to meet your needs?

One solution is to get testimonials from clients who use the system you’re considering. Then, create a sample candidate and go through the process as the candidate to determine if it will work in your situation. This will give you a sense of ease of use, branding options, and functionality. Also, ask if there are any tools or options you can use to track the candidate experience or how it’s measured or defined.

Strict reporting policies need to be adhered to. Find out if sensitive data will be protected, determine how secure your data will be, and how frequently safeguards and standards will be updated. If you work in a specific industry, find out about the specifics related to your industry’s compliance and standards that mitigate risk.

Query about your tech stack, the list of technology services you use to build and run one single application, then send it to the representative conducting the demo to determine how he or she can answer your specific questions or offer case studies of other clients utilizing the same integration.

Recruitment Texting is a Must in 2020

If you aren’t engaging your candidates via texting, you’re falling behind. ATS texting helps you leverage the power of many candidates’ preferred method of communication. For example, if a person has set up texting notifications, he or she can see a preview without opening the message. If the text is short, they can probably see the whole message in the notification window.

Level the Playing Field

ATS extracts every candidate’s information and organizes it in the same format. In the profile template, there’s a field for each relevant piece of data. For example, there’s a field for each degree earned, previous job title, and skill.

This type of organization gives you searching superpowers. You can analyze and compare candidates based on work experience, education, or previous employers. Or job titles, skills, or demographic variables.

Then, in terms of resume filtering, the software uses keywords from the job posting and matches them with those found in resumes. Consider how long it takes to read a resume and compare it to an ATS that can parse thousands of resumes in seconds. This process weeds out candidates who don’t have the necessary qualifications and delivers a pool of qualified candidates before you review a single resume.

Screening Questions

An ATS allows you to add screening questions to your application to ensure potential candidates meet basic qualifications, such as education level or years of experience. Some ATS let you create scoring rules that weigh certain questions more heavily, so that better applicants automatically rise in your review queue.

To help further screen potential candidates, you can set up pre-screening questions to bypass those candidates who don’t meet the job criteria. You can ask questions, such as: “Are you able to work in the San Francisco office?” Or you can be extremely specific about the location: “Are you able to work 9 am – 5 pm PST in the office located at 479 Castro Street, San Francisco?” Answers to these questions can be set to “Yes” or “No,” where “No” would be a knock-out question.

Or, while you need to be aware of your state and local laws regarding salary questions, with some states no longer allowing salary-related questions, a work around solution might be to ask a pre-screening question, such as: “The salary for this position is $75,000-$85,000. Is this salary range acceptable to you?” The response would qualify or rule-out a potential candidate.

If you’re looking for candidates with a minimum amount of experience, you can offer the following ranges and ask if they have 1-year, 1-2 years, or 2 years of experience.

Beyond the Job Offer

Once you’ve found the best candidates, the ATS can streamline the hiring process, particularly if you’re using collaborative hiring—a team-based hiring method can structure your recruitment process to get colleagues from other parts of your business more involved. Many jobs require input from multiple decision-makers. ATS consolidates reviews and reports from every stakeholder, so hiring managers can consider everyone’s opinions.

Candidates can also be scored and rated separately, and a good ATS includes collaborative tools and reports, so everyone is on the same page. Want a background screening? Your ATS should be able to provide that, too. After you’ve extended an offer to your prospective employee, many applicant tracking systems offer additional features to help onboard the new hire.

Onboarding

Once the application process is complete, onboarding begins. Your new hire has documents to fill out, resources to review, and forms to e-sign. ATS software should feature an onboarding portal where you can consolidate documents. Through ATS software, your new hire should be able to sign in, review, and securely sign necessary paperwork, and use the portal as a resource to check back on onboarding documentation and company guidelines whenever they choose.

Your ATS may even sync with payroll, so you can quickly get your new hire into the system and properly compensated. Tasks can be created, edited, and managed for both the new hire and the hiring manager. And, with ATS, all of your documentation is secure and accessible in cloud storage.

Streamline Your Timekeeping Process—Automate It

Today’s timekeeping software offers you so much more than merely tracking your employees’ time. It can streamline your payroll process, decrease errors, cut overtime costs, reduce time theft, and make it easier for your managers and supervisors to better schedule, monitor, and administer your employees’ hours. Using timekeeping software frees you from manually entering your employees’ time and applying other wage and hourly rules, including overtime, breaks, meals, and more.

Plus, the software is convenient for your HR personnel and supervisors to use. It reduces labor costs. In addition, every business relies on reports to track how the company is performing. With a few clicks, timekeeping software can produce important reports that update you on the status of your employees’ work hours, breaks, etc.

Using timekeeping software can also alleviate repetitive, boring administrative tasks that are not only unproductive, but strain resources. As a small business, your staff will no longer have to manually calculate, tally, process work hours, and review performance data. They will be able to do more within a short time, freeing them to direct their time to more sophisticated tasks.

Easier to Maintain Compliance

Complying with labor laws and regulations is stressful. Accuracy is vital. Timekeeping software eliminates human errors and reduces the stress of adhering to policies. It also creates and files comprehensive audit trails that can be referred to in case of an audit or if compliance is questioned.

Cost Savings

Every business looks for ways to provide more services while cutting costs. Timekeeping software offers accuracy and savings when it comes to processing your payroll. Humans are prone to mistakes, leaving your business vulnerable to hidden costs, such as overtime and payroll errors. Automated timekeeping alleviates this problem, often saving your business as much as 8% in payroll costs.

It also provides you, as a small business owner, insight into how your business operates. Reports show where your business functions profitably and areas that need improvement. You can also track labor costs, project expenses, job costs, and more.

A Peek Into Your Business’s Financial Outlook

No business owner likes unwarranted surprises. You started your business to make a profit and grow it successfully. Timekeeping software provides insight into how your business operates and helps you change course before expansive losses occur.

Time is Money

You pay your employees a fair wage and, in turn, you expect them to perform accordingly. They may not be aware that checking personal email, making personal phone calls, logging onto Facebook during business hours, or taking extended breaks takes away from what they were hired to do. Timekeeping software can help reduce this kind of time theft.

Flexibility

Today’s timekeeping software offers flexibility for your business and your employees. If you hire freelancers or your employees work remotely, their time can still be tracked via their smart phones, laptop or desktop computers, tablets, and other Internet-connected devices.

These are some of the advantages of timekeeping software. If you’re new to it or haven’t switched yet, research shows that, after choosing a reputable timekeeping software service, you will notice helpful benefits within a few weeks. And, be sure to check businesses that offer a free trial offer.