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Choosing the right time and attendance system is often a detailed and exhaustive process for many organisations, however, often the selection of the key means of data entry (clocking and access devices) receives much less attention and often the choice offered by any one vendor is limited. However, this is a critical aspect of the overall solution; without it the system cannot provide any of the benefits and ROI that it was procured to achieve.
Indeed, the main issue we find when consulting for companies is that the data collection devices do not meet the needs of the organisation. Often the issue isn’t that the device does not work, rather it doesn’t meet the specific needs of the organisation. The needs can be divided into 5 categories:
- High Trust vs Low Trust
Each organisation has its own “trust-level” which whilst not formalised has developed over time and in response to any abuses (perceived or actual) that the organisation has identified. Within Time and Attendance, these tend to centre on “Buddy Punching” where a colleague clocks in/out on behalf of an absent employee and “Time Theft” where overtime hours are “inflated” and lateness is under-reported or “deflated”. The type of device selected needs to address the trust-level requirements of the organisation.
|High Trust Data Collection||Low Trust Data Collection|
|Self Service (e.g. via web)||Biometric Devices (Finger/Hand/Palm/Face/Iris)|
|PIN||Mobile Applications with Geotracking|
2. Limited vs Extensive Functionality
When investing in data collection devices for Time & Attendance, there are two errors that can be made in selection: The first is “tunnel vision” where significant sums are invested in “single purpose” devices when they could have improved productivity and communication through “multi-functional” devices that can capture more data and provide information and self-service functionality to staff. The opposite is also true where organisations over-reach in purchasing much more expensive devices that can do everything, but in reality, the requirements are limited. Each organisation is different and should consider whether the additional functionality will be beneficial to the organisation – some of the main areas to consider are listed below:
|Task/Productivity Recording||Productivity Improvements|
|Job Tracking||Recharging and/or costing improvements|
|Access Control||Restrict access to sensitive physical locations|
|Self Service||Reduction in queries to HR/Payroll|
|Temperature Checks||Infection control.|
|Communication||e.g. vacant shifts, overtime requests|
3. Hostile vs Neutral Environments
Another aspect of device selection relates to the physical environment where the devices will be located. The device may look great but if it is a factory with high dust/oil and rough treatment by staff then it will not last or worse will not function at all. Similarly, in food manufacturing environments where washdowns are common, an IP rated device is a must. A simplified guide of the types of devices for each environment is listed below:
|Hostile Environments||Neutral Environments|
|Ruggedized casing (Robust Environment)||Finger|
|IP Rated (Washdowns/outside building)||Face|
|Hand Readers (Dirty, Dusty, Oil)||Card|
|Proximity Readers (contactless)||Palm|
4. Low vs High Hygiene
Hygiene has always been critical for many industries (e.g. Food Manufacturing) but is now being more widely considered due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Even before this, it is best practice – and cost effective – to consider infection control within any business (Each year Flu costs UK organisations £1.35 billion due to 7.6 million). Some devices are more prone to infection spread than others.
|Low Hygiene||High Hygiene|
5. Local vs Remote
Companies also need to consider whether their staff are working remotely as this impacts on data collection choices. By remote this maybe working from home, at a client location, in a construction site or remote office that isn’t connected to the internet. Another consideration is whether the device will be connected to local software or cloud software.
|Lan based units||Telecheck|
|Self Service||Mobile Application|
|Local PCs||Device with 3G enablement|
|Device with “outbound” data transfer|
|Mobile-battery backed units|
The right device is often the result of combining and prioritising the choices in response to each of the 5 areas detailed above. There are always trade-offs to be made during the selection process, but the wrong choice can seriously impact both the successful adoption of the solution and the value derived. It is also not a “one size fit” all approach. Within many organisations there are different cohorts (e.g. office staff, manufacturing staff, logistics) and environments, each with specific requirements that differ from other environments and cohorts, so a “mix and match” approach may well be appropriate in these situations. Again, with each solution, it is important to consider costs, benefits, GDPR and practicality in deciding on a specific device.
There is a huge range of devices on the market, with new ones appearing each month. Biometric devices alone encompass Fingerprint, Finger Vein, Face, Hand, Iris and Palm. There also over 100 different types of card formats available and often not all are supported by a single device manufacturer.
The challenge though is a) selecting the right device and b) the lack of choice offered by many time and attendance/workforce management providers.
A similar challenge was solved many years ago within the IT market with regard to Printers. Organisations wanted to be able to choose their printer independently of the software (e.g. Word processor) they used. Their requirements differed between departments; for instance, marketing would need a high-quality colour laser printer, finance might want a fast monotone laser and home workers could function perfectly well with an inkjet solution. They wanted to mix and match and avoid being “locked in” by the software provider. The solution was a “printer driver” that provided middleware between the software and the hardware.
HFX have taken a similar approach with EveryOneCloud which provides middleware between any device and any software solution. It currently integrates with hundreds of devices (increasing each month) and enables organisations to mix and match their devices across their different environments and cohorts. It also means that customers are not locked into a specific software or hardware vendor and can change either one without impacting on the other. This smart approach enables organisations to be agile and adaptive.
The EveryOneCloud solution does not simply provide integration, but manages the devices, error management, secure template propagation as well as provides asset location and tracking. The solution can also enrich or transform data on demand to provide additional information in real-time.
Customers can also take advantage of the HFX Hardware Deployment and Support Service to both install and maintain the device estate through our UK wide engineering teams.
Support and Maintenance Services
Post Covid-19: Here’s Why Flexible Working is here to stay
With the UK lockdown and closure of schools, the government have in effect mandated not just working from home, but for many parents flexi-time; the ability to vary the times you perform your work. It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, in this case it is the adoption of a system of work that has been in existence for over 4 decades but hitherto only adopted by forward looking organisations.
But with the government forcing a lockdown, organisations have been scrabbling to implement systems and processes to enable their staff to effectively work from home. Again, these enabling systems, whether video conferencing or workforce management tools, have been around for years and help manage remote and flexi-time colleagues but until now have not been top of the IT or HR agenda.
Covid-19 has done more to accelerate adoption in 3 weeks than all the HR and IT directors have achieved in the past decade. This is the force of change metered out by this now infamous viral foe.
The question of course, is when Covid-19 is finally defeated (potentially 12+ months away), whether everything will simply return to normal or even if it should. I suggest that when it comes to flexi-time and home working, it neither will nor should.
The rapid move to home-working and flexi-time due to Covid-19 has meant that most of us are now living and seeing the reality of home working. Firstly, the IT systems required to support these workers have now – albeit through necessity – been put in place. Secondly, the fears and myths about the effect on culture and productivity are starting to be dispelled and staff are rapidly learning their way around the “new” technology that supports working with remote teams.
The rapid investment in this new way of working, and its successes will give leaders a good reason to continue to leverage the investment they have made. Or to put it another way, why would you tear down what you have built up if it provides flexibility, business continuity, increased productivity and financial benefits?
These benefits are not just for the employer of course (cost savings on building, rent, rates) but also for the employees (train/car/travel costs) along with significant savings on time (traveling to/from the office).
There are more personal and psychological drivers too, in a world where our control over our own lives has been – albeit temporarily – suspended (holidays or even just going out), it is likely that everyone will want to be more in control of their lives once we emerge from this lockdown.
Of course, employers must set policies and deploy the workforce in order to meet their objectives and serve their customers, but within that there is scope to provide more flexibility to employees as to where and when they fulfil those objectives. The “But we’ve always done it this way” boiler plate response won’t wash when colleagues can point to what was achieved the “new way” during lockdown.
Finally, I suspect that with the positive impact home working has had on the climate and congestion, the government will also be keen to incentivise this new way of working.
Ultimately, leaders need to consider the lockdown as an opportunity to embrace the new world of work and take advantage of the benefits it can bring to their organisation long after coronavirus is defeated. Many businesses will be challenged for some time to come and they need every advantage they can to thrive and prosper as the world emerges not just from a health crisis, but also an economic one.
HFX Cloud suite includes Imperago™ Time and Attendance, Rostering, Home Worker, Flexitime, Access Control, Workforce Design, Annualised Hours, Attendance Monitoring/Location Management, Visitor Registration.
HFX Imperago solutions provide seamless integration with major HR and payroll systems. Highly customisable, HFX Imperago solutions can be configured to meet exact requirements and can support unlimited numbers of work patterns.
HFX has been the leading provider of Time & Attendance and Flexitime solutions in the UK for over 45 years and has over 1400 customers across the Commercial and Public Sector.
BUSINESS AFTER LOCKDOWN: Where do we go from here?
With a third of the world now in some form of government lockdown, many organisations are starting to plan for “Business after Lockdown”.
Key to business planning is understanding the timeline and triggers for an end to lock down and the recovery of both social and economic activity. Whilst clearly the government is exploring a range of options, they are less forthcoming about what they are and when they might be in place. The absence of clarity creates issues for businesses trying to navigate their way out of crisis whilst avoiding bankruptcy.
Viral Pandemic: a crisis without precedent in the modern world
The reality is that we have never had such a large-scale viral pandemic and there is no precedent on how to act. At this point, no-one can predict or guarantee how and when we in the UK will emerge from this crisis, but it is important for CEO’s and business leaders to develop multiple plans based on different scenarios that can be activated immediately as the picture becomes clearer. Planning is more important now than ever before. Many businesses have effectively been put on “life support” through the UK Governments “furloughing” scheme. Once the Government withdraws the scheme, businesses need to be ready to implement their “recovery” plans rapidly or run the risk of bankruptcy.
So far only one country has emerged from a lockdown, Wuhan in china just announced that after 11 weeks the lockdown is coming to an end. Analysts have stated that within the UK the infection rate (“R nought”) is about 2.6 pre-lockdown and will potentially go down to .62 if people comply with the rules. If R0 goes below 1 then the disease will eventually die out (assuming borders are controlled) but this would likely require the lockdown to continue for 12 weeks (in line with China).
UK Lockdown: one…two…three months
Whilst the UK government won’t speculate, the 12 weeks/3-month period seems to be a recurring theme with those who are at most risk told that they will have to remain inside for 12 weeks and the government furloughing scheme initially fixed for 3 months. Other European countries have either extended their lockdown or will be slightly relaxed the rules (though most of these countries have often had tougher restrictions than the UK).
The risk of course is that if you end the lockdown too soon, you end up where you started; exponential increases in spread, a collapsing healthcare system and a huge body count. However, this must be balanced against social unrest, non-compliance and huge economic damage. Many governments are between a rock and hard place and are placing their hope on science to find a way forward.
Whilst this weekend the UK is likely to see some positive impact from the 3 weeks spent on lockdown, it is very unlikely the government will bring the lockdown to an end and Churchill’s words “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” are perhaps as relevant today as they were in 1942;
There are possible solutions, but many aren’t ready, and all come with many unknown variables;
- Vaccine – This is unlikely to be ready for 12+ months
- Anti-virals – Leveraging existing antivirals that could significantly reduce mortality rates and turn a deadly disease into something more akin to the flu. Whilst trials are already in progress, it is likely that it will be month or more before we know if any prove to be effective.
- Antigen tests: Tests that confirm if you have Covid-19 would enable the government to perform community testing and to target lockdowns on specific geographical areas. However, we will not get to 100,000 tests a day until the end of April. If new tests could be available that were “instant” (it takes at least 24 hours currently) and self-administered then restaurants/airports could open to customers who test negative at point of entry, but again this technology is not available yet.
- Antibody tests: These test if a person has had Covid-19. The government is actively exploring this option as it would potentially mean that those who test positive could be provided with a certificate and again able to work/visit restaurants and other establishments. However, so far, these tests are too unreliable to be distributed and we don’t yet know the degree of immunity – and how long it last for – in patients who have had Coronavirus.
All the above options have merit and potential but unfortunately uncertainty and – as of now – lack availability. Until these become real the government has limited options; a) Tweaking the lockdown in combination with additional measures (face masks mandated, 2 metre distancing in the workplace, mandatory alcohol gel stations), b) Progressive Herd Immunity (relaxing and then tightening lockdown restrictions to ensure that the NHS is not overloaded) or c) maintain the lockdown until the infection rate falls to such a low level that it can revert to its “track and trace” containment strategy.
Survival after ‘Life Support’
Whilst there is significant uncertainty on how or when we will emerge, the above demonstrates that many businesses are likely to remain on “life support” for perhaps 3 months or more. But the critical business planning is what happens after lockdown. Many businesses are only surviving due to the governments furloughing scheme, but what happens when the government withdraw the scheme?
Suddenly the cash-flow issues that were “just under control” during lockdown will re-emerge again. For those businesses without a plan, they will be firefighting and without the cash to buy time to come up with an effective plan. Hence the essential need to plan for recovery and plan NOW.
For many businesses the headache will come with remobilisation of staff and the associated costs.
Every business is different, but key considerations are;
- Training – if colleagues have been furloughed for 3 months, what refresher training will they require?
- Depending how the recovery is achieved, there are likely to be changes made to the workplace (distancing), facilities (High Hygiene), and processes such as Certification checks (If Antigen tests used) and/or onsite testing.
- Staffing and Scheduling. There may be a need for redundancies, part time working, phased return or annualised hours depending on the specifics of the business. This is not a simple task and requires effective planning and scheduling. Reducing the headcount or hours requires effective re-rostering to ensure the business can still serve its customers. Annualised Hours is another popular solution. It does not reduce the salary of the employee but enables the employer to vary the hours worked over the year. This enables the employer to ramp up/down the hours as the recovery takes hold.
- There are many tools and technologies available which could be deployed to address these issues and enable rapid mobilisation.
HFX is a market leader in Cloud workforce management solutions with a wide range of modules including: Time & Attendance, Flexitime, Annualised Hours, Home Worker, Access Control, Visitors’ Registration, Workforce Optimisation.
Visit our website www.hfx.co.uk or call us on 0333 447872 for more information
Creating new Time & Attendance payment rules, adding new absence or adjustment reasons, restructuring your org hierarchy or simply creating new working patterns.
With HFX’s Imperago these were made immeasurably simpler, however we recognise that many of our clients simply don’t have the time or in-house resource to make these changes or often don’t feel confident doing this themselves.
HFX Managed Service is a supplementary service available to clients to help with these and other administrative tasks. After all, HFX are the experts when it comes to HFX software.
Based on the same simple pepm (per employee per month) pricing, HFX can now offer you their expertise in ensuring you always get the best from your system.
No more ‘work arounds’ or using the wrong reason code because you haven’t created the one you really need or managing exceptions as a result of the wrong pattern being worked.
Simply submit a request via the support portal and your request will automatically log the request and alert the HFX team.
If you are interested in how HFX can help you with:
- Managing working patterns
- Creating new adjustment reasons
- Maintaining the org hierarchies
- Adding a new device
- Template setup and distribution management
- Visitor and Contractor management
- Mapping new pay-codes
- Managing public holiday calendars
- End user training
Just get in touch! *terms & conditions apply
Call 03333 44 7872, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk