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Tag Archives: Workforce Productivity

September 7, 2017

Benefits in kinda


Perks. From gym membership to the company cars, it is these ‘extras’ that are perhaps more beloved and more lauded than our monetary remuneration. Okay so perhaps not more, but they are a starting point, a deal – breaker or maker – and given the current employment landscape and a certain predilection of some Millennials to switch jobs every few years, they play an ever increasing and important role in the draw and retention of desired talent.

While having free meals or massages at your desk are a great boon in the workplace, if as the employer, the provider of these ‘extras’, you do not ensure that where it applies, the tax on the ‘benefit’ as been paid, you are giving your employee a most unwelcome ‘perk’ and one that could potentially land them with a hefty tax bill.

Remember these extras, while considered part of a salary, are classified as benefits in kind and some are taxable and others not. This ‘are they or aren’t they?’ is confusing, but the situation gets even more confusing by the fact that if an error does occur, it can be the employee who is faced with an underpayment demand, not the employer.

The process for taxation of taxable benefits is quite straightforward really. Every country has their own rules and procedures, so it is the responsibility of the relevant department in each to know and follow the regulations. Here in the UK, once it is established whether tax is due on the benefit in kind, the employer then completes the relevant tax form, a P11D, with the details of the benefit values for the appropriate tax year, as well as working out the Class 1A National Insurance contributions on said benefits. If this does not happen, the employee could receive a P800 form declaring an underpayment of tax.

Obviously everyone involved would prefer not to have this happen, but is there something an employer can do to ensure it never happens?


Include them with your payroll. How?

By including any benefits in kind as ‘tax not pay’ amounts, a payroll system will automatically produce P11Ds with all the calculations, including Class 1A National Insurance returns.  Additionally, and this adds even more benefits, if the solution includes self-service options, the employees can themselves view their current and/or historical P11D forms online. Now that’s a great perk!

What makes using a payroll system even more advantageous is that we are increasingly seeing the tax process change. Currently, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging benefits in kind to be taxed and reported via payroll which means as more organisations adopt this approach, it is likely the P11D form will gradually become obsolete. With the inclusion of taxable benefits as part of the normal payroll process, the tax is then calculated and deducted at source and the relevant information included on the statutory real time information (RTI) returns, therefore eliminating the need to produce the P11D form.

In short, with a payroll system, an organisation can streamline the payment process, adapt to tax regulations changes while providing employees with peace of mind with the knowledge that their ‘perks’ are not going to come with a price.

Check out SumTotal’s Payroll Solution.



June 9, 2017

Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Talent in the Modern Workforce – Are You Ready?


Changes in the world of work, evolving employee expectations, and advances in technology are creating a perfect storm that is transforming today’s workplace. Pitched against a backdrop of growing skills gaps, the pressure on organisations to rethink their talent approach – and systems – is intense.

The Fosway Group, in partnership with Skillsoft and SumTotal, recently undertook a research project designed with the single aim of shining a spotlight on the realities of the modern workforce. What we found is both compelling and illuminating. If you feel your HR, talent, and learning efforts are behind the curve when it comes to dealing with these challenges, then you’re not alone. Our research shows that only 44% of professionals feel their talent management strategy is “ready.”

After 20 years of analysing HR, talent, and learning data, it’s been fascinating to take a deeper look at the macro environment and the key factors affecting organisations today; most of which are completely outside our control. But if they aren’t acknowledged and adapted to, will leave organisations without the people and the skills needed to take them forward.

Some key findings from the research include:

  • In only 16% of cases is organisational culture not a barrier to when looking to improve talent management processes.
  • 86% find managers’ skills and attitudes an issue when meeting the expectations of the modern workforce.
  • In the most vulnerable areas of digital, soft skills, leadership, and management skills, less than 15% of respondents think they have all the skills they need to succeed today, never mind tomorrow.
  • Around 67% of our survey respondents say that workers now need to learn – and get up to speed – more quickly.
  • 44% report that employees are working more often using a mobile device as their primary tool.

There are so many buzz words swirling around our industry at the moment – gig economy, Millennials, skills shortages, war for talent…the list goes on and on. Behind the hype are some stark realities for HR, talent and learning professionals. We need to respond positively to really engage with the workers of today – and tomorrow.

To get your hands on this invaluable report, download your copy here.

May 11, 2017

Running with blinders on – reducing unintended bias in the workplace


Sometimes lessons present themselves in unexpected places.

During a recent live BBC interview with international relations expert Professor Robert Kelly, on the possible impeachment of the South Korean president, two children suddenly burst into view.  Despite the interruption, Professor Kelly tries to continue with the interview, but it is clear that the news anchor has lost all interest in the subject and instead can’t help but focus on the source of the interruption.

Within hours, the clip went viral.

The video raises several questions about parenting styles, working with children, and perhaps most significantly, why everyone assumed the woman who followed the kids into the room and frantically rounded them up was the nanny?

This assumption, has everyone pointing fingers at one another and some commentators going so far as to suggest that we are all guilty of stereotyping. The family themselves aren’t too bothered, and when interviewed, en masse this time, they simply laughed it off. But it does serve as a stark reminder that no matter how open minded or non-judgemental we may feel, we do tend to categorize people.

In the workplace, this can lead to manager bias whereby a person is treated differently because of their age, race, ethnicity, or gender. This bias, or “blinder,” can be a huge challenge for organizations around the globe.

The question therefore is what measures can an organization take to ensure that the “blinders,” whether conscious or unconscious, are removed from workforce decisions?

The answer is technology. We all need to be using smart, common-sense technology to connect ‘people’ data to ‘numbers’ data and then basing decisions on this, rather than human instinct.

A simple example of this is to leverage a workforce management capability like occurrence tracking. Occurrence tracking gives managers, at their fingertips, objective data that removes subjectivity from tasks like performance reviews by including information like number of absences, how many times they helped their peers with shift trades and so forth.

Another example is scheduling. From within scheduling, managers can leverage capabilities to assign tasks by seniority, skill, and certification rather than selecting an employee because the supervisor is friends with them.

Additionally, providing employees with the self-service capability allows them to indicate their availability and therefore have a say in the schedule, rather than leaving it to a manager’s assumptions. Such assumptions can lead to bias if, for example, a manager decides that a student cannot do an early morning shift because of school.

With “blinders-free” data, managers can not only make decisions that are unbiased and based on fact rather than opinion, it also provides them with tangible evidence for any decisions. As the BBC video shows, we have a long way to go before we can completely and accurately say that bias no longer exists. But in the meantime, we can continue to use technology to progress and move toward a “blinder-free” workplace.

Read about some other trends and continue the conversation with us by requesting a demo.

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.

April 26, 2017

SumTotal Advances in Nucleus Research’s Workforce Management Value Matrix to Leader Quadrant


“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein

It is with great joy and pride that we say SumTotal entered the Leader quadrant in the Nucleus WFM Value Matrix 2017; a feat that was in no small part accomplished by the fact that the new features in our SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite make us the first in the industry to bring workforce management, talent, learning, and recruitment all together into one platform.

And it is this that we are most proud of – because it is our goal to be of value to our customers and this news means we are doing this.


Firstly, our SumTotal Workforce Management covers time and attendance, scheduling, absence, and leave management, giving customers the ability to conduct predictive analyses and develop workforce models, and individual managers can benefit from a holistic, real-time view of data from within their system.  Additionally, our SumTotal Core Platform provides a virtual system of record and combines SumTotal-originating data with data from any other system it integrates with to unify Workforce Management.

And how is this of value to you?

Well here’s just a sample.

  • Job/role-based scheduling which provides greater flexibility to accommodate employees’ schedules.
  • Occurrence tracking means employers can now track and auto-send warnings and communicate demerits to employees; it also helps eliminate supervisory biases, and even auto-generate messages prompted by positive events, too.
  • Our time and attendance solution can handle a high level of complexity in absence and leave management. Now an employer can get very detailed cost center position tracking, like say for example an airline manufacturer can look back and figure out who drilled any given rivet, and when.
  • Our time clocks, which cost approximately two-thirds the price of competitors’ devices, don’t force users to return to a kiosk to complete self-service actions such as absence requests.

Secondly, regardless which Workforce Management deployment model a customer chooses – SaaS-delivered via multi-tenant cloud; privately hosted in SumTotal, or on-premise, they all have access to our latest releases with new features and enhancements which, as indicated by Nucleus, is unique among vendors in this year’s WFM Value Matrix.

Because our suite is multi-tenant ready, it is possible to use the tenant model in either private cloud or on-premise to facilitate a distributed enterprise. Again, the value here is that an organization may want to have each of their business units/countries/subsidiaries in a single tenant, yet still share the same consolidated deployment. Now you can have a rapid deployment model as the initial tenant rollout, which can then be template and deployed to additional tenants delivering maximum administrative and control for each business unit/country.

And we aren’t finished. Our latest release includes even more upgrades including a new user portal, fully integrated shift trading capabilities, standardized archiving, and a major upgrade in our advanced reporting.

We will continue to strive to succeed and provide the best value to our customers. To learn more, please download Nucleus Report’s latest WFM Value Matrix.

November 8, 2016

Engaging a Dispersed Workforce: 3 Tips for Managers

Managing people comes with a special—but for me, worthwhile—set of challenges. And managing remote employees adds another layer of complexity. But through my experience leading staff spread across different locations, I’ve learned a few tips for keeping people engaged and connected that I wanted to share with you.

SumTotal Managing a Dispersed Workforce

1. Make it about more than the job.

We know employees (especially top performers) are engaged and driven by work that gives them a sense of accomplishment and lets them feel like they’re contributing to the goals of the organization in a meaningful way.  As an effective manager, you should be able to check the box for every member of your team on this one.


But what about the other stuff – the work that is not a ‘perfect fit’ for their current skills or job descriptions? It takes a conscious effort to create continuous development opportunities for any employee, but with remote workers, this becomes a crucial way to keep them engaged. Make an effort to offer your staff stretch projects that grow some of their less-advanced skills and help them connect across the organization through collaboration with colleagues they don’t typically work with. But, you won’t know which projects interest them unless you…


2. Pick up the phone (or turn on the webcam).

This one seems like a no-brainer, but in today’s digital world people aren’t doing it! I once had a job where a welcome email announcing me went out to the team, I emailed with my new boss about projects and introductions, but she never set aside time for a real conversation until the end of my second week on the job – I went 10 days on the job without ever speaking to my new manager. In today’s hyper-connected world of emails, texts and instant messaging we’re actually interpersonally disconnected.


As a manager, you can’t keep a current pulse on your employee’s development interests unless you’re having regular real-life conversations – don’t rely on last year’s performance process to be your only guidepost for keeping them engaged. Quick check-ins might work in an office environment where you’ll connect with a team member in person when you’re filling up coffee or in an afternoon meeting.  As remote workers, we might think we’re staying connected with daily messaging chats but it just isn’t the same as personal conversation. With a dispersed team, you need to make an effort to create virtual ‘water cooler moments’ to keep your team engaged – whether this means picking up the phone, or turning on video during your next team meeting.


3. As the manager, step aside (sometimes).

With a dispersed team, I find opportunities to remove myself from a project and explicitly ask my team members to collaborate and serve as a sounding board for each other on projects where they wouldn’t naturally connect in that way. In the right instances, removing the hierarchical component can really boost a contributor’s ownership and engagement with the project.


With a lack of physical workspace boundaries, high-performing remote employees can be easily susceptible to ‘brownout’: putting their heads down and plowing through work at all hours of the day because work is accessible. Silently, their level of dissatisfaction climbs and engagement plummets despite their work product staying on track. Creating informal project networks within your dispersed team is a terrific way to keep them engaged, and the teamwork often spills over into other projects or discussions.


Get tips for managing and motivating remote employees from other HR leaders in this Peer Insight.


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.

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 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