K-12 school systems have made great strides in automating key financial/HR functions -- few districts still operate solely by pushing paper and/or sending email attachments. But even if your district has an integrated software solution for finance/HR, you may be losing productivity by getting caught in these four common workflow snags:
1. Dancing the procurement two-step
Do your district’s purchasers have to double-enter requisitioned items? That is, do they have to look up an item’s purchasing data from a vendor’s online catalog, enter it in a purchase order, and then enter it again to make the actual purchase?
These days, that extra step shouldn’t be necessary, especially with vendors from which you routinely purchase standard supplies. Many vendors will have the capability to integrate their online catalog into your purchasing software, so the purchaser enters the order only once, and a purchase order is generated automatically.
Check with your key vendors and your purchasing software provider to see if this capability -- commonly called “PunchOut,” is available. Make sure the PunchOut automatically updates the catalog in real time.
2. Chasing documentation for professional development requirementsIf your staff is required to enter their professional development course completions into a spreadsheet within your HR system, congratulations: You’re at least one step above a file folder full of paper documents that employees dropped on an admin’s desk.
Now, take a few more steps up so it’s easier for staff members to find, complete, and document the courses they need to keep your district in compliance.
If your HR management software allows you to post available courses, do so, and be sure to include all the relevant details, including when and where the class meets. Course entries should link to sign-up pages.
You should be able to see at a glance which staff members are taking which courses, and when the course requirements have been met. Build in email alerts, if possible, to keep course participants on track in completing the courses and reporting results.
This type of system does require more up-front work. But ultimately it will save a great deal of time when you don’t have to chase after documentation of completed courses, or scramble to get people signed up for courses in time to fulfil requirements.
3. Finding the phantom approver
An automated approval process, if it’s set up correctly, can usually shave a significant amount of time from a manual approval process. However, one good thing about the manual process was that if somebody in the approval chain was out of the office -- on leave, on vacation, at a conference, etc. -- someone else in the approval chain probably knew about it.
But in an automated approval process, absent approvers won’t always be on your radar screen.
Your automated approval process should allow alternate approvers to be designated, so more than one person is notified when a request for approval is generated.
Without alternate approvers built into your system, a purchase order, change order, job posting, etc. can be stopped cold. Maybe that won’t create a huge problem, but perhaps it could.
4. Riding the payroller coaster
Most folks who handle payroll for school districts will tell you their phone and email traffic always spikes on payday. Questions. Concerns. Crises.
The more information your employees can find online themselves, the fewer workflow snags your payroll and other HR employees will encounter. So, in addition to the basic pay stub information, consider adding these options for employee online access:
- Accrued vacation, sick leave, family leave, etc.
- Downloadable or electronic forms to request changes in tax status
- A calculator that shows employees the effect of a change in tax status, retirement account contribution, etc., on their future paychecks
Not only do these features allow employees to see basic, up-to-date payroll information, they encourage employees to take more control over their paychecks. Fewer payday surprises equals fewer interruptions for your payroll staff.
Watch for hidden workflow snags like these, and always schedule a review with your finance/HR management software provider to continually assess workflow improvements in the future.
Looking for ways to make your financials more understandable for other stakeholders? Read our post on How to Present Financials.