It doesn’t take a genius to understand that manual pen-and-paper processes increase the potential for copy errors, math mistakes, and even fraud. After years of doing its business management practices by hand, School District of La Crosse (La Crosse Schools), located in southwest Wisconsin, decided it was time to do away with the old – slow, unreliable paper processes – and welcome in the new – an efficient, paperless technology solution.
The district adopted Skyward’s School Business Suite and implemented two additional applications soon after: Employee Access – an online portal where employees can track and manage their personal information – and True Time – a digital time clock that made La Crosse Schools’ time-keeping and payout methods more efficient and accurate.
Over the past eight years, Skyward’s True Time application has helped the district streamline its payroll and finance procedures and improve additional areas of the district’s business functions.
“Before implementing Skyward’s business suite, we were using paper time sheets, and it was really labor intensive,” explained Joyce Smalley, business manager at La Crosse Schools. “It was a slower process with more chance for error because the employee could calculate their time wrong, or as we are adding time sheets to verify it – that could’ve been done incorrectly, as well.
Staff members at the district now clock in with the swipe of an ID badge, making for a quick and accurate process. “I believe the employees like just swiping the card,” said Barb Mikshowsky, payroll assistant at the district. “The name badge is very quick and helpful for them to clock in. There’s no data entry – it’s streamlined the process with True Time.”
Administrators at La Crosse Schools believe employees have been able to do more independently with access to their information, which frees up other staff members during the workday. “The people managing data then have time to do other things,” explained Vicki Lyons, technology services director.
“We’ve saved on phone calls to both the payroll and HR office,” Smalley added. “Employees can now go into Employee Access and look up their own information. They can go in and print out a check stub if they need to, or look at what their time-off balances are. Previously, the payroll department was entering all that time off for employees in Skyward, so Employee Access and True Time are taking some things off the hands of HR and payroll staff.”
"'I find it user friendly, and we know the support is there.' – Joyce Smalley, Business Manager"
Although there was some resistance at first from staff as the time tracking solution was implemented, Smalley explained that clocking in and out has become natural for employees. “Now it is part of the culture here,” she said.
“It’s like using email now,” Lyons added. “It’s just something they do, and it’s easy for them to do on multiple devices that we have available. They can go through the door and swipe, they can do it on their iPad, they can do it on their computer – it’s so convenient.”
According to Mikshowsky and her fellow payroll assistant Connie Foegen, new employees typically are quick to pick up on learning to use the time keeping solution. Foegen and Mikshowsky regularly train new staff members on how to clock in or out and to access their employee information at any time.
“New staff are very quick to pick up on it – we also have printed instructions with screenshots for people that they can refer back to if they need to,” Mikshowsky said. She added that employees regularly help each other out if any questions about the system come up.
“True Time and Employee Access gives employees more control,” Lyons concluded. “I think that it gives the employee more access to their information, and from their perspective things become more transparent.”
"TRUE TIME AND EMPLOYEE ACCESS GIVES EMPLOYEES MORE CONTROL... IT GIVES THE EMPLOYEE MORE ACCESS TO THEIR INFORMATION, AND FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE THINGS BECOME MORE TRANSPARENT."
Administrators at La Crosse Schools have witnessed an increase in employee accountability through the adoption of True Time. The time tracking application also has safeguards in place to reduce the chance of error.
Accuracy, Accountability, and the ACA
“From an administrator’s perspective, the system shows me when they’re not really following their scheduled hours for the day, so I can see if there’s a problem,” Lyons said. “As a timesheet approver, you can see employees clocking in and out within the system. Having that feedback and access to information is helpful.”
Smalley agreed. “We’re not going to have the errors on timesheets – before a person could put down ‘8 a.m. to 4 p.m.’ and say that was 10 hours,” she explained. “There are not those kinds of addition errors or calculating errors on both the employees’ part and the people who process payroll. When you’ve got that many manual timesheets to go through to check and approve, and only a certain amount of time to do it in, there’s a chance for errors.”
"NOW [TRUE TIME] IS PART OF THE CULTURE HERE."
True Time has also impacted ACA compliance and the ability to meet other state and federal requirements. “We can really count on the fact that Skyward stays on top of those requirements and finds ways to provide us with reporting, or ways to do things better,” Lyons said.
Data services manager, Sonja Hoskins, agrees that Skyward’s solution helps the district maintain accurate information and data across its departments. “As we continue to meet the reporting requirements of our state, I am working side-by-side with our payroll and HR staff ensuring that we have common staff information in each system,” Hoskins said.
After using Skyward for more than a decade, La Crosse Schools’ administrators appreciate the value the School Business Suite offers. “I find it user friendly, and we know the support is there,” Smalley said.
“I tell districts that the integration of all the business suite’s modules – budgeting, payroll, employee portal, human resources – that’s saving us many, many, many hours on reporting that information to the state,” Lyons said. “Also that integration and having one point of entry for the employee allows us to count on the fact that what the employee is inputting is the official information. HR can do their work and everyone can count on that data.”
Can a district clock out from the risk of human error – or even fraudulent activity? Administrators at La Crosse Schools know so. Employee Access and True Time have afforded the district peace of mind and provided online self-service tools staff can count on.
To learn more about automating manual finance processes, watch A Tale of Two Timesheets (1:59).
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