Computing Limited has been installing Time and Attendance (T&A) software and systems since 1986. While there are many reasons touted by organisations for introducing T&A systems, including ensuring Working Time Directive and Health & Safety compliance, in our experience the real driver is a tacit desire to maximise productivity and minimise costs by tackling absenteeism and increasingly by implementing the most efficient working practices. To win the fight, one needs clear information and T&A technology is the foundation stone of “addressing the issue”.
In essence, T&A systems give management real-time sight of what their employees are doing and when. Senior management have a strong desire to negate the possibility of a shirker culture hitting productivity. Organisations are least able to afford poor productivity right now and where sadly, forced redundancies are required T&A information does help highlight those employees that are “swinging the system” and chances are they will be targeted first. Hard working staff too do not appreciate co-workers not pulling their weight either; as it impacts their workload. They will support employers identifying who always arrives late, leaves early or takes long lunches T&A can also be used to ensure that employees are treated consistently across departments. This negates the problem of different managers applying differing degrees of leniency where lateness and absence is concerned. Inter-departmental jealousies are thus eliminated.
For T&A technology to be effective some consideration should be given to the data-capture method to be employed. I would definitely recommend physically clocking-in and this should be done as close to the workplace as possible. Even if this requires a greater initial investment in hardware, it will certainly pay dividends in the long term. Clocking is particularly valuable where a large number of agency staff are used, enabling employers to ensure that they are correctly billed. T&A technology has come a long way: most call centre operatives now clock in at their desks on their PCs and we are increasingly asked to provide solutions using mobile phones, GPRS, and facial recognition technology for field-based staff, homeworkers and challenging environments so organisations can monitor remote workers in the same way as internal staff. The cynics might say that this ensures remote operatives are “actually working when they say they are” but from an employee viewpoint it also underpins lone worker safety.
For those whose ethos is strictly draconian, T&A systems can support zero tolerance cultures but they are just as useful for reward and support as for penalty. Real-time information allows for early intervention where problems with particular employees, managers or departments are identified. Where the problem exists outside work most caring employers will actively seek to help employees in difficulty, be this through temporary rearrangement of hours or a permanent flexible working arrangement. If people can fit their working time around outside commitments their ability to arrive ‘on-time’ may be enhanced. You will benefit from their presence rather than having to manage their absence/lateness.
Organisations that introduce flexible working arrangements or make other changes to working patterns are not doing so for purely altruistic reasons: it is often a move made to improve productivity and reduce costs.
An interesting example is R-TEK Limited of Merthyr Tydfil, part of the international operations of Kasai Kogyo Co. LTD. of Japan and Visteon. R-TEK supplies high quality interior automotive components, for Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK and Honda Manufacturing UK in Swindon. With the recent decimation of the car industry, nowhere has felt the impact of the downturn more harshly. They have used T&A software as part of their technology led fight-back. R-TEK’s experienced management team was keen to maximise the efficiency of their operations. Part of this process was to review the way that the company used technology.
With approximately 200 employees working differing hours and a variety of shift-patterns, across the business, it was decided to install an effective T&A solution. As R-TEK Human Resources Manager, Alan Culliford explains; “Managing overtime is extremely important. I will now be able to see who is doing what, by section, department and even gender. Any allegations or suspicions of favouritism can be easily investigated. The absence mapping facility will also be of great use too. Overall, the efficiencies derived from the new system will save us a great deal of leg work and ensure greater management control.”
Looking forward, the company is moving to Demand Scheduling, whereby employees will have a set number of paid working hours per week allocated to them and any additional hours worked will be banked for use when demand is low. It is intended that this will deliver stability for employees, guaranteeing them a set monthly salary as well as improving overall business efficiency. Software will greatly simplify the management of these processes.
Getting the right systems in place Implementing flexible working places additional burdens on Human Resource and Payroll teams. Having employees working a variety of shifts and different hours is a huge administrative burden for Payroll, particularly in hourly paid environments. Capturing employee hours using manual timesheets and then converting these into payroll data is labour intensive and error-prone. Add varying overtime rates and the process becomes even more complex. The solution is to have the right T&A information readily available on the right systems cutting administration time and costs considerably. Even in salaried environments, it is reassuring to know where employees are. From security and Health and Safety perspectives it will at least provide up to the minute information on who is in the building at given times.
One other caution: Ensure that your T&A is closely integrated with your HR and Payroll technology. It may be that when deciding to use T&A technology you should re-evaluate all your HR and Payroll systems. It will be the T&A system though that leads the fight against absenteeism.
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