TimeClock Plus Implementation Requires Better Communication

 This fall, returning students braced themselves for several changes in the way things are run at Oberlin. However, despite the good intentions and planning of the Human Resources and Student Employment offices, the unveiling of the new payment system for student and staff workers — TimeClock Plus — has been underwhelming, to say the least. Coverage of the new system is available on page 1 of this issue (“Oberlin’s Shift to Electronic Payment System Causes Controversy”).

On the student and professional worker front, communication regarding TimeClock Plus has been negligible. The application was not mentioned, let alone demonstrated, during student treasurer training. Furthermore, no emails directly informing students about the shift were sent, and it seems like most offices on campus — such as the Office of the Student Treasurer, Student Finance Committee, Office of Student Employment, and the Student Union — are unable to answer questions or clarify confusion about the new process. While Oberlin’s Compensation/Payroll webpage does offer tutorials and other resources to help users operate the application, the only point of contact for inquiries regarding the application is an email address with no appended timeframe of response or point person to contact if issues are not resolved. 

We do not fault HR for switching the compensation system from physical to digital timecards. It is clear that this decision was made in an effort to maximize efficiency and convenience, an important improvement moving forward. And certainly, students should expect hiccups when engaging with new technology and be reasonably patient during the transition. 

What we take issue with is the way in which this change was sprung as a surprise on students — as well as some College employees — midway through the first week of the semester. Many of the decisions that have been implemented over the last three weeks should have been made and communicated well in advance of the semester, in order to prepare both students and supervisors. Furthermore, the lack of communication and support during this transition has caused a great deal of anxiety among students who are confused about the new technology and unsure how regularly their paychecks will arrive. 

While it is true that some students at Oberlin are privileged enough to be unaffected by a lapse in payment, many Obies are also low-income students on financial aid. It is unacceptable that the offices involved in implementing TimeClock Plus did not consider the consequences — or worse, considered the consequences and accepted them — of rolling out something as important as student and staff wages so last-minute. 

This is not the first time such a financial transition has been poorly carried out. Returning students will remember last spring, when once again, mid-semester, student employees paid by OST were asked to submit Google Forms in lieu of timecards. Many students, despite compliance, were not compensated for several pay periods. Eventually, we were asked to revert to the physical timecards for the semester, because the digital forms did not actually work. While the student workers not linked to the Student Union have actually been paid by logging their hours on TimeClock Plus — thus proving the application’s functionality — there are still many students who haven’t been given access to, or information about, when they will be able to use the app in order to get paid. 

After the panic caused by a similar decision last semester, we cannot offer HR or the other offices involved in administering TimeClock Plus another pass for making such a transition without considering all stakeholders. This level of disorganization regarding employment and wages is unjustifiable. Further, HR and other offices need to acknowledge that TimeClock Plus is not a one-size-fits-all solution — stipended positions need to continue using timecards, a system that has worked reasonably well for the last several years. 

As the TimeClock Plus rollout continues, HR and other campus offices must be diligent in communicating to students, staff, and supervisors about how the system will be applied moving forward. This transition — while made, it appears, for good reason — has been shrouded in mystery, and left many, especially students, wondering about the stability of their College-related income in the near future. Students have shown themselves willing to be as patient as possible through this process; we ask the offices behind the implementation of TimeClock Plus to meet us halfway and ensure that the next few weeks proceed more smoothly than the previous few have.