How to Find the Right Time and Attendance System for Your Business

With the wide variety of time and attendance systems available on the market, which ones make sense for your cleaning or security business?

One challenge that perennially troubles the security and cleaning industries – or any sector with distributed workforces — is finding the best way to verify your workers are in the right place at the right time. It’s a complicated, sensitive and significant matter that has costly consequences for doing it wrong, or not at all. For example, buddy punching — where one employee clocks in on behalf of another — costs U.S. employers more than $373 million every year.

Time and attendance monitoring has come a long way since the punch-in time clock.

There are many technology solutions available, and finding the most appropriate one at the right price can mean the difference between winning and losing a contract, or between running it at a profit or a loss. Typical solutions include fixed-line telephones, mobile apps with GPS and SMS messaging, fingerprint identification and facial recognition.

But what should you consider when implementing an employee time and attendance system? Keep in mind every set of conditions, group of employees or location could have its own specific needs. So, it’s important that whatever solution you end up with is flexible and allows you to mix and match components to meet multiple challenges. We’ve put together an analysis to guide you towards the right time and attendance solution for your cleaning or security business. 

Performance

The core requirement of any time and attendance system is the ability to verify the identity of a person at a particular location and at a particular time. In all cases, it must be able to do this with a high degree of accuracy and reliability. In some locations and circumstances, this will the most important aspect, especially in instances where someone is gaining access to areas containing sensitive material, data or intellectual property. You must ensure the person clocking in is who they say they are and eliminate the opportunity for “buddy punching”.

Sending an SMS message with a code on arrival might seem straightforward, but simply passing the code on to a buddy is easy, regardless of how often the code changes, and is an obvious vulnerability of this method. The same is true of access control passes which are easily shared and sometimes easily cloned, albeit this is something that manufacturers are trying to address. An effective and well-designed mobile app will capture evidence of the individual or be more integrated with a daily schedule, so the app engages the employee and isn’t solely used for clocking in.

Dedicated biometric systems such as fingerprint identification and facial identification are vastly superior in terms of security. Both methods rely on inherent human measurements and traits, some of which are in three dimensions (3D) and are very difficult to fool. However, fingerprints can be degraded by wear-and-tear, oil, grease, water or dirt, so it is not always as robust a system as you might need.

Fixed line telephones have the advantage of proving location, assuming it uses caller ID. This technology can fail if users share PIN or other ID numbers, so you should only consider systems that have reliable ways of handling attempted fraud.

Convenience

Time is money, so an ideal time and attendance system will be able to operate seamlessly and without delays. It will also need to be simple to use, require minimum effort from the person clocking in and should not require that person to carry any additional identifying equipment. Health and safety are also factors to consider. Does the technology solution require everyone to touch the same surfaces to clock in and out, or can their identity be processed without physical contact?

The SMS, biometric tools and access control are perhaps the most time-consuming to implement. Setting up the software requires device or infrastructure integrations, configuration and enrollment for each user. Of these, biometrics is the most straightforward and robust.

Smartphone apps are more convenient, but they still demand that the workers take time out of their day to open their phones, then open their apps, and then clock in. If this is the only reason they need to open the app, then adoption may be difficult. To overcome that, you must integrate the mobile app into the way they work by including scheduling, task management and other employee self-service features within it.

Cost

While detailed costs of each option depend on a number of factors, it’s important to note that the more technologically advanced methods are not always the most expensive. As the costs of sensors, processing power, software and connectivity continue to fall, solutions that might previously have been dismissed may now be the most cost-effective.

Fixed telephone lines have a cost, albeit negligible these days. Many telephone packages have unlimited calls or minutes which are bundled into packages. There is an obvious cost of installing code generators (for SMS) and implementing biometric systems, access control systems and desktop software to process time and attendance data. Similarly, with mobile apps, the workers may be using their own data allowances. With both SMS and mobile app methods, workers must have suitable mobile phones and agree to use them for this purpose. That is not always the case.

When considering cost, evaluate not just the investment that comes with implementation and maintenance, but also the costs associated with continued errors and unreliability related to manual, or broken, processes and potential time fraud.

The take-away

In an ideal world, what would your perfect time and attendance solution look like in terms of performance, convenience and cost? If you are not an experienced buyer of this technology, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to make these decisions in a vacuum. Talk to cleaning and security technology experts and see if the functionality you’re looking for can be achieved at a price that makes sense. Getting this right can give you a lasting advantage in the competition for customers and for employees.