Time and Attendance: 5 Key Considerations for Data Collection (Clocking and Access Control Devices)

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:

  1. 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 CollectionLow Trust Data Collection
Self Service (e.g. via web)Biometric Devices (Finger/Hand/Palm/Face/Iris)
PINMobile Applications with Geotracking
Card 
Telephony 

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:

FunctionalityBenefit
Task/Productivity RecordingProductivity Improvements
Job TrackingRecharging and/or costing improvements
Access ControlRestrict access to sensitive physical locations
Self ServiceReduction in queries to HR/Payroll
Temperature ChecksInfection control.
Communicatione.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 EnvironmentsNeutral 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 HygieneHigh Hygiene
FingerIris
Hand readerFace
CardPalm
 Prox
 *Temperature validation

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.

LocalRemote
Lan based unitsTelecheck
Self ServiceMobile Application
Local PCsDevice with 3G enablement
 Device with “outbound” data transfer
 Mobile-battery backed units

Summary:

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.

Challenges:
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.

The Solution:
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.

HFX Services:
Device Consultancy
Integration Services
EveryOneCloud Middleware
Hardware Deployment
Support and Maintenance Services

 

Business after Lockdown: Where do we go from here?

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;

  1. Vaccine – This is unlikely to be ready for 12+ months

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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;

  1. Training – if colleagues have been furloughed for 3 months, what refresher training will they require?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Touch Free Access Control

  1. Full Turnkey solution including Devices and Installation
  2. Full UK Support including onsite maintenance
  3. Supports Card/Prox or Finger Print identification.
  4. Full Mustering and Roll-call
  5. Multi-Site Capable
  6. Quick to Configure, Easy to Manage, Simple to use
  7. Option for Visitor RegistrationFlexitimeTime & Attendance
  8. Card Printing Bureau service including photo and branding.
  9. Total Support including software & hardware with UK wide engineers.
  10. Integrates with any HR solution.

In response to customer requests, we can now provide touch-free access control “push to exit” devices.
These touch-less devices help prevent the spread of infection by avoiding contact.
Our Engineers can replace your existing “push to exit” devices with touch-less easily. 

Flintshire County Council chooses hfx

flintshire

Council invests in cloud based hours management system to support 350 remote and front line staff in waste management and recycling teams.

Flintshire County Council is the unitary local authority for the present-day Welsh administrative county of Flintshire, one of the administrative subdivisions of Wales. The Council is responsible for services such as education, waste management and strategic planning in the area. Like all councils operating in today’s economic climate, the council’s focus is on delivering its services to the community as efficiently as possible. It as recently invested in hfx’s Imperago solution to manage staff working hours for its 350 front line waste management and recycling staff. Since implementing the solution the council is able to better manage working hours for its remote teams, and with the efficiency gains the system is on track to deliver substantial savings and improved staff availability in the first year.

Cloud solution provides flexibility for remote workers

A long standing user of hfx’s working hours recording and management solution across the authority, the Council knew that hfx could deliver the working solution that it was looking for to record working hours for its employees working remotely. As a modern and flexible Council they needed to find a time recording solution that better fitted with the requirements of the front line waste and recycling teams.

They wanted a solution that was powerful enough to deliver the control needed to drive efficiency with remote working teams, but which also had as little an impact as possible on users who have minimal access to systems and little technology experience.

The Council decided that a cloud based solution would provide the flexibility that it required to record hours for staff working across different locations. hfx’s solution has a clear, modern interface that is straightforward to use, with no training required. The Council was also able to further adapt the system to have an alternative PIN security feature, should Identity cards be lost or forgotten. This has facilitated built in reliability in the time recording system to accommodate workers who may lose their cards while out.

In addition to providing control and flexibility, the hfx solution also empowers staff to access their information securely from anywhere with an internet connection.

Efficiency gains translate into improved end user services 

The Council uses hfx’s system to record hours for the staff working across seven locations, covering all the areas of Flintshire. Each site has the new HexOne dedicated touchscreen clocking terminal developed and built by hfx in the UK. Staff members are also able to access the portal remotely from home or smartphone to access and amend personal details, add notes or book leave. Efficiency savings are a key driver for all local authorities and the ability to better manage and control remote teams is already delivering great improvements over the old manual process.

The system is on track to deliver substantial savings by reducing lost hours and improving staff availability in its first year. A key reason for selecting hfx was also the company’s proven experience in working with local authorities and knowledge of the sector. Flintshire Council chose to implement the solution with a phased approach to iron out teething problems as they occurred and found the support provided by the hfx team invaluable throughout the process. The phased implementation also helped users to buy in to the change and has given a strong foundation to move forward with future plans.

Reports ensure optimal working patterns and staff well-being 

As well as providing improved management on a daily basis of recording staff hours, the new solution has provided additional benefits with the built in reporting functionality. The reports help managers to monitor working hours ensuring that they meet European Working Directives while still delivering the key front line services. In addition, the reports from the hfx system help to manage staff sickness and absence, highlighting possible issues and ensuring fair and accurate working patterns, while meeting financial and operational demands. The solution can also help the Council to design automated rotas for optimal workforce planning.

In summary, hfx’s Imperago is helping Flintshire Council to shape its service and highlight issues and trends through powerful and accurate information. Reports can now be quickly generated and distributed to highlight issues and ensure the Council maintains high standards of service delivery to the community

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hfx awarded G-Cloud 10

glcoud10

hfx are proud to announce our approval onto the G-Cloud 10 procurement framework which allows public sector organisations to quickly and easily procure proven cloud solutions and services without the costs and delays involved in standard procurement processes. Not only does G-CLOUD reduce costs and delays, but it enables modern public sector organisations to on-board agile and effective solutions that empower them to rapidly transform their organisations, adapt to change and take advantage of proven technology in the workplace. hfx previously were awarded G-Cloud 8 and 9 and have been providing flexitime and access control solutions to the public sector for over 40 years.

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