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Workers log hours on the go with mobile time and attendance software

Kronos Workforce Mobile helped Valley Power Systems toss the paper timecards and time-off requests.

Due to the recession, new time and attendance software for Valley Power Systems, a power service company based in Industry City, Calif., had been on the back burner since 2009. But that all changed in mid-2011 when the company lost close to $100,000 in 2010 chargebacks and settled a pricey lawsuit that arose from a dispute about documenting lunch breaks.

"We were at the point where we couldn't afford not to change," said Ramona Fierro, director of human resources. While the company had been using Kronos workforce management software for several years, technicians were still filling out paper time cards.

At the outset of the vetting process, Fierro's team didn't know that mobile workforce management was an option. Once they found out, mobile became the primary consideration. Of the vendors being considered, only Kronos offered mobile functionality at the time.

"Kronos was the one that could offer mobile, and that meant a lot for our business," Fierro said.

While human capital management vendors such as SAP and Oracle have been touting the mobile capabilities of their platforms, adoption of mobile HR software seems to be the exception rather than the rule.  Josh Bersin, president and CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based consultancy Bersin & Associates, called mobile HR an "immature but white-hot market" in a recent blog post.

Valley Power Systems has now been using Kronos Workforce Mobile for about a year. Although Fierro attested to early resistance, she calls the implementation a success, due in part to Kronos' assistance and in part to her company's training strategy.

Choosing mobile workforce management software

The six members of the decision team,  which consisted of the CFO and employees from the MIS, HR and accounting departments, judged each vendor on a list of three criteria.

"We had to have a way for our technicians to connect and keep their time. That was A," Fierro said. "B was we had to have a way to tie the person to the work site. C was a validation of the time -- we had to have something that the technician could sign off on."

Fierro said two of the vendors were quickly eliminated. The decision between the remaining two vendors, Ceridian and Kronos, was an easy one after the team learned of Kronos' mobile workforce management offering.

"We didn't even know that mobile was an option," Fierro said. "They just blew the competition out of the water."

Although the team was pleased with the time and attendance software Fierro braced herself for a negative reaction from the technicians. "We thought the technicians were going feel like we were Big Brother, but that was actually the least of their concerns."

Instead, some technicians balked at the idea of learning a new system. "We have a lot of long-term employees," Fierro explained. "We heard, 'This is going to take me forever.'"

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A two-step implementation plan helped combat user resistance and also made it possible to spot snags early on. Fierro said that for each of the company's 14 branches, one technician was chosen as a "champion" -- the first adopter of Workforce Mobile for that location. The trial period lasted a month.

"We trained the champions, and in turn they figured out what didn't work and what they didn't like," she said. "They gave us all kinds of ideas and suggestions that improved [the process] tenfold, and they helped educate the rest of the workforce."

With a list of requests in hand, Fierro circled back to Kronos' consultants, who were able to remedy the majority of the technicians' concerns. "In truth, Kronos made it really easy for us," she said. "They literally held our hand through the process."

She contrasted the experience with a previous negative one. "We went through a payroll change from ADP to Ceridian and it was a nightmare. If you had a question, they'd say, 'Here's a form -- fill it out and return it to us.'"

However, she pointed out that Kronos' training program, albeit more thorough, was more time-consuming. "They do make you do a lot. My team and I were required to go through online training -- you can do it whenever you want, but they do require it," she said. "They approach [training] from different angles."

Mobile time and attendance software saves time

Fierro said the benefits of mobile workforce management have been transformative for the company. "I don't want to seem like I'm overselling this, but we really like it," she laughed. While all of the 400 employees interact with the time and attendance software, only about 10% use it on a daily basis.

"You should see the time we save. Imagine 400 employees [having] to do handwritten time-off requests," she said. "Now that is done via the computer. At the point when the person puts in the request, if they don't have time, it doesn't allow them to move forward." Managers can also now quickly address missing or incorrect punches from their phones, whereas before, they would not be aware of these errors.

Judging from employee feedback, user resistance has subsided. "As far as I know, [the employees] are very happy," Fierro said. "They like looking at their time cards whenever they want and using their phones for time-off requests. It's way more access than they ever had."

There's only one item on Fierro's wish list: customizable reports. "There are a bunch of reports in the system, and you can have them create reports for you, but I would like it if I could change them at a touch of a button," she said.

She stressed that having the champions test out the system -- the people who would actually be using the software day in and day out -- was an important factor in the successful implementation. "In HR, we're not always thinking about what the end user is doing," she said.

In light of the fact that Fierro's team did not know that mobile workforce management was a possibility, she encourages business leaders considering new time and attendance software to dream big.

"Have your employees play with the system and create a dream list," she said. "Some of the things I didn't think [Kronos] could do they were able to do, and it's better to ask during implementation."

According to Bersin's blog, dreams of mobile HR are dancing in the heads of HR managers. Recounting his session on mobile HR at the 2012 HR Technology Conference, he wrote, "We discussed which applications really belong on a mobile device, and the entire group agreed that the answer is everything. We are at a point…where employees want it all: email, calendaring, document editing, as well as time and attendance, expense reporting, employee directory, training, and even some talent management."

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