Managing people

Why spreadsheets take the ‘human’ out of HR – and what to do about it

Managing annual leave with spreadsheets can be tedious for HR professionals as they slow things down. Here's why using HR software makes life easier.

Managing annual leave can be a headache for employers and HR professionals. Even a small workforce is tricky to manage, particularly during holiday seasons when most people want to take leave.

An Ipsos poll found that only 57% of South Africans somewhat or strongly agree that they will take at least a week off work in the next year, and 35% of respondents don’t think they’ll use up all their leave days.

Requesting and tracking annual leave should be a seamless process for you as an HR professional and your people.

HR software offers a host of features and tools that reduce the challenges associated with annual leave – features you will never get from a spreadsheet.

What is annual leave?

Annual leave is a worker’s paid holiday. Most employees are entitled to 21 consecutive days annual leave (or 15 working days). Public holidays don’t necessarily have to be given as paid leave, and you can choose to include them as part of your annual leave.

Agency workers, workers with irregular hours, and part-time workers are all entitled to annual leave.

Why spreadsheets don’t work for annual leave

There are many aspects to consider when managing annual leave, even for a small workforce. Trying to keep everything on spreadsheets is challenging for various reasons, but mostly because it doesn’t set a solid foundation for business growth.

Manual tasks and reliance on enormous spreadsheets make teams reactive to people-related. With a decent HR infrastructure in place, you can improve efficiencies, instil a winning and rewarding culture, and provide meaningful and accurate HR data to help drive the business forward.

Five time wasters linked to spreadsheets

  1. They are time-consuming

One of the biggest disadvantages of using spreadsheets is how much admin time they require, which wastes countless hours each week.

Payroll and HR staff often have to capture the same information across multiple spreadsheets and scroll through entire sheets to get to the data they need.

When someone requests leave, HR staff have to go through the spreadsheets again to ensure no one else is off at that time.

  1. Lack of security

Data sensitivity is more serious now than ever before, and spreadsheets don’t have the up-to-date security measures that companies require to protect their employee information.

People are inclined to share spreadsheets back and forth via email and often do not bother password-protecting them. Email servers are a constant target for cybercriminals, which leaves any confidential information on spreadsheets at risk.

  1. It’s difficult to keep them current

The data that HR and payroll practitioners work with changes all the time – new staff, staff leaving, holidays, and sick days.

As an organisation grows, tracking this kind of data in real-time becomes nearly impossible. Handling annual leave in this manner also compromises the accuracy and timeliness of your payroll.

  1. Workers can’t track their leave balances

HR and payroll staff are in charge of managing all employees’ annual leave. Having this data on a spreadsheet makes the process laborious and inaccurate, meaning that delayed responses to queries are likely to result, which in turn affects employer-employee relations.

  1. Collaboration isn’t supported

Data protection laws such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) prescribe who can access what employee information. If a request for an annual leave summary comes from a manager or senior-level employee regarding how many annual leave days their team has left, HR and payroll staff will need to redact information in order to share only what is appropriate.

This kind of straightforward request shouldn’t take so much time and effort to complete.

HR software eliminates many challenges as it:

  • Allows for self-service. Through HR software, staff can check their own leave balances and request time off themselves. This frees up a lot of HR’s time, and employees enjoy the convenience.
  • Automates processes and calculations. HR software automatically updates and calculates based on staff status, saving hours for sifting through spreadsheets to update data. For example, if an employee moves from part-time to full time, the software will automatically calculate their new annual leave accrual and adjust it accordingly.
  • Enables you to respond faster. HR software organises annual leave data in an intuitive and customisable way. Now, when you receive an enquiry about how staff are using their leave, you can easily extract only the applicable data without breaking any data protection laws and allows you to provide a proactive HR service to the business.
  • Integrates with payroll software to manage the entire employee experience. Digitalising your HR function allows you to connect with payroll software for a single source of employee data. This way it is possible to manage their tenure in the business from the very beginning, all with one system.

Saying goodbye to spreadsheets

Using HR software for your annual leave processes is a must for future business. These steps will help you move from spreadsheets to software.

  1. Set a timeline. It will take time for your staff to adjust to these changes, so it’s essential to consider this when you decide how soon you would like to make the switch.
  2. Communicate the change with staff. Tell your staff that these changes will improve the HR service they receive. Draw attention to what’s in it for them: it’ll be easier to request leave, check their holiday balances, and plan for time off. Also, let them know when the switchover will happen so that they can prepare.
  3. Provide training. When you have a multi-generational workforce, ‘user-friendly’ is relative—plan to provide training, so everyone is at ease with using the new software.
  4. Encourage feedback. You need to know how your staff are coping with the new system, and how well they received the training. Using this feedback, you can gauge the overall success of the migration.

Don’t let tedious tasks linked to annual leave slow you down and prevent you from providing excellent employee service.

Using software instead of spreadsheets will future-proof your business and let you embrace new technology as it becomes available

Why spreadsheets take the ‘human’ out of HR – and what to do about it