Thursday, 14 February 2013

Casual Working

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We’ve been working up to a rapid improvement event for the University’s casual worker registration and payment processes for some time (it was one of the original processes we identified as needing something drastic doing to it back in July of last year).  Everyone was agreed on the necessity, but finding the right time when the right people could come together was difficult.

Along the way the scope of the project grew, with the addition of pensions auto-enrolment and the requirement to collect better data for HESA. The additions were sensible but did cause us concern. Auto-enrolment in particular seemed likely to be problematic as it would entail the collection of extra data from departments rather than less. We didn’t want to be put in a position where the result of a process review was more bureaucracy rather than less!

In theory the process is quite simple – worker fills in a registration form, which is checked by the worker’s department, passed to HR/Payroll who enter it on the computer system. The worker can then submit a claim form for the hours worked, which is again checked by the department and sent on to Payroll for entry on the system and payment by the monthly casual payroll run.

In reality of course, there are a whole series of spanners jamming the works. Forms are confusing and get filled in wrong, which means the department and/or HR and Payroll have to query them or guess what they might mean.  Forms get lost in the post, in the department, or in HR and Payroll. Claim forms get submitted before registration forms, so HR and Payroll get caught in a waiting game. Workers and departments have no idea whether a particular claim has been processed – and so on and so on.

So the 5-day improvement event we’ve just run had a lot of spanner extraction work to do.

After a lot of work mapping the current process, the project team was keen to make progress on a new process. We looked at the two forms and came up with five flipchart pages of problems with their design. Some of the group were assigned to redesigning registration form while others looked at the claim process. We were amazed that after a short conversation, the team abolished the claim form and replaced it with a simple timesheet.  Doing this simplified the claim process enormously. Combined with simplification of the registration form and a defined method for receipt of forms and timesheets in HR and Payroll, we’ve managed to reduce the number of process steps from 137 to 64.

What we found particularly interesting and encouraging about this review was that everybody, both in the team and the wider group of stakeholders, was wholly enthusiastic about the overhaul of the process, and that those who came to the presentation on the Friday were very supportive of the redesign. One attendee said “I think it’s going to be so much simpler – not having all of those claim forms will be great!”

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