January 18, 2022

Four Ways Local Governments Can Streamline Their Payroll


It’s the top priority for payroll teams to ensure employees are paid properly and on time. Unfortunately, as recent headlines suggest, public and private entities alike continue to face the consequences of inaccurate, inconsistent or error-prone payroll processes.

Issues arise when employees submit incorrect data for their hours. Problems also occur when overtime and time off schedules aren’t accurately assigned. Out-of-date compensation records create costly under and over payments.

Not only are these issues a headache for payroll teams to fix, they’re also the source of employee outrage and dissatisfaction. For local governments that face public and regulatory scrutiny, the consequences of inaccurate, inconsistent or error-prone payroll processes can be severe.

Employee outrage, negative public perceptions, and regulatory risks all make it essential to understand the ways local governments can streamline and simplify their payroll as much as possible. There are four ways you can avoid the headaches of payroll processing problems.

Reduce reliance on manual processes

Using manual processes to administer payroll is time consuming, unwieldy and error prone, all which have the potential to create issues. When using manual processes, HR collects multiple spreadsheets or paper timecards from employees and then manually enter the data into their ERP. When the payroll department has a question about a timesheet, they must call or email HR, who must then ask employee for the correct information and provide updates to the payroll team. This ineffective process must be repeated every time payroll has a question.

An automated workforce management (WFM) solution simplifies time tracking and payroll processes from end to end. Employees simply enter hours and attach them to the appropriate job assignment, or federal grants, so the system can automatically attribute hours to the proper pay rates and funding source.

Thanks to workforce management software, questions can be addressed proactively using the system. Dashboards give administrators an at-a-glance view so they can efficiently review, edit and approve employee timesheets and exceptions. No longer are organizations at the mercy of someone “hopefully” catching an error, instead they can configure the system to flag issues.

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Automated solutions can save payroll processing time by 50-90%

Local governments can also save considerable time, thanks to the use of system-enabled reminders that alert employees, supervisors and administrators about important tasks such as pending timesheet approvals.

Additionally, workflows that address rules and policies can flag any pay or time-related issues (such as missed punches, tardiness, absences, OT/comp time) so that managers or administrators can address issues in real time. For example, if an employee forgets to clock in or out on a given day, the system can send the manger an alert. The issue can be resolved immediately, instead of when the team is attempting to process payroll.

For local government agencies that have ERP, Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) or other technology related to people management, WFM solutions can be set up to automatically export time and attendance information out of the WFM system and import it into the payroll software system to improve accuracy.

Require employees to attest to submitted time to avoid re-processing

Many organizations report cases where, after submitting a paper timesheet, an employee returns with a different handwritten timesheet that differs from the original. In fact, one report found that two-thirds of employees surveyed said they must correct timesheet errors occasionally or often.

Workforce management solutions can avoid these re-processing requests by requiring employees to agree that the hours on their timesheet are a 100% accurate representation of time worked. The system should also provide historical records of hours, rates, and audit logs. These records regarding any employee timesheet actions will help mitigate any questions about how employee hours and wages are managed

Integrated Leave Management Ensures Proper Pay & Usage of PTO

Sick leave and paid time off benefits are an important aspect of work – for employees and employers alike. But for local governments, issues around PTO usage as well as overpayment can prove to be costly.

“Staffing of police and fire department operations present special challenges. The unnecessary use of sick leave in police and fire departments often costs the department at least an additional 150 percent over the budgeted amount to cover the vacancies with overtime pay…This total can provide a sobering realization of the cost for overuse or abuse of sick leave benefits,” according to MRSC, a non-profit dedicated to empowering local governments.

While paper-based leave management opens local governments to several issues, an automated leave management system can easily track and manage accruals. The system can also be configured with rules that prevent negative accrual balances and route time off requests to managers for approval before granting the leave requests. These features reinforce the application and adherence to those policies.

Local governments looking to streamline their processes and reduce budgeting issues related to manual time and attendance and leave tracking are wise to consider finding a workforce management solution. Rather than overspending on higher-than-necessary payroll costs, with the right WFM investment, you can ensure that your employees receive accurate pay, managers can manage vacation and PTO within policy, and your administrators have the visibility they need for timecard collection and effective payroll processes.

Read about how Wicomico County, Maryland has continuously evolved its WFM practices from manual processes to a robust, cloud-based solution that saved them DAYS during each pay period and allowed them to easily pivot to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.