Consolidating Labor Hours

By Tom Steinert-Threlkeld  |  Posted 2004-01-06 Print this article Print

The key fix: Consolidating the hours worked by each seasonal hire. A single employee might work for as many as three different operating departments of a resort, each at a different pay rate, from the restaurant to the lodge to the ski facility. The time worked each day for each employer had to be combined into a paycheck for a single period. Easier said than done.

Thats why PeopleSoft sent in reinforcement development and consulting crews, Silvera says. "It took them a while to come to the realization that [the problem] wasnt just us," she says. The vendors software had to be reworked if the system was to handle the nuances of time and labor in seasonal industries.

"Initially, we did run into some snags," said Becky Mason, director of customer marketing for PeopleSoft. But dealing with the "extremely complex pay types" at Vail Resorts helped the software company develop such features as a desktop pagelet that summarizes where paychecks are in the approval process and alerts that highlight when an employee is about to hit overtime.

Take the case of the Heavenly resort, which was added to the system in 2002. Not only do hours need to be consolidated, state laws have to be reconciled. California requires that a person be paid overtime for any work beyond 40 hours per week in summer. But, in winter, the breakpoint becomes 48 hours because of an allowance for seasonal industries. Regardless of the season, though, if any person works more than 10 hours in a single day, anywhere within the business, that person is entitled to time-and-a-half—and double-time after 12 hours, according to Heavenly controller Paul Pfotenhauer.

By the time the rollout reached Heavenly, the vexing problems of the conversion to the PeopleSoft system had been addressed and fixed. Not only was there a mechanism for consolidating hours from multiple places of employment within the same resort and allowing for state laws, the workings of the software had been altered to make life easier for resort managers who resented the system.

These were folks who wanted to spend time with guests first, employees second and systems least of all, recalls Tim April, the PeopleSoft team leader for Vail Resorts. "Any time spent in front of a computer is considered a waste of time by managers," he says.

The default display on the system became a view of each resorts 14-day pay period, so it was easy to see how each employees pay stacked up. Hyperlinks were added to help the managers move easily between related screens. And a molehill was made out of a mountain of distraction when the "delete" button was moved from a spot where it could not be seen to a prominent place on the left side of the screen.

While the problems werent completely resolved until the tail-end of the 2001-2002 season, Daly notes, savings were immediate. Managers could keep track of employees hours well enough to make sure part-timers were indeed part-time and not unexpectedly entitled to health or other benefits reserved for full-time workers. They reduced their time spent tracking hours worked, and increased their ability to manage workers time in order to hit profit-margin goals, Controller Pfotenhauer says. Clerical pay could be cut, by the tune of $85,000 a year.

Next Page: Significant savings with ERP system, but declining earnings.

Tom was editor-in-chief of Interactive Week, from 1995 to 2000, leading a team that created the Internet industry's first newspaper and won numerous awards for the publication. He also has been an award-winning technology journalist for the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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