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Keeping up with the times

Business Info discovers the benefits of modern time and attendance systems.

Keeping track of employees’ time and attendance can be an administrative nightmare for HR, but today it doesn’t have to be. Businesses can massively simplify the process by utilising advanced time and attendance systems, and demand for such systems is on the up. According to a report by Technavio 1, the global market for attendance management systems is set to grow at a CAGR of 10% to 2020.

Neil Pickering, Customer and Insight Manager, Kronos
Neil Pickering, Customer and Insight Manager, Kronos

For Neil Pickering, customer and industry insight manager at Kronos, saving time is one of the biggest benefits of automating time and attendance management.

“Employees are an organisation’s most valuable asset and its most controllable expense. Yet many organisations still rely on manual, semi-automated or disparate systems to track employee time and attendance. An automated time and attendance solution simplifies previously time-consuming administrative tasks, such as approving timesheets, ensuring accuracy of time entry and correcting exceptions, responding to time-off requests, and managing schedules,” he said.

Pickering added: “Using an automated system will help to streamline these processes for managers, while also increasing efficiency and productivity, as time can be spent on activities that add more business value, rather than administration. By drilling into the data, managers can start to understand where efficiency gains can be made, enabling them to utilise workers as efficiently as possible to meet demand, reduce unnecessary overtime and drive greater business performance.”

Richard Manby, managing director of time management solutions provider Bodet Ltd, points out that as the data collected by these systems can be monitored in real time, managers and supervisors know instantly of any lateness or absences, giving them the opportunity to allocate additional staff to maintain productivity levels.

According to Nick Whiteley, MD of hfx, an automated system instead of manual timekeeping with paper time sheets also has environmental benefits as it reduces reliance on paper for reporting.

Growing appeal

Attendance monitoring system
Attendance monitoring system

Whiteley adds that whilst clocking in and out has traditionally been associated with manufacturing, many more sectors are now recognising the value of T&A solutions.

“Manufacturing has always been the strongest user of Time and Attendance solutions, with logistics and the service industries coming close behind. However, we are finding the appeal of these solutions being valued across a greater number of sectors,” he said.

Moreover, whereas T&A used to be seen merely as an automation tool for feeding data into payroll and cutting down on data entry and associated costs, businesses now recognise that it can be used as a strategic tool that can positively affect the top line of business revenue.

Someone else who has noticed a change in the profile of T&A customers is Bodet’s Richard Manby. He said: “The development of high speed Internet and the growth of globalisation mean we now find that international groups such as hotels, call centres and organisations offering logistics solutions are benefiting from the immediacy and flexibility that interactive time and attendance solutions can provide. There is now greater accountability of staffing levels across a range of sectors, so we are getting more enquiries from care homes, councils and hospitals.”

He says that any organisation wanting a clear overview of working activity would benefit from Bodet’s solutions.

Flexible working

Annabel Jones, HR Director, ADP UK
Annabel Jones, HR Director, ADP UK

This is particularly so now that flexible working is so common and more organisations are exposed to the difficulties of coping with a complex and varied workforce. Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK, argues that T&A systems can help such companies better predict how to schedule workers and distribute workload.

“ADP has found in its study of 10,000 workers across Europe that 27% of UK workers work totally flexible hours. This means that more people than ever are working remotely.

“For many organisations this is a great opportunity, as it means they can use remote workers to tap into extensive networks of professionals based all over the globe, with a variety of specialisms. However, it is essential that companies have the right processes and technology to benefit from the agility of a connected global workforce,” she said.

Pickering of Kronos agrees that without technology, flexible working could become unmanageable. Kronos’ technology enables access through an app so that employees can clock-in from a smartphone, request shift changes and volunteer their services when cover is required.

He points out that this flexibility benefits managers too. “Managers can use tablet devices to monitor activity on the move, enabling them to have a detailed overview of their workforce and provide real-time feedback to employees, adding value to the business instantly, even when they are out of their office and on the shop floor,” he said.

Bodet’s Manby adds that because the system is automated, it can accommodate irregular shifts, changing hours and overtime without the risk of human error. “As the system records when each employee starts and ends their working day, the software can easily accommodate complex shifts patterns and flexitime. Standard shifts can be programmed into the system so any additional time worked is automatically recorded and overtime calculated,” he said.

Win-win situation
An advanced T&A system benefits staff directly, as well as the employer and those involved in administration. It enables employees to log in remotely, supports a better work/life balance and lets them work flexibly with the peace of mind that they will get paid for the hours they work.

Pickering points out that such reated fairly and that employers follow the law. “In the logistics sector, where the scheduling of skilled drivers is an issue, our solutions are critical to support fair shift patterns and the control of working hours to meet legal requirements,” he said.

Using an automated system allows for data collected to be monitored in real time
Using an automated system allows for data collected to be monitored in real time

he software can automatically flag issues such as early/late arrivals and extended or skipped breaks, and systems help ensure that staff are alert managers to make sure they are complying with regulations such as the Working Time Directive.

T&A systems can help with health and safety compliance and the protection of lone workers by monitoring not just when staff are working, but what they are doing and where they are.

And they can provide employees with a better experience and make the data held about them more accessible. For example, Bodet’s Kelio Visio X7 terminal features a touchscreen display and software that allows staff to view their own attendance data and remaining holiday allocations.

“Employees can also use the terminal to request time off, book holidays, view company bulletins, link to their company intranet, take part in company surveys and use the suggestion box app,” explained Manby.

Biometrics and machine learning T&A systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated, incorporating new technologies that improve and simplify both the process of calculating payroll for HR and the experience of clocking in/out for staff.

Biometric technology is one of these developments. “As well as proximity cards or fob detectors, modern T&A systems can incorporate fingerprint or full palm biometric sensors,” explained Manby. “Our latest terminals also offer the ability to take a photo at the point of clocking, which is stored against the person who has clocked in or out. These methods of clocking in and out provide irrefutable identification and eradicate ‘buddypunching’ where staff clock their friends into work when in fact they are not working.”

Advances in analytics and machine learning are also having an impact, by providing a better overview of the workforce. Neil Pickering believes that these technologies will become even more important in the future. “HR departments will be able to process large amounts of data on a daily basis and provide HR with actionable insights. By bringing together all of the workforce data, machine learning can help HR make better decisions by identifying trends which may have otherwise gone unnoticed by the human eye,” he said.

1 Technavio, Global Attendance Systems Management Market 2016-2020

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