Payday

Guest columnist Andrew Fackler argues that Iowa State's new program Workday is doing more bad than good for working students. Fackler discusses his personal struggles with the program regarding pay, as well as problems experienced by others.

Iowa State’s new HR and payroll software Workday has been hailed as a great technological leap in how the university operates by top administrators and the company itself, yet it seems as though the opinions of many professors, staff and especially student workers tell another story and are not being heard.

My short time with the program thus far has been incredibly stressful, and only displays a handful of issues with the program. 

I work two jobs for the university — one in the department of special collections at Parks Library, and one as a graduate assistant in the department of community and regional planning. Administering payroll through AccessPlus, this was never an issue, but Workday was clearly not built to juggle two jobs done by one person.

Every time I check in at the library, I must manually change three different settings before clocking in because my “default” job is my assistantship, and there is no way to set it to default to the other.

In addition, this default means that my supervisor at Parks cannot view any of my information (like she can all the other students) beyond my submitted hours for approval, and so if I have any problems, I must immediately go up the chain of command to figure out the issue, as her hands are tied.

The real fatal flaw with this, however, is pay. For the past year, I was paid a monthly stipend at the end of each month for my assistantship, and bi-monthly for my hourly work at the library. This is how each of these jobs is supposed to pay, and I was paid on time exactly as stated every month prior.

Yet on Oct. 15, I received nothing. Being a graduate student, money does not exactly come easily, so concern set in quickly and I began looking into it. As it turns out, I was paid for all of September at the end of that month. In a way this is my fault for not noticing until then, but why did it suddenly make this change? Why was I not told anything? And why is it my responsibility to make a bunch of noise just to get paid for my hourly work on the days that I have contractually been told I will be by the university?

Luckily I have some savings and a support system through which I can get emergency funds in the meantime, but some students in a similar position may not.

Shifting from bi-monthly to monthly budgeting is a huge change, especially for students already living paycheck to paycheck, and having it sprung upon you could put students in a very rough situation very quickly if they are expecting pay and do not receive it.

When my supervisor asked if this could be fixed, I was given a reply laced with HR jargon basically stating that this is just how it will be now for students who have any kind of monthly job, because the system cannot separate the two.

Our shiny new software apparently cannot do what our decades-old previous one could with no issue.

My problems with Workday may be quite specific, but the entire implementation has felt rushed and unfriendly. Communication to students from the beginning has been very bad — student workers were bombarded with a flurry of emails in July telling them to update various information in Workday, yet no general email went out simply describing what Workday even was or clarifying that yes, it is ultimately replacing AccessPlus.

Talking with professors, staff and other student employees, I have only heard of negative experiences. From people getting overpaid and needing to pay it back; to students who thought their AccessPlus information transferred but it did not so they were not paid at all; and to staff being shown an early build of the software only for the final build to be totally different, it seems like everyone I talk to has a strong opinion about Workday.

Even the front-end of the system itself is lacking, as the website is barebones, icons and labels for tasks do not always do what you would expect and there are essentially no customization options. Everything looks prettier, and now there’s an app, but that does not mean that everything magically works better.

I understand the need to upgrade our software, and the engine behind Workday appears capable of doing what the university needs with the right tweaks, feedback and patience. But the lack of communication, rushed rollout and problems whose solutions are “tough luck” are unacceptable from such an important and robust part of operating such a large institution.

I genuinely hope it improves drastically before AccessPlus is phased out forever.

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