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Northwest continually strives to serve and enhance our campus and community, and our January employee spotlight has demonstrated innovation and good stewardship by focusing on “going green” and working together to improve efficiency of University operations. This month we highlight Payroll Manager Barbara Walk, and Payroll Clerk Shannon Heitman. These two employees have worked together to lead several programs that support the overall mission and vision of the University for both student and employee success. Barb and Shannon’s contributions and leadership in these initiatives have helped the University to move forward through the use of technology and innovation.
The first substantial achievement has been the implementation of Web Time Entry. Web Time Entry currently allows student employees to record their hours worked anywhere they have computer access. A pilot phase began in the fall of 2009, and full implementation took effect in September of 2012. Before Web Time Entry was enforced, paper timesheets were used. The process for paper timesheets was very time-consuming and involved three different steps to check for accuracy. First, the student employee would record the time worked and hand-calculate the number of hours down to the minute. Then, the student employee would turn in the timesheet to the supervisor, who would double-check their entries. Once the supervisor approved, then it was passed to Payroll to do the hand calculations to ensure accuracy for a final time. This new computerized system has proven to reduce paper usage, save invaluable amounts of time, and moderate manual calculations for all those involved in the payroll system. Judy Wilmes, Accounts Payable Supervisor and 2012 Student Employment Supervisor of Year comments, “Physical time sheets used to take a lot of time calculating with quarters of hours and such. Now it is much easier with Web Time Entry. It saves a lot of effort and time because it is automatically calculated for you”. It has also allowed for monitoring throughout the month. Students are able to comment within the system for days that their hours may look amiss. For instance, if a student has a cancelled class and chooses to work during that time, they can comment underneath their recorded hours for that day to inform their supervisor of the situation. This prevents miscommunication and confusion on hours worked by a student employee. Another advantage of Web Time Entry has been the change in the timeline. The payroll process is no longer scheduled at the end of every month. Instead this program has allowed the payroll to be spread throughout the duration of the month, creating less stress and timeliness issues.
Another great accomplishment has been the development of Accelapay and direct deposit for student employees. Accelapay is a newly introduced concept that allows students’ paychecks to be presented to them in the form of a debit card. These cards are issued through U.S. Bank and mailed directly to the student employees’ residence. Direct deposit, on the other hand, is completely electronic. Employee paychecks are processed and deposited directly into the recipient’s bank account. Automatic e-mail verification is then sent to the employee where they are able to download and print their deposit receipt. Both of these payment options have eliminated check-printing costs, the manual process of stuffing individual checks into envelopes, and the Support Services desk having to hand out paychecks.
An additional perk of Payroll’s efforts have come in the form of online W-2s. This option is available for all employees as well as student employees at Northwest. This particular concept has been a large commodity for student employees who file for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). It is essential that the earlier you obtain your W-2 information, the sooner you are able to file income taxes which are a key component for the FASFA application process. This has been a great relief to those who feel the urgency of filing the FASFA before the April 1 deadline every year.
When Walk and Heitman were both asked what they enjoy most about the new implementations, they quickly praised the accuracy of the systems and the team work involved across departments. They further shared that they come to work every day with the determination to help and be involved in such a personal aspect such as employee pay. All changes have affected every individual employee on our campus for the better. Please join us in congratulating Payroll’s great accomplishments and efforts of helping to convert the University’s pay processes into a more automated system.