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Craig Fearon (2 Posts)

Craig Fearon

Craig Fearon is a Senior Product Director with SumTotal. With over 17 years optimizing time and 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).

October 11, 2016

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.

October 7, 2015

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

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