Mental Health Problems and the Workplace

October is Mental Health Month. Recently there has been bigger mindfulness of the impact of mental health problems on individuals and the workplace. The economic impact is realized through direct treatment costs to the health care system as well as indirect costs, such as reduced or lost productivity due to absenteeism.

Mental health problems account for about half of employee absences due to illness each year in Canada for example, 3.5 days lost per employee per year are due to mental health problems. It is estimated that mental illness results in 35 million lost workdays each year in Canada.’

Employees living with mental health problems may feel and behave out of character at home and work. There may be feelings of things not quite right, yet they are unable to pinpoint the problem. Their co-workers, supervisors and family members may start to notice a change in mood and behaviour.

 

 Signs that indicate an employee or colleague may have a mental health problem are:

·      Regular late arrivals or often absent

·      Lack of teamwork or an over-all disinterest in working with co-workers

·      Lower output

·      Increased mishaps or safety problems

·      Numerous complaints of exhaustion or unexplained pains

·      Difficulty focusing, not being decisive or forgetting things

·      Making apologies for missed deadlines or poor work

·      Decreased attention or involvement in one’s work

·      Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period

·      Expressions of outlandish or grand ideas

·      Displays of irritation or pointing the finger at others

 

It is important to highlight that people behaving in these ways may be just having a bad day or week or dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life that may be temporary. A pattern that continues for a more extended period, however, may point to an underlying mental health problem.

 

Stress is a consistent part of life and work, and it can be positive or negative. Unwarranted hurtful stress through life events, including workplace issues, can contribute to mental health problems. Work itself can be expected to generate a certain level of stress associated with meeting deadlines and expectations, the need to feel valued and the loss of control over one’s time.

 

There are many causes of workplace stress. One key to effective stress management is maintaining awareness of the potential stressors and readiness to address them before they become problematic. Some of the most critical sources of work-related stress are listed below.

·    Poor communication

·    Incongruity in work demands, individual ability and amount of control over working practices

·    Work overload and work underload

·    Shift work and/or night work

·    Segregation, isolation and/or unstructured support for home workers

·    Short-term contracts

·    Role conflict, uncertainty and changing roles

·    The uneven weight assigned by management to consultation, support and control

·    Lack of training for managers in communication and people skills

·    Idleness

·    Uncomfortable physical workspace

·    Introduction of new technology, if not planned and gradual

·    The culture of presenteeism, in which an employee feels the need to be seen working at all times

·    Work-life imbalance

·    Home-based stresses that support or feed off of work-based stresses

 

Managing workplace stress can include training for employees to raise awareness about the causes and effects of stress, as well as to learn skills for coping with stress at work and in their personal lives.

 

Research has shown that some job stressors are worse than others, such as jobs that continuously involve imposed deadlines over an extended period and give individuals little control over the day-to-day organization of their work (high demand/low control). These jobs can lead to more than double the rate of heart and cardiovascular problems. As well as significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression and fell of being undermined. High demand/low control jobs also lead to substantially higher alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drug use, and a significantly higher susceptibility to infectious diseases.’

 

Jobs that require high physical or mental effort but offer little in the way of compensation, status, financial gain or career enhancement (high effort/low reward) also affect employee stress levels. These jobs are associated with triple the rate of cardiovascular problems and significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and conflict-related problems

 

The health of workers does not have to be compromised by stress. Changes to the workplace can make for a more mentally healthy workplace, especially when employees feel adequately rewarded and have greater control of their work.

 

Mental health problems can seriously affect someone’s ability to work. If left untreated and the mental health problem worsens, the employee may need to stop working altogether.

 

On the other hand, employees may try to continue to work knowing that they are not performing to their usual standards. If mental health problems are acknowledged early, and proper treatment is obtained, most people can quickly return to their regular performance at work, and much unhappiness and suffering can be avoided.

 

Monika B. Jensen Ph.D
TEL: 905-683-9953

WEBSITE: www.aviarygroup.ca
PRINCIPAL
FAX: 905-683-9912

 

 

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The answers municipal governments have been looking for?

Municipal governments are facing multiple, growing, and overlapping challenges. Yet, there are tools available to address these challenges that are not being used to their full potential. Market-based policies such as well-designed user fees can help reduce traffic, cut water use, and improve solid waste management, while generating revenue that can be used to fill financial gaps.

These challenges include:

  • Municipal infrastructure is aging and faces a growing investment gap;
  • Municipalities have limited ability to raise revenues. Only so much can be raised from property taxes. They also often face constraints on debt financing; and
  • To attract people and investment, livability is key: cities must provide job and recreational opportunities, ensure affordability, make it easy to move people and products, and protect clean air and water.

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Cyber threats and how to protect your municipality

Brad Pinch – Director of Municipal Needs at AccessE11

 

Often, when we hear about securing online systems against cyber-attacks the first thought is to invest time and energy into cybersecurity software. While this is important, and should not be downplayed, did you know that software alone will only defend against a small percentage of cyber-attacks?

Hacker Image

 

The easiest way for someone to breach your security infrastructure is to employ the unsuspecting assistance of your users.

According to PhishMe’s 2017 Enterprise Phishing Resiliency and Defense Report, 91% of all cyber-attacks are a result of people who fall prey to Phishing Attacks. Of the remaining 9% of cyber-attacks, more than 75% are the result of other forms of “human failure” to secure information.

Phishing is an attack that begins with a very targeted email sent to your staff (and perhaps yourself), that often impersonates a service provider, colleague, family member or friend and entices you to click on a link or open a document. This action may include a request for private information that provides the perpetrator with the means to launch a secondary cyber-attack or it may launch an attack directly through the download of malicious software. Attacks can be in the form of spyware, malware, and increasingly ransomware and data theft.

Wombats Security’s – State of the Phish 2018 report– suggests that phishing attack frequency from 2016 to 2017 increased by 48%; phishing is on the rise because it continues to work. Hackers have quickly learned that it requires less energy to trick users into giving them access than it does to circumnavigate the sophisticated security systems deployed today.

6 simple steps that a municipality can do to protect themselves

Here are a few steps a municipality can take to minimize its chances of security breaches and cyber attacks.

  1. Stay Informed and educate your team

Much of the battle against phishing and spear phishing (personalized phishing) attacks is getting users to understanding what this type of attack looks like, so they are less likely to be duped. Phishing relies on basic human conditions:

  1. information overload and shortcuts our brains take to process the information,
  2. a desire to help those we care for and trust of information that (seems to) come from them,
  3. curiosity for new information.

These traits are well known to attackers and are exploited in order to get victims to click on a link or open a document. Emails look like they’re from legitimate sources: Microsoft 365, Google, Dropbox, PayPal, Adobe account, LinkedIn, credit card company and many more.

There is a great infographic called don’t get hooked: how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks from the Digital Guardian. Print it out and post it for all to see.

  1. Keep your software up to date

Malware is being created all the time and is designed to take advantage of newly discovered vulnerabilities in our general use software. Vendors are quick to update their software, but you must update your version in order to be secure. You should regularly, or ideally automatically, update your software:

  1. Browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc)
  2. Operating Systems (Windows, MacOS)
  3. Office Software (Outlook, Word, Adobe)
  1. Call before you click

Any email from a bank or colleague can usually be responded to directly, rather than via a reply or by clicking on a link. If there is ever any doubt, call your bank on the phone (using published numbers, not one in the email), or log directly into their website directly – not from the link in the email. By not taking the shortcut, fraudulent links can be avoided.

  1. Install anti-virus software and activate the Anti-Phishing toolbar if available

Antivirus software is designed to guard against known vulnerabilities. Even though today’s operating systems are more secure than ever, security tools look for malicious content in real time and provide an extra layer of scrutiny. And make sure you keep it updated as well.

Internet browsers can also be extended with anti-phishing toolbars. Such toolbars run quick checks on any site you visit and compare it a to lists of known phishing sites. If you stumble upon a malicious site, the toolbar will alert you about it. This is just one more layer of protection against phishing scams, and there are many that are completely free.

  1. Implement Secure Password Policies

As hard as it is to believe, the 10 most common passwords in 2017 were:

  • 123456, 123456789, qwerty, 12345678, 111111, 1234567890, 1234567, password123, 123123, 987654321

It won’t take a hacker long to break these codes.

Equally important though – do not use the same password for everything: If you do, and someone gets access to one system, they can often get access to them all. If you struggle to remember passwords (who doesn’t) there are many excellent tools that can assist:

These programs store an encrypted version of your passwords on your computer and conveniently provide them when you need them. This means remembering only one password.

  1. Beware the Unknown Storage Devices

It is possible the free USB drive that is received from a tradeshow, or the one you found in the parking lot has a virus on it. Sites that sell marketing USB drives unwittingly provide ones that have viruses installed from the source in China, Russia, India, Korea and other countries (yes including the UK, US, and Canada). These were likely never checked by the company who put their information on the drive to give to you.

If a data storage device is not bought by your company or municipality from a reputable source then it should not be allowed on one of your computers, ever!

These are only a few ideas to help better protect your organization from cyber-attacks. The common element in each remains the same; people and their behavior represent the greatest risk but also provide the best defense against cyber-attacks. Any user can open the door to intruders, so ensuring everyone understands the risk and remains vigilant is critical. Investment in the human factor will pay off quickly and be more cost-effective than any other action.

For More Interesting Articles on Issues that Municipalities are facing please visit us at https://www.accesse11.com

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Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?

 

First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 

 

We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 

 

Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.

 

Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.

 

This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  

 

You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.

 

What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.

 

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Downloadable Return on Investment Calculator

Recently, I have been chatting with business owners about their software needs. The consensus seems to be that technology is rapidly advancing and becoming more efficient. Moreover, businesses and organizations are looking into how to most effectively and economically invest in custom software. The needs of today’s businesses are very unique and robust and that is why many of them are investing in custom software.

The challenge is that not many people know the standard ROI (Return on Investment) for software development or how long it will take to make your money back. Because of these conversations I have been having, I have developed this easy to use Free Downloadable Software Development ROI Calculator. This tool is a great starting point for businesses and managers who are looking for a ballpark when it comes to custom software ROI.

Download Software Development Return on Investment Calculator.

Again, this tool is a great starting point, but if you have any more questions or want a free personal software needs analysis for your business, be sure to reach out to CoreSolutions via our Contact Page.

Please enjoy our new ROI Calculator!

Cheers,

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The Cost of a Wrong Hire and how to do it Right

The Cost of a Wrong Hire and how to do it Right

 

Are you ready to lose hundreds of productive hours and thousands of dollars? I thought not. Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person is estimated to cost at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“When you add up missed sales opportunities, strained client and employee relations, potential legal issues, and resources to hire and train candidates, the cost can be considerable,” says CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson.

As the saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the bunch, and this couldn’t be truer than in the workplace. Company culture can quickly be poisoned by negative attitudes or even just disengagement. Both tend to spread quickly. Although some employees stay strong and seem immune, they can become frustrated or burned out trying to make up for the poor performance of others. As a result, some key employees may decide their talents are better spent elsewhere.

While there may be no sure-fire way to guarantee a successful hire, there are some best practices which will up your odds of hiring the right person for the job.

  • Provide a detailed job description – If the candidate isn’t aware of the full responsibilities of the job, they may end up in a position that’s out of their comfort zone, let alone their skill set. This could lead to frustration and poor performance.
  • Research the candidate before the interview – Have a look at their LinkedIn page (that’s what it’s there for) to see if they have the necessary experience. Where have they worked in the past? Find out about that company. What titles have they held? Do they have connections to other professionals in the industry?
  • Ask the right questions – Be sure to ask open-ended questions which allow for the candidate to showcase past situations where they’ve put their skills to use and how they relate to the position. There’s a great list of questions to ask on thebalance.www.thebalance.com to get you started.
  • Think about company culture – Culture is defined as the values, practices, and beliefs shared by the members of a group. Will this candidate be a good fit? Feeling like a part of the group is the first step to success.

  • Check references – Make the person offering the reference was in a position of authority over the candidate. A co-worker or team member may have a very different perspective than a supervisor and most likely won’t be able to answer all of your questions. Checking references should go beyond the typical questions like “What was the candidate’s greatest strength?”. Try questions like: How did s/he support co-workers? What was their biggest accomplishment while working for your company? What do you think the candidate needs to really continue his or her career development and professional growth?

 

With due diligence (and a little luck) you’ll be able to offer the position to the right candidate, add an amazing person to your team and avoid those costly hiring mistakes.

 

muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.  We help municipalities save time and money searching for the consultants & CAOs they need while offering professionals the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business.

 

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Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions

 

 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit www.aviarygroup.ca

 

 

 

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A Quick Tip for Finding Municipal Statistical Data

A Quick Tip for Finding Municipal Statistical Data

As municipal consultants we constantly have the need to research municipal operations and data. But have you ever had difficulty finding it all in one location?

My method of choice to research and collect such information for Ontario municipalities is to use the Ministry of Municipal Affairs Financial Information Return (FIR) site. There is a wealth of information available on this site: https://efis.fma.csc.gov.on.ca/fir/Welcome.htm  

Here is what the site looks like.

Municipalities in Ontario are mandated to report their annual operations to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs by annually submitting a Financial Information Return (FIR).

You can search for information in a variety of ways – By Schedule, by Municipality, Provincial Summaries or Multi-Year Reports. I most frequently search Schedule 40 – Consolidated Statement of Operations – Expenses,  of the municipalities I am needing to compare, because it contains their expenditures which are categorized into the nine (9) main municipal operations.

Others I typically frequently use are – the Municipal Data, Schedule 10 – Revenues, Schedule 20 – Taxation Information and Schedule 80 – Statistical Data, which includes staffing numbers. There are however, a number of other Schedules you can search to find the specific information you may need.

The one caveat I must mention though, is that although municipal operations can be similarly categorized, there is no way to ensure that a municipality is consistently reporting their information in the same category as another municipality. So, if you are comparing municipalities and a number seems too high or too low in comparison, you should always seek clarification from the municipality to be certain you’re comparing apples to apples.

I can only speak to what I’m familiar with here in Ontario, but I suspect a similar reporting requirement exists between all Canadian municipalities and their respective provinces.

If you’re a consultant or other professional in another province, does your province have a similar municipal database?  I would be interested in learning about it so I can share it with our professional members.

Or if you use other methods to find municipal data, I’d love to hear about them too.  We all need data – so why not help each other find it!

Susan Shannon – sshannon@muniserv.ca Susan’s experiences as both a municipal Chief Administrative Officer, and now as a consultant, led to the development of muniSERV.ca .  Her experiences have provided her with the insight she needs to help municipalities and professionals connect.

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Timesheet Fraud – How well is your business protected?

As a business if you are still relying on spreadsheets and paper timesheets to manage your employees’ time, activities, skills and costs, you could be leaving yourself open to inefficiencies, inaccuracies, non-compliance with working time legislation and in some cases even employee fraud. Inaccurate employee time tracking and timesheet fraud is a common problem in organisations that use manual processes. Some of this is due to conscious intent and some due to a lack of management controls.

In this blog I will detail some of the most common types of timesheet fraud along with ways that you can increase management controls, ensure legal compliance and protect your business from deliberate fraud.

Types of Timesheet Fraud

Entering and/or approving incorrect data is one of the most common abuses of attendance information. When done accidently it can expose employee carelessness, flawed processes and a lack of management control, however when done deliberately, in simple terms it is fraud. Employees are responsible for entering their correct attendance data and supervisors are responsible for certifying that this information is indeed correct. While we all hope that the majority of employees are both diligent are honest, unfortunately experience shows that this is not always the case. Set out below are some of the most common ways employees can commit timesheet fraud.

  1. Inflating work hours – With paper-based timesheets it’s very easy for employees to enter incorrect times of arriving and leaving work and overstate or round their hours up to the nearest hour. Overpayment then occurs as the employee is paid based on falsified hours or rates.
  2. False data entry – If employee attendance data has to be retyped from timesheets or time cards into a payroll system, it is very easy for a dishonest employee to change the numbers. As well as being open to fraud, this type of process is susceptible to typos and mistakes. The less you have to rekey your time and attendance information, the more accurate your data and in turn the more accurate your payroll.
  3.  Nepotism – This type of fraud occurs when a manager favours a co-worker, relative or friend by scheduling them for a specific task rather than scheduling a different employee, who is also available to work, and may be a more cost effective choice. For example, if a job comes in for a service engineer, who also happens to be the schedulers buddy and is assigned to this job despite the fact they are already in overtime, your business is at risk of paying unnecessary time and a half rates to get that job done.
  4.  Errors due to delays in completing timesheets – Although not technically fraud there are often inaccuracies when employees fill in timesheets weeks or months after they have worked these hours. Supervisors then sign off on these timesheets when realistically it is unlikely anyone can actually 100% guarantee that these hours were worked particularly for supervisors who are responsible for large teams.

How to prevent Payroll Fraud

While it may not be possible to eradicate payroll and timesheet fraud, there are ways to catch it and catch it early. The key to catching it and minimising the risks is to ensure you have safe processes, policies and systems in place that can’t be easily manipulated.

  • Use of electronic Timesheets – One of the easiest and most unobtrusive ways to accurately track employee time and activities is via electronic timesheets. Electronic Timesheets replace the need for paper timesheets and gather information on hours worked by employees. They interface with Payroll and Human Resources Systems. Electronic timesheets were designed to allow employees to easily enter their daily hours worked or assume their standard contract hours, as well as paid time off via their PC, laptop, tablet, phone etc. They were developed to reduce administration and manual tasks, increase payroll accuracy, ensure compliance with working time legislation and protect organisations against payroll fraud. Once timesheets are completed and approved, the system can then calculate payroll, based on the hours entered thereby avoiding the need for any manual calculations. With electronic timesheets, supervisors don’t need to sign off on “paper” timesheets which can be open to errors; instead they approve employees’ electronic timesheets online directly from their email or via their phone App. This ensures that timesheets cannot be changed later as once approved they go directly to payroll rather than back to the employee. With electronic timesheets you can allow employees to view and edit their time, enter absences, submit requests for leave and review their schedules reducing time spent looking for this information from others.
  • Entering and approving timesheet information regularly – The most common type of payroll fraud is the padding of timesheets by employees and the best control over this is ensuring that timesheets are completed and signed off regularly and in a timely fashion. With an automated system like Softworks, there is no need for administration staff to re-enter this information into the system. This allows you to completely eliminate the middle steps which could leave your business open to human error or fraud. The quicker that timesheet information is processed the more exact it will be. By leaving a time lapse between work done and approval you leave your business open to mistakes and deliberate fraud.
  • Make timesheet approval quick, easy & hassle free – If tracking time and attendance becomes too much hassle for employees and supervisors, timesheet accuracy goes down. The easier it is for employees to fill in timesheets and supervisors to approve them, the more accurate this information will be and the faster errors or attempted fraud will be spotted. Line managers don’t want to waste time chasing their team for timesheets and HR & Finance departments don’t want to waste time chasing line managers. Good electronic timesheet systems have built in functionality such as email alerts and SMS messaging reminding employees and managers about timesheet submission and approval. At the end of the day the process should be quick and easy and provide no disincentive to doing it. By enabling supervisors to easily and quickly edit, authorise and analyse, time, attendance, holidays, absences and additional time from one screen you will increase timesheet accuracy and alert supervisors quickly to any discrepancies. A good electronic timesheet system should offer all of this. With Softworks, employees and supervisors receive automatic email notifications when timesheets are due and they can approve or edit timesheets directly from their email or via their phone App.
  • Keep track of employees centrally – Managing variable working hours, times and days and tracking large numbers of employees and/or contract workers dispersed at multiple locations in real time can be quite a challenge. With electronic timesheets you can allow employees and/or contractors to check in from off-site locations. Electronic timesheets are 100% web enabled so both employees and supervisors can log in anytime and anywhere via their PC, Laptop, Tablet, Phone etc. making it easy to record employees’ working hours, times and days and track large numbers of employees at a central source no matter where office premises or employees/ contractors are located. This is turn makes it easier to track any discrepancies or unusual time and attendance which leads us into management reporting.
  • Management Reporting – In order to keep a close eye on timesheets, managers and supervisors should be able to generate and view reports easily. This will help them to analyse employee costs, overtime usage, time off and easily and accurately track hours spent on projects or tasks. Furthermore having a system that generates good reports will prevent employees from booking time to projects that don’t exist or are completed, or favouring employees on projects, without taking into consideration the cost implications
  • Legal Compliance – Most countries today have working time legislation for health and safety reasons. As a business, it is your responsibility to accurately record your employee’s working hours, overtime, annual leave and start and finish times. If you don’t, you could be at risk of prosecution for non-compliance or even face a lawsuit from employees. There is a growing body of case law involving class action lawsuits for unpaid overtime. Already lawsuits have been filed against many high profile organisations in the US including; Best Buy, McDonalds, Urban Outfitters, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, CVS and Wells Fargo among others, alleging employers misclassified employees as exempt from overtime or failed to pay overtime to employees regardless of their classification.

    This is not just an issue in the US, this is a global issue. In Canada, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit against part of Bank of Montreal’s wealth management group that alleged the bank owed unpaid overtime to hundreds of current and former investment advisers. The lawsuit alleged BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. did not keep a proper record of the time employees worked and did not appropriately compensate employees when they worked overtime. The case followed other lawsuits over unpaid overtime brought against Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Bank of Nova Scotia by bank tellers and other employees who said they were unfairly denied overtime pay. The banks were hit with combined claims of $950 Million.

    In the UK John Lewis had to spend £40m to compensate staff who were accidentally underpaid for working Sundays and Bank Holidays over a seven year period. . No matter where in the world you are based, if you employ staff, ensuring legislative compliance and managing, recording and tracking working hours has never been more important. A good Time & Attendance Solution can automate this process for you and ensure that your organization is always 100% compliant.

Summary

Timesheet fraud is upsetting not just because of the money that companies lose, but also because of the breaches of trust that occur. While it may not be possible to completely eradicate payroll fraud, there are certainly ways you can minimise the abuse. You should have clear policies in place on what the consequences are for such criminal activity. You should also consider electronic timesheets as they have been developed and designed to minimise human error and deliberate fraud. The potential for timesheet fraud is significant and the consequences are far reaching and an expensive process. As a business you need to be diligent with your internal controls and management reporting so that issues such as; payroll anomalies, excessive labour costs, extreme hours worked, high cost projects are discovered at the earliest possible time and dealt with quickly.

If you would like to see Softworks Electronic Timesheets in action, contact us for a live demo and you can decide if Softworks could make a positive difference to your business processes and in turn bottom line.

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Many Businesses could learn from the Justice Canada Scheduling & Payroll Fiasco

CBC investigation recently reported  about a payroll screw-up at Justice Canada that credited several thousand government lawyers with as much as $50 million worth of time off that they didn’t deserve due to a multi-year administrative problem dating back to 2007.

According to CBC, the problem arose due the fact that Justice Department lawyers were responsible for entering leave into two different scheduling systems.  When a lawyer entered time off into the first program, they didn’t always update the second one, which was the one that linked to payroll.  In more than 3,700 cases, the payroll software showed the lawyers had unused leave, even though they had already taken it. The situation has set off an administrative and labour-relations nightmare for the Canadian ministry.

Since first reported by CBC, Justice Canada have issued a statement and stressed that the current value of the leave entries still to be reconciled is estimated to be no more than $3.5M for the period between 2007 and 2013. The reconciliation exercise is still being finalized and no “financial liability” to the Government has been established to date.

Whatever the final figure turns out to be, it’s pretty clear that it’s a situation that no business wants to find themselves embroiled in.  The administrative mess has tied the department in knots, threatening current negotiations for a new labour contract, prompting union grievances and forcing a massive payroll clean up that has taken more than two years.

This has been a hard lesson for Justice Canada but I think many companies can learn from their experience and it’s worth reviewing the systems that you use to manage your employees Time & AttendanceScheduling andAbsence Management.   At Softworks we are sometimes amazed that there are so many companies out there that still rely on spread sheets, clipboards, notice boards, and from time to time a bit of sweet talking and arm twisting to schedule their employees!

While the majority of medium to large businesses have already automated their core HR functions, many are missing a trick by not automating the areas of Time & Attendance, Scheduling and Absence Management. If this is true in your situation, it’s most definitely an area that you and your organization can benefit from exploring further. The greatest financial cost for any organization is their workforce costs and you need to be all over this.  A fully integrated workforce management solution that includes time & attendance, scheduling, absence management and workforce analytics, can for starters, shave anywhere between 5% and 20% off your organizations payroll costs. Just make sure all your systems are fully integrated so you don’t end up in the same situation as Justice Canada.

Modern workforce management systems can help your organisation not only to cut payroll costs but also to improve performance, while addressing the ultimate goal of contributing to profitability. World class companies today are using WFM solutions to optimise labour planning, scheduling & modelling, respond to union and legislation requirements, track and cost projects and manage planned/unplanned absences and even to implement employee and family friendly initiatives, such as flexible working options.

If you are thinking of researching this further you might find our free to download and impartial guide useful –Selecting a Workforce Management System – Advice and Tips before you buy.

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