SumTotal Blog

Craig Fearon (14 Posts)

Craig Fearon

Craig Fearon is a Senior Director, Product Management with SumTotal and a self-described “time & attendance geek.” With over 17 years optimizing time & attendance, scheduling, absence management and more, he’s mastered the art of incorporating complex requirements and unique customer feedback into a user-friendly system. Outside of work, Craig enjoys spending time with his wife Angela and their two four-legged children Juno (Rottweiler) and Vimy (Rottweiler/Shepherd Mix).

How Absenteeism is Killing your Bottom Line


Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or roughly $1,685 per employee. Such figures are alarming and should be motivating for organizations to take measures or they’ll end up needing to impose damage control.

But what I’m finding, is that opportunities to address this issue are often overlooked; that not everyone working in HR is aware that a system can be put into place that will look at the problem and automatically minimize both the occurrence and the consequence of an absent employee.

Vacations, bad weather, sick kids, jury duty, military leave, and so many more legitimate reasons for missing work are fully justified. Although, if you’re not properly tracking and adhering to legislation and policies, compliance failure and your reputation are at stake.

While we all need to miss work at times, there are some offenders or policy abusers who disrupt productivity with their abrupt absences. You’ll experience the premium cost for yourself with the administrative burden, and likely decreased morale stemming from the potentially higher workloads of those who do make it to work.

For example, how do you treat the following?

  • Tardiness: does it count against an employee’s allowed absences?
  • An employee facing a difficult personal situation: is your policy flexible? If it is, what measures have you taken to ensure against claims of favoritism or discrimination if employees feel that certain employees are treated differently?
  • Managers with differing expectations: some might be very strict and stick to the letter of the law, while others might be seen as more relaxed or understanding. Like my colleague has written about before, managers often have unintentional bias. Do you have a process that can highlight those employees who take advantage of your organization, or employees who are habitually late? Do you reward those who follow the rules?

Tracking occurrences will pinpoint problems and even positive behaviors. By establishing patterns like tardiness or the habitual ‘long weekend’ offenders, you can use the insight to identify those involved, estimate losses due to their behavior and have automatic notifications or warnings in place.

Don’t settle for the silent bottom-line killer of accepting absenteeism and make tracking occurrences part of your workforce management strategy. Schedule a discovery call to see how tracking occurrences can lead to positive employee behavior and protect your earnings and output.

Payroll Rocks the World! 10 Takeaways from APA Congress.


I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Payroll Association (APA) Congress in Orlando, Florida. It had been a couple of years since I last attended. It was great to see and interact with many old colleagues, industry analysts, partners, customers, and enjoy four days of being the unabashed time & attendance geek I am.

Payroll Rocks the World was the theme of this year’s Congress and, in my opinion, was very appropriate as collecting time & attendance and paying your employees is the bedrock of an organization. At the end of the day, employees expect to have their time accurately recorded and paid correctly for the work they do. If it is not, then they have little-to-no motivation to be productive or even show up for work. So yeah, payroll is the rock star of any organization!

The agenda was chock-full of great presentations and keynote sessions.

So what did I take away from the Congress?


So à la David Letterman, here is my Top 10 list of trends that all payroll professionals and organizations should have on their radar:

1.       Time & Attendance and Payroll are slow to the cloud.

Due to a number of factors, these business processes have been one of the slowest to make the move. However, this is changing as organizations start to realize the benefits of moving to the cloud, such as lower internal costs, access to the latest system releases, less dependency on IT and much more.

2.       Data security, data integration, and legislative changes are payroll’s biggest challenges.

Time and payroll data is highly sensitive by nature and payroll professionals need to ensure the security of the vendors and solutions that they select. With companies expanding through acquisitions and inheriting various systems, integrating these with the existing systems can be very complex. Payroll professionals today not only have to keep track of legislative changes in their home country, but also in every country that they do business. This is a daunting task for most organizations.

3.       Getting basic HR details in a global organization is hard.

“All I want is a Global Headcount Report!” was a common complaint heard many times in sessions or in speaking with attendees. With the challenges of growth through acquisition, country specific systems, and older platforms, getting basic data such as a global headcount or total wages and salaries report is no longer a simple task. Organizations are looking for one system to be the single source of record for this type of reporting. This is not a replacement for country specific payroll and HR, but rather a master system to handle consolidated reporting requirements.

4.       Fair labor Standards Act (FLSA) proposed changes for the salary threshold of exempt employees is still on hold.

A decision is expected towards late summer. However, there is a possibility that the Department of Labor may submit a new proposal with lower thresholds than in the original proposal. Stay tuned…

5.       Your workforce is changing.

The Millennial generation is not going to accept legacy and manual processes. In order to compete for top talent, organizations need to align their processes and systems to meet the challenges presented by this new generation.

6.       More and more organizations are starting to track location worked for mobile employees.

With increasing complexity in tax reporting for workforces that may work in multiple jurisdictions during the course of a year, more organizations are looking to improve their ability to track where both blue- and white-collar employees actually work.

7.       Standardize policies and systems.

Treat all employees fairly and equally. It is best to have the “system” enforce policies such as attendance. This removes the manager from the process and makes the system the “bad guy.”

8.       The rise of the contingent workforce.

Not only are we seeing more generations in the workforce now than ever before, but we are also seeing more contingent employees being embedded into daily activities. Employers are bringing in specific skill sets on a contingent base to fill gaps in their workforce either for a specific duration or on a project basis. The mix of full-time and contingent labor is causing challenges collecting time & attendance and ensuring that all are paid correctly.

9.       Comp Time for the private sector in the US may pass into legislation this year.

Comp Time allows an employee to bank overtime instead of having it paid out automatically. The legislation for the public sector in the US was passed a few years back, but it now looks like this will also become an option for the private sector. Assuming this does pass in the near future, it will add more tracking requirements for employers. Start planning now!

10.    Self-service is a must, especially for younger employees.

Self-service gives your employees the flexibility they need to better manage their work-life balance. For example, employers should avoid forcing employees to work overtime. Sometimes this is not avoidable but where it can be, a better approach is to put the overtime shifts out to bid allowing qualified and interested employees the opportunity to work rather than just forcing someone to. With the Millennial generation, self-service tools will be key to longer-term tenure.

If you are involved in managing time & attendance, scheduling and absence management or payroll for your organization, I highly encourage you to join the American Payroll Association or your country’s payroll organization such as the Canadian Payroll Association, Australian Payroll Association, South African Payroll Association, or The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (UK).

Key Learnings from the American Payroll Association 2016 Fall Forum

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the American Payroll Association (APA) Fall Forum at the Mirage Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas, NV with my colleague Mario Besner, Senior Product Director for Payroll.  This three day forum was packed full of learning sessions for attendees on such topics as FLSA changes, best practices, benchmarking, Affordable Care Act, future technology trends, compliance and much more.  I was able to attend a number of these sessions in addition to meeting attendees and discussing their time and attendance and payroll requirements at the SumTotal booth.

APA Fall Forum Recap

The top 5 trends and topics I took away from the conference are as follows:

1)      The Fair Labor Standards Act Changes for Exempt Employees is causing angst for employers.  With the December 1, 2016 deadline fast approaching, organizations are struggling to determine how best to manage the new minimum salary levels for exempt employees. To add complexity, there is still some uncertainty regarding bonuses and how they factor into the minimum threshold. The net is that if your organization has not taken steps to address this change, the clock is ticking… View this on-demand webinar to get guidance on how to navigate the changes.


2)      Recent technology innovations are game changers for payroll.  According to the presenters, unified data, mobile and the cloud have significantly redefined Payroll and Time & Attendance.  SumTotal is well positioned as our Payroll and Time & Attendance solutions already address these game changers.


3)      Machine Learning will impact Time & Attendance and Payroll technology in the future.  For example, machine learning could help predictably populate a user’s timesheet based on previous patterns.  This could offer significant usability and time savings for employees.


4)      Payroll teams are recruiting staff with different skill sets than in the past.  Specifically they are seeking employees with soft skills, tech skills and most importantly flexibility! The face of payroll is changing and the staffing needs are adapting to meet this. Employees should be encouraged to seek payroll certifications and training such as that offered by the APA.


5)      There are an estimated 10,000 payroll and time and attendance software changes per year required to support legal and regulatory compliance changes globally!  This is amazing and speaks to the ever dynamic and changing discipline of payroll and time and attendance management.  This figure also reinforces the value of organizations such as the APA and its counterparts worldwide that deliver important legislative updates to members.

In summation, payroll is the single most strategic and important system that touches every single employee in your organization!  Payroll departments and processes have been transformed from a cost center and perceived low value function in organizations to a mission critical strategic business unit.

I encourage you to visit the APA’s website for more information on the association and benefits to you and your organization.

Time and Attendance and Payroll at APA Fall Forum

Demystifying the Complexities and Compliance Issues Associated with Processing Time and Attendance and Payroll

I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Payroll Association Fall Forum in Orlando.  This was a small but very well run and informative conference focused on current issues and trends in time and attendance and payroll processing.

The forum had a number of sessions on current topics such processing best practices, Affordable Care Act, upcoming compliance changes, global payroll and more.  Fortunately I was able to attend a number of these sessions and was able to come away with 6 key trends/themes that I wanted to share with you.  (I actually had more than 6 but our web team gave me a limit on the word count…)

1)      Affordable Care Act (ACA) Reporting is a reality now for US based organizations.  If your organization can not produce reports for ACA today, you are already behind.  Organizations must start being able to produce reports showing hours worked for all employees for compliance.  Penalties will be starting in the near future if this reporting is not available.

2)      Big Data is coming to Payroll and Time & Attendance!  One of the trends that everyone is talking about is big data.  This is now becoming a leading trend for organizations as it relates to your employee’s time and attendance and payroll.  With big data, you have the ability to slice and dice metrics that only a couple of years ago were only in your dreams.  Stay tuned as SumTotal is already working on this…

3)   icon_TimeIsMoney_rgb   Global time and payroll processing.  Typically most organizations have viewed time and payroll processing as very country specific.  This is changing and more and more best in class organizations are starting to standardize their policies and processing across the geographic regions that they do business in.  The focus here is not always on the actual applications used but rather the processes and policies that organizations enable and follow.

4)      Integrating Learning.  Best in class organizations have identified that ongoing learning results in a more productive and satisfied workforce.  (This is not news to SumTotal!)  However I heard in a number of sessions how organizations want to further expand their learning systems to ensure that employees are properly trained and certified before starting work or even being scheduled to work.  The costs of lapsed and expired training resulting in compliance and possible litigation issues can be significant.  Again stay tuned to SumTotal on this front as we are well positioned to deliver integrated Learning and Time and Attendance…

5)      An increase to exempt employees’ minimum salary is pending…  The US Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed increasing the minimum salary for exempt employees from $23,600 annually to $50,440 annually.  Again this is only a proposed change by the DOL at this point and there are many steps that need to take place before this becomes an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act.  However if this does pass, employees below the $50,440 salary limit will be eligible for overtime in most scenarios.  If your organization does not currently track your exempt employee’s time and attendance for employees earning below $50,440 annually now, you probably should think about doing this sooner rather than later.  Even if the amendments don’t come into effect for a while, recording these employees time and attendance now will give your organization a good view into the potential liabilities and extra costs that you may face in the future.

6)      Just because you followed a process for the last 15 years does not always mean that it is required…  It was very refreshing to hear a number of organizations indicate when upgrading or migrating systems they have taken a very close look at why they have certain processes or rules in place.  In some cases, the only reason that they could identify for these processes and rules was because “that is the way it has always been done”.  The trend for best in class organizations is to streamline their processes and rules and make sure that what they implement is only what is required.  Implementations and upgrades can be complex so anything that can be done to simplify can result in significant cost savings.

I encourage you to review these trends and see what makes sense for your organization.  Time and attendance and payroll processing are strategic to your organization.  Improving the process and ensuring compliance can reduce overall costs and result in a better performing workforce.

The American Payroll Association provides a wealth of information to their members and helps demystify the complexities and compliance issues associated with processing time and attendance and payroll.  For more information on the APA, please visit