Expect the Unexpected! Creating a contingency plan for an unplanned system outage.

by | Dec 15, 2021

Legal Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.  Please consult with your organization’s counsel to obtain legal advice with respect to any issue or concern.

An unexpected workforce management system outage can derail essential workforce management operations, from forecasting and scheduling to timekeeping and pay processing. Having a clear path forward to deal with an outage is crucial.

Implementing scaled back scheduling and pay practices for the outage will allow your teams to manage the manual-nature of an outage, while not overburdening your administrative teams. Communicating with your internal stakeholders on a timely basis will ensure everyone understands what’s going on, what you expect from them, and what they can expect from their employer.

The question is: how do you achieve all this when you’re in the middle of a crisis?

We’ve broken the concepts into 6 main steps:

  • Secure Your Data
  • Establish Your Recovery Management Team
  • Communicate with Your Workforce
  • Track Time
  • Track Schedules
  • Plan Your Payroll

Axsium Group’s expertise in Workforce Management and a variety of the market’s top WFM solutions can help any employer develop and execute a contingency plan for tracking labor, maintaining schedules, and support employee engagement during an unplanned outage. If you would like more information or need assistance formulating your complete outage and recovery management plan, please contact us.

Secure Your Data

First, get an understanding of if your data is secure. If this information is not available through communications with your vendor, err on the side of caution and trigger a password reset for single sign-on (if being used). Your outage may be related to a data attack, which can take a wide variety of forms. If it’s a gatekeeper attack it may only prevent access to your system. But if the malware penetrated your databases, your passwords may be compromised.

If you’re required to disclose data breaches based on legislation or for insurance purposes, consider doing that immediately. Of course, consulting your firm’s legal counsel is a necessary step when making any such disclosure.

Establish Your Recovery Management Team

A strong and efficient recovery management team is crucial. Outages create a lot of manual work, so getting a cross-functional team of leaders, subject matter experts, and administrators together will help you make quick decisions and expedite the rollout steps of your contingency plan. You’ll be making decisions about pay and scheduling practices, so make sure you have Executive authorization or representation from your Executive team so you can make decisions in real-time – rather than having a clunky approvals process holding up every step of your recovery.

One of the most important team characteristics will be a strong knowledge of your company’s pay practices. Think about your organization and how you pay different groups. You will need to ensure you have pay practice information for your salaried, hourly, and unionized workforces. If you have location-specific pay practices, you’ll need to factor this into your team composition.

contingency planning Workforce Management System Outage

Communicate With Your Workforce

Make sure your employees understands the nature of the outage, without being too technical in your explanation. In many cases, less is more; be clear and concise while trying to dispel concerns over inaccurate pay or data breaches.

Clearly outline your expectations of your workforce. What do your associates need to know and do? What changes to your punching or scheduling processes do your associates need to be aware of?

Secondly, what are you expecting from your managers? What role do they have to play to ensure employees are paid and are aware of their upcoming shifts? Will you need to give your managers training for new manual processes they will use while you’re resolving the outage?

Understand that you will have frustrated associates and tensions will be high. It’s important to set expectations that it will take time to make historical corrections to resolve pay discrepancies, even once your system is back online. Patience is key!

Track Time

Next think about how are you going to track employee’s hours. If you have accurate schedules, you can use that as a starting point for determining actual hours worked. Your department or location management will be key to providing accurate hours worked to the payroll department.

Do you plan on using paper timecards? If so, consider daily tracking sheets so you can validate them in close to real-time, allowing for quicker processing by your payroll team. The goal is to create less work at the end of the pay period. The more you can do earlier, the less workload you’ll have at the end of the pay period.

Track Schedules

People often say a paper-based schedule becomes out of date the minute you press “Print”. But in this case, paper schedules may be your only tool to get a semi-accurate picture of who is supposed to work and when. A previously printed schedule may not reflect recent vacation/sick days, shift swaps, or newly assigned shifts. Ask your department or location leadership to review the most recent schedule you can find for accuracy and maintain that schedule moving forward.

At all times, you should be storing a single electronic master copy of the schedule on an online shared drive so that any team member can review the schedule information, and everyone is working off the exact same schedule. Making paper copies or other “offline” versions of the schedule may be well-intentioned, but these practices will invariably lead to confusion and frustration for both employees and managers.

Lastly, make sure you pull employee contact information from your HRIS application for callout purposes. And be sure to decide the best callout process, consider calling everyone instead of solely relying on the schedule to indicate if someone can come in. Remember, your paper schedule could be missing information and you might skip someone who could come into work!

contingency planning for Workforce Management System Outages

Plan Your Payroll

Keep in mind that Payroll won’t be “automated” in any way, so wherever possible, start your payroll processing activities as soon as practically possible. Daily timesheets allow for quicker data entry into an Excel spreadsheet, which will likely be one of the only practical ways to import time into your payroll application.

Remember the basics of what your payroll system needs. This will typically include: Employee Number, Date Worked, Earning Code (Paycode), and Number of Hours. The last thing to consider is which application is responsible for determining the wage rate.

If your payroll system was the keeper of wage information, you may need to import “Job Worked” information to derive the correct wage rate. If your WFM system was sending the wage information, remember to include the wage rate information on your import templates.

Know that there will be corrections after the fact, so be sure to set up a process pre-emptively. Communicate with employees the appropriate channel to create a ticket/case with payroll to flag pay discrepancies. Do you have a ticket system that you can leverage? Do you have an email address that the employees can contact? Reducing paper correction slips will help reduce discrepancies “slipping through the cracks”.


At the end of this outage, your ability to overcome this challenging time will make you a stronger employer overall. You will be able to take your contingency plan and make tweaks and changes based on the actual practicality of the processes you put in place. Hopefully, you come out on the other side of an outage with a fresh perspective on how far we’ve come with technology and should serve as a reminder that we need to plan for the unexpected, because no web-based application can ever have 100% up-time.

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