Many organisations have replaced their old fashioned punch card and paper-based ‘clocking in’ procedures with electronic Time and Attendance monitoring systems. While highly effective at automating attendance monitoring, in many cases it is used purely as a standalone application. These were quite basic and designed purely as a data gathering device. Employees simply clocked in and out, and the data used to generate reports for payroll to calculate wages.
Over the last few years, the development of attendance tracking software has progressed at a remarkable rate, both in terms of improving traditional functionality, and expanding the range of benefits and features it offers. It has enabled organisations to overcome some of the barriers associated with attendance monitoring, such as the negative connotation of it being a symbol of mistrust, only benefiting management and HR administration.
Attendance data is now captured by a wide variety of devices ranging from swipe cards, proximity badges, touch screens and biometric sensors to PC’s or even smartphones. These are not only much quicker than filling in paper forms, but provide more reliable and accurate attendance records. Whatever devices are used for employees to clock in, the data captured is in a digital format, transmitted directly to a server and time stamped and thereby ensuring the records are accurate. Unlike manual systems, automatic recording not only avoids the abuse to which manual time sheets can be subjected, but become critical irrefutable evidence in the event of any wage disputes.
Modern systems are not limited to specific locations either. Each clocking-in terminal can have its own IP address, so whether located around one site, at satellite factories or even overseas branches, all terminals can be linked directly to the servers at head office via high speed broadband. The software not only provides an accurate time stamped record for each employee, but can also allocate each record to specific sites or production lines. This is especially useful for the growing number of companies that have introduced flexitime. More importantly, as the data is digital, it can be exported directly to other programmes such as payroll. This not only saves time for HR and payroll staff, but avoids the problem of human error when data has to be manually entered into the system from time sheets.
The payroll modules have become very sophisticated, and can be programmed to calculate overtime and unsocial hours automatically. The immediacy of the data also allows HR staff and departmental management to have fully up to date information to compare against each individual’s contracted hours and each department’s payroll budgets so there are no surprises at the end of the month.
Organisations are not fixed organisms, and are constantly shifting and changing. With this in mind, any software solution has to be flexible so it can adapt in terms of both size and functionality. Modern Attendance Tracking Software can be available in modular form, so companies can just install the functionality they need at the time of purchase, and then bolt on additional modules as their requirements grow. For example, in the early stages a standard time and attendance function integrated with payroll may be all that is required. As the company grows, more versatility can be added by bolting on absence management, staff planning, job costing, access control and even employee self-service modules. It also means the company does not need to buy the full programme with all the bells and whistles if it’s not needed, so saving capital outlay.
Once recorded, the raw attendance data can be processed using a range of additional software modules. These can generate reports for a variety of applications in addition to payroll such as absence management, staff planning and job costing.
Absenteeism and Punctuality
When employees know their working times are recorded accurately and are tamper-proof, it is both a huge incentive to ensure that they arrive on time for their shift and a deterrent to leaving early. This improves punctuality, and reduces absenteeism so helping to ensure that production lines are fully staffed and targets met
An absence management module can provide additional valuable management data. Incorporating sophisticated algorithms for objective analysis of the data, it can produce detailed reports which identify absence patterns, highlight trends and monitor KPI indicators. This is very useful information which can aid mangers to identify potential causes of absence, such as work-related stress, at a very early stage. Being aware of potential issues means action can be taken to counter any problems before they become serious. When new initiatives are introduced, continued monitoring provides an effective means of checking just how effective they are.
With electronic attendance devices, the data is acquired in real-time which means it can be accessed immediately, and reports generated by the software are always fully up to date. Supervisors can see who is on site at any time, so in the event of absences, immediate action can be taken to ensure adequate manning levels are met and production schedules maintained. It also means that managers can ensure full compliance with staffing levels where this is required by law or Health and Safety regulations.
As well as historic reports, the data acquired by time and attendance monitoring can be utilised for future production scheduling and job costing. These take the hassle out of subsequent planning, and allow accurate recording of actual hours versus targets. Supervisors can be alerted immediately if there are under-staffing issues or if production budgets are being exceeded so action can be taken if needed. Managers can also access real-time data showing current manning levels, production budgets and profitability whether for specific projects, individual production lines or the organisation overall.
Do you remember the days when you bought software and received a physical copy? It was all very well until an updated version became available, and to keep up to date you had to purchase an upgrade or another full version. Most organisations are now familiar with software hosted in the Cloud, which is often referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). At a time when most companies are trying to lower costs, it’s reassuring that attendance tracking software fits into this scenario, and is available with 24/7 secure access via any device with an internet connection. A SaaS solution is readily available and very cost effective as there is no capital expense or outlay for additional IT resources. It also guarantees future proofing, as the software hosted in the Cloud is always the latest version. If additional modules are required, they can be accessed immediately, and software maintenance is managed remotely so there are no call outs or interruption of service.
Employees Take Control
The latest time and attendance systems are interactive and interrogative. They allow direct two-way communication between employees and management, increasing both employee empowerment and engagement.
New clocking in terminals such as Bodet’s Kelio Visio X7 feature a touch screen as well as a biometric scanner, while the software incorporates a self-service function. This allows staff to interrogate the system and carry out a range of HR functions themselves. For example, they can check their annual leave allowance so they know how much holiday time they have left. Holiday or time-off requests can be made easily and quickly as staff clock in or out, so no need to fill in manual request forms. As soon as the request is submitted, the supervisor or administrator will be notified by e-mail, and can then action it straight away, notifying the employee whether the request is approved. The record is live on the system, so there is no need for spreadsheets or wall charts, saving time for both employees and management, expediting the whole process.
The interactive process can go even further. As employees clock in or out, they can be alerted to any personal memos or notices applicable to them which they can then view on screen. This not only ensures that staff are aware of what’s going on, but it provides a really personal touch. How much better for employee engagement to receive personal messages as they clock in or out than to rely on an impersonal staff notice board which is often rarely checked. It makes employees feel they are an integral and important part of the company, not just another number on the payroll.
Not everybody works in an office. Sales teams, contract service staff, mobile cleaners and drivers amongst others regularly work off site, and it is not realistic for them to visit HQ every day simply to clock in and out. Modern time and attendance software can be available via a mobile app which allows staff to clock in using their mobile phone or tablet. There is an additional benefit as the software can use the geo-location facility of the smart phone to log their clocking location. If an issue arises that requires urgent attention, managers know who is nearest and can attend.
In addition to working off-site, the need for a better work-life balance has resulted in more companies offering their staff an opportunity to work from home. Home working doesn’t apply across the board. Service industries such as retail and care homes require staff on site all day, and manufacturing industries may require strict shifts to meet completion targets. However, where it’s a viable option, home working has many benefits for both the employer and employee. In these cases, staff can clock in via their PC, laptop or smart phone, giving them peace of mind that head office knows they are working. Managers can also use the mobile app and access management data and reports in real time, even when they are out of the office.
The latest time and attendance software has come a long way from being just an electronic record of staff attendance. Issues such as employee engagement, flexible working and wellbeing are increasingly at the forefront of organisational thinking, as businesses struggle to maintain momentum both in terms of productivity, and attracting and retaining talented members of staff. It’s important that any software they use reflects the needs of modern business, and is able to support best practice.
Through greater flexibility and additional functionality such as increased communication, absence management and the tracking of cost centres, modern attendance tracking software is able to do just that, and at the same time strengthen employee empowerment and reinforce employee engagement.
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