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April 28, 2017

National Living Wage


This month the National Living Wage increased and will continue to do so until 2020 when it is projected to rise to at least £9 per hour, as detailed in the initial 2016 agreement.

This will result in a significant number of implications but the primary impact will be on hourly workers. Industries such as healthcare, residential care homes, and in particular manufacturing, will experience short- and long-term consequences from the annual incremental increase. In the short term, operating costs will rise adding to an organisations bottom line, while going forward the exponential cost of overtime and the potential of increased risks will serve to only further escalate operating costs.

Regardless of how you feel about it, the harsh reality is that organisations are struggling to manage the administrative burden of their large workforces in the light of persistent upheaval.

The substantial HR challenges the National Living Wage regulations present should not be underestimated. At SumTotal, through years of experience, we know that a Workforce Management (WFM) solution can and will provide your organisation with essential assistance.


WFM software provides your organisation with the data and insights which in turn empower you to better manage your workforce.

Here are just some of the ways WFM helps:

  • Tracking time – letting you know if employees are punctual in completing their schedule, thereby ensuring you are not paying employees for time not worked.
  • Prevents “Buddy Punching” – our time clocks work on a personal identification system putting an end to friends/colleagues punching in for an absent employee.
  • Scheduling – the reporting system will provide the data to ensure you always have the optimum number of employees allocated, thereby reducing overtime costs. Additionally, “shift trading” means employees can now be assigned shifts based on availability and skill thereby reducing opportunities for human bias or error.

In short, a WFM solution can reduce operating costs, reduce payroll costs and provide invaluable assistance to workforce planning.

To learn more about SumTotal’s WFM solution or get a free demo please click here.

March 15, 2017

Three Steps to Maximize Your HCM System ROI

“Exceptional ROI is the norm, not the exception”


I was in line the other morning waiting for my usual—double shot Americano with room for cream—when I overheard a conversation between the two young women who were directly behind me.

And no, it wasn’t a juicy conversation about personal matters…it was a work matter. One of them, not sure which one, as it would have been impolite to keep turning around—was under a lot of pressure from her boss to select a new HCM system for their organization. Her friend was trying to give her advice. I emphasize trying because in truth, not a lot of what she said either made sense or was even accurate. Back in the day, this would have been point when I would have handed her my card. Today we write a blog about it. SO, this is for you White Chocolate Mocha and Chai Tea.

Choosing the technology for human capital management is a big deal. There are a ton of vendors out there and each promises the world. In truth, few deliver and no one wants to be the person who recommended a particular system only for it to fail to deliver on its promises.

Let’s boil this dilemma down and solve it with three simple steps.

Step 1 Identify the wish list

Compile a list of your requirements: what you want/need/would like to see done with the new HCM. Analyze your talent, learning, and workforce management strategies. Assume that you don’t need to live without anything on your wish list, because chances are, your requirements are more attainable than you might think. We know that you’re hearing from other vendors that you may need a fully customized (read: costly) solution or try to squeeze your organization into a one-size-fits-all box. If that happens to you, see the red flag and find a vendor who doesn’t shy away from complex requirements. The cloud is fantastic, but in some cases, on-premise may be exactly what you need. The point is not to sell yourself short.

We’re hosting a webinar on vetting requirements—specifically for Workforce Management—on April 18. Check it out and register: Four Things To Do Before Signing Your WFM Provider Contract.  

Step 2 See the whole picture

To begin you might only need a small number of modules… to do things such as solving your employee retention problem, doing a better job at onboarding, or even optimizing self-service with shift trading. I caution you not to fall into the trap of thinking short-term and focusing on only your immediate need. We see many prospective customers come running to us as needs emerge and they’re overwhelmed with disparate HR systems. Not all HCMs are created equal, and some have the capability to expand as needed without additional costs or customization.

It’s also important to fully realize your potential ROI from your HCM investment. In a recent Nucleus Research report, Four HCM Mistakes to Avoid, it discusses that decision-makers often overlook that “modern technology for HCM costs less to implement and operate,” thereby yielding “major gains in productivity…[and] a significant ROI.”

Step 3 Set the Right time

The point-of-need for upgrading or deploying a new HCM is before there’s a problem. If you’re starting to see that your system is becoming unworkable—start comparing vendors now. The Nucleus report also states that many SMBs in particular wait too long. Don’t do that! Plus, the sooner you get started, the sooner you will experience the ROI which will simply increase as time passes and your company grows.

To my colleagues in the coffee shop and everywhere else, I hope this helps.

For information about our HCM and what it can do for you, schedule a demo. For additional reading, check out the research note that I referenced above “Four HCM Mistakes to Avoid.”

June 14, 2016

The High Cost of Sleepiness

Inadequate sleep is a common and significant problem impacting the workforce. In the United States, one in three people get less than seven hours of sleep at night, with similar findings worldwide. I often hear colleagues say there are not enough hours in the day and express similar thoughts conveying lack of sleep. Trying to balance demanding workloads with personal time often leads to sacrificing sleep. People across the globe struggle to make it through the workday—especially after lunch!


What happens when you don’t ‘turn off’? Today’s workforce is more flexible than ever and working hours are no longer confined to the traditional ‘9-to-5’ workday. People now respond to emails as they wake up, during their coffee and lunch breaks and even at weekend soccer games. For many organizations, the workplace culture supports an unspoken expectation to be omnipresent—often driven by the example of leaders and managers. Visibility has become especially crucial with an increasingly remote workforce, where physically dispersed teams do not see colleagues hard at work and team members collaborate and react across different time zones. This ‘always on’ attitude is beginning to have significant effects. A recent study shows that consistent email monitoring, especially after hours, contributes to tiredness and reduced engagement the following day.

Suppose we allowed—even encouraged—employees to get that needed extra sleep AT work? Napping at work is not a new concept, nor is the discussion around its benefits. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a brief 20-30 minute nap to combat fatigue for “…improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.” They also published that adults’ strongest drive to sleep during the day occurs between 1:00-3:00 in the afternoon. Those post-lunch blues? They’re real. A mid-shift snooze may be just what you need to increase performance during the second half of the day.

Sleeping at work is no longer taboo. Google, Nike and Zappos are just a few companies that encourage powernaps with onsite sleep rooms. We can also learn from successful people throughout history who routinely took naps to increase energy and alertness including Einstein, Aristotle and Salvador Dali. Businesses are becoming more aware of the link between sleep deprivation, productivity, and poor health (resulting in higher insurance costs).

The cost of absenteeism and low on-the-job work performance quickly accumulates. Researchers from Harvard recently showed that the average worker with sleeplessness results in the loss of 11.3 days’ worth of work performance each year which comes to $2,280. That figure across the United States adds up to $63.2 billion. This is a compelling reason why more companies are nestling up to the idea of midday naps.

An alert mind is a productive mind while fatigued minds lose focus and therefore output. Sleep is not a luxury and corporations are taking note. Get ready to see an increase in nap rooms and more sleep-friendly environments across the globe. If your office is already on board, don’t skip that afternoon nap the next time you’re feeling tired.

I want to hear from you—leave a comment if your workplace has considered a ‘napping at work’ program.

April 4, 2016

How Does March Madness Impact Office Productivity and Engagement?

As “mad” as it sounds, an estimated 20 percent of the workforce followed the annual basketball tournament costing employers in 2016 over $3.9 billion in the first week of March Madness1!  Extra-long lunch breaks, streaming games and filling out brackets at work are fairly common. There are similar findings of lost productivity during the Olympics and the World Cup2, 3.

Before you close your browser for being called out, hear me out! I believe that the above findings are a bit short-sighted. What if you and your colleagues were encouraged to follow the games, participate in office brackets, and had the championship games streaming in common areas? You may find that you have common ground with your co-workers—not to mention customers—and lively conversation is easy where it was typically small talk. Imagine the workplace satisfaction you will have!

Channeling enthusiasm and energy with work relationships can bring a sense of camaraderie that overflows through the workforce. After all, we’ve all been taught that in business, relationships are EVERYTHING. Positive and supportive work relationships boost morale and increase engagement. As 78 percent of us spend more time with coworkers than we do with our families4, peer relationships are critical to our professional investments and career satisfaction. Further, take into account that only 51 percent of us use our vacation days5. This may help managers justify practicing more flexibility than normal during major sporting events. Particularly when intangible benefits include departments who rarely interact begin to have rapport and INCREASE in productivity. Engagement would be through the roof!

Why not leverage these moments of sporting competition and nationalism into a positive environment with lasting results?

Comment or send me a message! Let me know if your company encourages interoffice sport synergy or punitively frowns upon it.


August 28, 2014

Social and Recruiting Apps that Really Work

Business apps, gadgets and tools are in no short supply. We are constantly bombarded with the newest trend, trick or tool to make us more social, productive, organized and efficient.

From hoax apps like Yo (which texts “Yo!” to communicate to your contacts), to document sharing apps like Google Docs and DropBox that we can’t live without – there are a lot of resources at your disposal.

Apps are designed to make your lives easier, but sometimes they don’t deliver on their promise.

So, to narrow down your must-have shortlist and tell you what really works, we sat down with the folks over at Fistful of Talent to see what they had to say about their favorite social, business and, of course, recruiting apps.

If you’re trying to step up your social game, Feedly and Buffer will help expand your social footprint without the extra time spent. Users can browse content in Feedly and with a click of a button synch and schedule it to go out on various social platforms. In 5 minutes you can generate all of your social content for the day. (skip to video clip) 

If you’re trying to get organized, Evernote will help you keep track of ideas, meeting notes and research. You can capture images and bookmark websites, and tag and organize those files in specific folders that you can reference in the future. (skip to video clip)

If you’re trying to find the perfect candidate, Connectifier, 360 Social and Vibe will give you a person’s email address and allow you to see a their digital footprint. The digital footprint gives you a clear picture of people’s skills, interests and personalities that may not be listed on their LinkedIn profile. (skip to video clip) 

Want to know more? Watch the 20 minute SumTotal #HRHangout with Fistful of Talent.

Still want to know more? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @SumTotalSystems! We’re happy to share more resources with you. And be sure to catch next week’s #HRHangout: Whistle While You Work — How to Drive Employee Engagement

August 7, 2014

8 Tips to Help Sharpen Focus

The dog days of summer are upon us. Vacation mode has set in and staying focused proves harder and harder. Whether you’re bored and unmotivated due to an empty office, or attempting to tame your pre-and-post vacation workload frenzy, the struggle is real. Concentrating on the task at hand isn’t easy – especially when Friday afternoon rolls around!SumTotal Focus

Positive energy, ongoing mindfulness and proper organization can help you shift gears and get your work done.

Here are 8 ways to sharpen your focus and improve concentration that might come in handy during the final weeks of summer.


  1. Create the right environment. Changing up your workstation can give you a fresh perspective. Spend 10 minutes reorganizing your messy workspace. Go to a local coffee shop to finish up a big project. Work from home to avoid office distractions. Ask colleagues to join you in a conference room if you prefer a more open work environment. Figure out where you feel comfortable and productive and try to work there more often.
  2. Cut the noise. There, I said it, power off your email and step away from your phone for a few minutes. A recent study by the University of California-Irvine revealed that regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes. It’s important to step away from the blue screen and manage your distractions. Since I started drafting this blog post, I’ve already been distracted by five emails and a slew of social alerts. Shut it down for 20 minutes and allow yourself to focus on the task at hand. I do it all the time and I can promise you, the email will still be there when you’re done.
  3. Snack smart. Brain foods like blueberries, nuts, avocados and whole grains are packed full of mental and physical benefits. If you’re struggling with that 2:30 p.m. feeling, take some snack trips from my colleague Amber’s recent blog, Brain Food Rx.
  4. Hydrate. A 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration, so minor that you might not even know about it, can lead to attention loss. It’s tempting to refill your coffee mug when you’re thirsty – just don’t forget about water. Not to mention, the other amazing benefits of hydration, like more energy, faster metabolism, immunity booster and more!
  5. Meditate. Meditation requires you to mentally check out and calm your thoughts. The few days before and after vacation can be among the most stressful workdays. Spend a few minutes taking deep breaths and clearing your mind. You’ll find yourself rejuvenated and more focused. There are several different variations of meditation, so do what works best for you.
  6. Take a break. Only one in five office workers admit to taking a lunch break. Taking 15-20 minute breaks is a proven way to increase concentration. Go for a walk around the block. Grab lunch with colleagues or friends. Run a mindless errand. You shouldn’t feel guilty using the time off you deserve. Remember taking a break won’t keep you from getting your work done; it will help you focus your energy when you get back.
  7. Write it down. I know, I sound like a broken record here, but it really does help to write down what you need to accomplish. Recently I’ve been writing down my to do list every day at 4:00 p.m. That way, I know exactly what I need to accomplish the following day.
  8. Catch some ZZZ’s. A long-time staple on any self-improvement list is sleep, and it’s there for a reason. There are serious consequences to lack of sleep. A recent study by MSU and UC Irvine found that “memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation.” Meaning less sleep causes forgetfulness. Confusion coupled with distraction is a recipe for disaster.

August is one of the slowest months of the year, and keeping focused at work is no simple task.

What helps you concentrate? Feel free to leave a comment below.

July 14, 2014

Brain Food Rx

It’s 3:00 p.m. – my stomach is rumbling, my mind is exhausted, and I want nothing more than to leave work, go home, and have a snack. However, that’s just not going to happen today – I have a 3:30 meeting with the boss and at least two deadlines that have to be met by the end of the day. Time for some brain food!

Here are some great solutions that will get your brain back on track to get you out of the lull – and a few that will also satisfy that rumbling stomach:

Brain Block: “I can’t remember what I was supposed to do.”


Solution: Write things down – whether you use a traditional notepad, post-its, or a digital reminder such as an email, text, or organizer, let the tools remember the details for your so you can focus on the task at hand.

Snack Rx: Blueberries contain compounds known as flavonoids that help improve memory, learning, and general cognitive function. Eat them by the handful. Just remember,  that blueberry muffin doesn’t count.

Brain Block: “Oooh, shiny!”

Quick Fix: If you are having trouble focusing, remove distractions. Temporarily turn off the web and hide your phone in a drawer.  Clearing your desk space will also remove distractions. (Don’t sort through the clutter, just set it aside – that sorting is just keeping you from the task at hand!)

Snack Rx: Peppermint candy or tea stimulates the brain to promote concentration. It has been used by schools to help students perform better on tests and to aid those who suffer from ADD.

Brain Block: ”I can’t stop worrying about ____.”

Solution: Take your to-do list and pick one thing to work on (ideally, the one that you can’t get off your mind) and start working on it in small pieces. Reward yourself by taking a small break every 20 minutes and continue until you are done, then move onto the next item on your list.

Snack Rx: Yogurt contains the amino acid lysine, which can help to calm the nerves and lower anxiety.

Brain Block: “I don’t have the energy to think about that right now.”

Solution: Take a quick walk around the building. Stepping away from your work space and getting some fresh air will help bring some energy back and get blood flowing. You’ll return refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon.

Snack Rx: Nuts like almonds and cashews contain magnesium, which is essential for oxygen and blood flow. Getting that blood flowing will help invigorate your mind.

Now that you’re refreshed, go out and tackle the rest of your day!

July 1, 2014

World Cup Productivity: If you can’t beat them, join them

As excitement over the World Cup skyrockets, office productivity plummets.

According to an informal survey by Captivate Network, over 50% of working professionals either watched or listened to the World Cup matches at work this year, and 69% of employees reported seeing co-workers watching or listening to the event.

This year an estimated $1.68 billion will be lost to productivity in the U.S., which is a startling jump from the $121 million lost during the 2010 games. Continue reading