How to Find the Right Time and Attendance Technology Solution for Your Business
With the wide variety of time and attendance methods available on the market, which ones make sense for your cleaning or security business?
In part one of this series, we looked at the importance of proper time and attendance systems, and how the basic task of verifying your employees are in the right place at the right time is still a significant challenge in the support services industry.
Whether you’re a exploring a brand system or reviewing your existing one, you need to consider how well a solution will perform the job of identifying and recording both people and their locations, the convenience of the system for those who use it, and the real costs associated with the various options.
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 help to guide you towards the right time and attendance solution for your business.
In all cases, you want to 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 straight forward, but simply passing the code on to a buddy is easy, irrespective of how often the code changes, and is an obvious vulnerability of this system. Instant messaging tools, group chats and the like all expose the vulnerability. 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.
Similarly, with mobile apps, vulnerabilities can exist in some systems that still allow an employee to clock in someone else in a couple of seconds. Even when the phone requires biometric data, there is a fall-back option to enter a code in case of system failure. An effective and well-designed 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. Less is not more in this sense.
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 thus are very difficult to fool. One downside of fingerprint identification is that in some environments, fingerprints can be degraded by wear-and-tear, oil, grease, water or dirt, so it is not always as robust a system as we might need. The sensors themselves are also prone to vandalism.
Fixed line telephones have the advantage of proving location, assuming it uses caller line ID (CLID) and isn’t limited by ‘Blocked CLID’ technology. Clearly, if a user calls from the approved location (the caller line) at the right time you have the time and proof of attendance. This technology can fail if users share PIN numbers so you should only consider systems that have reliable ways of handling attempted fraud. For example, you could require challenge questions. If you don’t have your fail-safes in place, this technology is very easily used to buddy punch.
Desktop login tends to work against flexible working trends. They can fail when users have to travel or attend meetings frequently or have to deal with start-of-day workloads that are common in cleaning and security jobs, and are not a common feature of time and attendance systems in this marketplace.
The SMS, biometric tools, access control and desktop methods 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 materially 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 it is likely that you will witness a level of non-adoption and complaint about app ease-of-use, availability and the like, much of which will be born out of frustration rather than anything you could easily address. Success will come from making this a desirable part of the workers’ day and integrating this app into the way that they work.
Using a fingerprint scanner avoids the problem of having to fish out your phone, but it can lead to delays if you have a large group of people waiting at the scanners. We would recommend you think hard about this part of the process. Biometrics come in two types; Verification and Identification. Verification is a two-step process, identification is one step. Fewer steps are better to avoid delays at book-on times, and identification is a stronger biometric process from a security-of-identity perspective, so this seems to be the obvious solution, especially for large groups who arrive and depart at the same or similar or times.
In terms of contact biometrics or non-contact, thought has to be given to the environment. Degradation of fingerprints by dirt, oil, or grease is a factor, just not that often. Finger-vein helps reduce this further but in a healthcare environment, you should also be alert to infection being spread by indirect physical contact, usually by touching a contaminated surface, so the need for all workers to touch the same sensor is far from ideal. Gold plated readers and antimicrobial readers and casings, or contactless (non-contact) biometrics should be considered.
Facial recognition has the advantage of being contactless, and the better solutions have high speed detection and identification. This means workers can be detected as they approach and the camera identifies them in less than one second, so no need for delays or distractions.
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. In both of these methods, we’re assuming the workers have suitable mobile phones and agree to use them for this purpose. That is not always the case.
Fixed telephone lines have a cost, albeit negligible these days. Many telephone packages have unlimited calls or minutes so it’s all bundled into the call packages. But, the value always offsets the costs. If your client’s site doesn’t have inclusive call packages and has an issue with the costs, you can always use the alternative tools we have talked about here, or you can get a free-phone number from you suppliers (WFM or telco) and offer that to those clients who object.
Cost needs to be offset by value — both to you and the employee. Make getting into work easier, more efficient and ideally, make the experience useful. “What do I do today?”, and “What do I need to know?”, or “How is my pay or vacation time building up?”, are useful ways of adding value.
Detailed costing of any option is beyond the scope of this article, as it needs to consider the numbers of people to be processed, the level of security needed, and the specific characteristics of the locations. But it is very important to note that when all factors are considered, 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.
First, consider what you would like to have, in an ideal world: What would your perfect time and attendance look like in terms of performance, convenience and cost? Then talk to the experts and see if that 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.