Coping with workforce management and Coronavirus: the changed workplace

Photo by Kevin Bhagat 

Over the past few weeks HFX have seen a massive increase from customers asking how HFX can support their initiatives around combating and mitigating coronavirus.

We want to help by getting companies and their staff to be able to work from home to keep staff safe and adapt business with minimum disruption, so if you think any of the options below could be of benefit, please call us now on 03333 447872 or visit www.hfx.co.uk

  1. Staff working from home? – You may need our Time and Attendance and Flexitime Cloud solution which enables you to plan and track staff availability and working hours transparently and in real-time
  2. Mobile clocking app for staff working from home – Instant remote implementation in one day with no training required  
  3. Staff still on-site/in the office? – We are offering special pricing on Iris, facial and proximity devices for staff to clock in touch-free
  4. Fluctuating business demand? – Our Cloud Workforce Design solution or consultancy will help you adjust your staffing to your customer demands
  5. Absence planning with Coronavirus – also keep track of isolated colleagues
  6. Touch-free access control
  7. Visitor and Staff screening – Identifying high-risk colleagues returning to work
  8. Express implementation of Cloud solution
  9. Visitor and Contractor Registration module including health check questionnaire

The mixture of the above cloud-based options can help monitor sufficient resourcing levels for vital council services and keep front line services running effectively to provide uninterrupted service to the public.

To find out how HFX can help your business call us on 03333 447872 or visit: http://www.hfx.co.uk

HFX Data Security – Fort Knox for Mortals

HFX Data Security – Fort Knox for Mortals

At HFX, we take data security seriously. Our leading workforce management solution is hosted in the cloud for our customers, from SME to Enterprise and across many industries; all get the same high-security treatment regardless of their size.

But just how we do it and why it is secure is often unclear to many non-IT professionals, so this explainer endeavours to give you an insight into the lengths we go to…

First let’s talk about border security, when a tourist comes to the UK, they must pass through passport security before they are allowed in. This though isn’t the first security check made. Even before they get on the plane, there are often passport checks, luggage is scanned, and visa forms completed.

Our data centre is no different when someone opens a browser and points to our application, it doesn’t go straight to our servers, you are diverted first for inspection. The inspection checks your luggage (“data package”) looking for anything suspicious including your country of origin. But unlike airports, there is no queuing, this exhaustive process takes just milliseconds thanks to a huge array of servers built with a single purpose of inspecting our visitors. All this happens without you even knowing about it.

If you manage to pass through this check you will be forwarded to our actual servers, though not before going through another set of security checks (our own firewalls). Once we let you through the firewalls, we check your “data packages” again, just in case you slipped something past border security. Again, this happens seamlessly and instantly.

Assuming you get past these checks, you must provide the application credentials and naturally, all traffic is encrypted as well as data “at rest”. Each server is segmented so even if access is gained, there are bulkheads preventing anyone hopping from one server to another.

Prevention is not our only defence; All server activity is monitored to make sure no one is doing anything they shouldn’t on our servers. Anything unusual is alerted to our IT support team who will take any action required to secure the servers and the data.

Whilst the above explains the “logical” security we have in place, what about the physical security where the servers are located. Naturally, we don’t tend to reveal the physical location other than both our data centres (one is for Disaster Recovery) are located in the UK. 

In terms of logical security, I used the example of “Border Controls”, but in terms of physical security, it is like a “Prison” but more secure. Just like a prison, there are many inmates (tenants) in the datacentre who take this level of security as seriously as we do. Whilst we serve over 1,500 customers, some of our “inmates” serve millions of customers, so we are in good company (though again and for the same reason we can’t name names).

If you could locate our datacentre then you would still have a problem popping in for a look. You need to be authorised at least 24 hours in advance and by an existing “inmate”. You will also need to bring your passport as your identity will be checked.

Just to get to the building you need to get through the perimeter fence and anti-ram raid bollards. The security office itself has bulletproof glass and there are CCTV cameras everywhere monitored by the 24/7 security guards. Assuming you are allowed through by the security guard – be prepared to be searched on the way in and on the way out – there are two more security doors and mantraps with integrated access control. If you make it to our racks you will need to have previously registered your fingerprint on the biometric device to unlock the steel door on each rack.

Absolutely no-one gets in our out unless authorised and authenticated… just like a prison only a bit more secure.

Not every company may go to this degree of security, but we believe that customer data belongs to the customer and as custodian’s we take this very seriously. If you are looking for safe hands, you couldn’t be safer with your workforce management data than with HFX.

To find out more about HFX’s Cloud based workforce management solutions visit: https://www.hfx.co.uk/solutions/information/

The Future of HR

man with steel artificial arm sitting in front of white table

In a future where many jobs will be lost to automation the question arises as to both the future of the workforce and the need for traditional departments such as HR.

The reality though is that whilst automation will encroach further and further into the workplace removing swathes of jobs and assisting with others, AI for all its hype, has its limits.

To understand where the watermark rests is not quite so simple, but there are guiding principles. Machines are capable of processing huge amounts of data instantly and identifying patterns, trends and correlations. This provides enormous benefit to decision makers who can leverage this data to make informed decisions.

However, decision making at a high level is often the result of considering not just one data point however well evidenced, but many and from different disciplines. Computers often can do one thing very well and fast but can rarely assess the bigger picture.

Neural Networks are capable of learning, but again this is often domain focused. We will see in future the rise of self-driving cars and literally billions of pounds are being spent each year to make this a reality. Whilst there is a high degree of confidence that this huge investment will succeed, the code behind it won’t be able to diagnose cancer in a patient.

Humans are never born to drive or diagnose a patient but have the unique ability to learn completely new and unrelated skills. Given the rapidly changing world and technology, this is a good thing, and it is ironical that whilst we are rapidly adapting to new technology, technology itself is not very good at adapting.

So, what does this all mean for the workplace, the new world of work and HR? Computers and AI will be focused on “narrow field” activities and tasks, those that require speed, accuracy and analysing big data. On the other hand, humans adapt rapidly, have holistic and “outside the box” thinking, multi-disciplinary knowledge and creativity.

Whilst HR contains a lot of administrative tasks which can be automated, there is much that cannot. HR requires a whole range of diverse knowledge and insight from understanding the Law to the values and culture of the organisation, from the needs and objectives of both company and staff to respecting union rules and the wider culture of society in which it operates.

HR acts not just to re-enforce polices and values, but also a change maker within the organisation. In fact, to do HR well, you need to understand that you are working with human beings; A statement so obvious it is often missed when discussing how a computer (with no sense of self, empathy or deep understanding) could replace people in role that requires deep interaction with others.

Computers can learn but learning without context can be at best a disaster, and at worst, catastrophic. For example, Microsoft took down Tay, an AI Chatbot on twitter only 16 hours after launch because – through learning – had started tweet offensive and racist comments. It had no moral compass or understanding of the wider culture to recognise that there is good learning and bad learning.

Imagine you are driving your car 60 mph when a child crosses the road in-front of you. There is no time for you to break without hitting the child, so you can either swerve the car up onto a pavement and hit a wall (with the potential you will incur life changing injuries) or kill the child. This is not hypothetical but a real moral and legal dilemma for the manufacturers of self-driving cars. Is their legal responsibility to the owner of the car or to other road-users? There is no legal requirement for a driver to risk or sacrifice their life to save another. Supposing the car is programmed to risk your life rather than kill the pedestrian, but now the person running across the road is a terrorist with a gun whom you are trying to stop with your car.

You might think this is going off-topic, but having a moral perspective, values and a big picture view are all important for the right decisions to be made every day.

Even the best AI lacks these things and for those who believe these issues will be sorted in the future, the answer is that we might not need to wait after all. Many in the AI field believe these kinds of issues can only be solved if AI moves to a biological architecture (rather than digital), that it requires consciousness, self-awareness and intentionality. If correct, then these attributes already exist in what we currently call humans.