Like most departments, human resources (HR) has tools and information today that were unthinkable just ten years ago. Just like marketing can no longer get by simply with radio ads and mailers, technology has expanded the scope of what a top-notch HR department can (and is expected to) achieve for its company. Tech enables HR to optimize workforce efficiency and provides cross-skill opportunities.
Simply put: HR can't function effectively without deep knowledge of the technological tools it now has at its disposal. Without understanding what new technologies exist and how they're being used by HR departments, your HR department (and your company) is losing ground to companies that do.
For example, the increased use of biometric attendance technology is sparking a boom in the biometric technology market. It's growing at a compound annual growth rate to the tune of 17.41 percent, and is forecast to be worth $59.31 billion by 2025.
These numbers reflect the fact that biometric attendance technology is the future of time and attendance tracking and management. Already in use in many companies for a variety of purposes, HR departments need to start learning about the technology, its potential, and its challenges.
Everyone has seen the science fiction movies from the 1980s that foretold of machines being able to identify people by their eyes, faces or hands. It was during the 1980s and 1990s that many of the first patents related to biometric identification were issued. And companies started using biometrics to track employee attendance around 2013. There are four main types of biometric identification technology in use for employee time and attendance management:
FINGERPRINTS: There are different technologies for capturing fingerprints. ATS combines two processes to create a more secure, efficient template. The reader scans the ridges and swirls of the fingerprint that can be seen with the naked eye, while also mapping the finger capillary structure that lies approximately 1 millimeter beneath the skin. This information is put into an encrypted code, which is then used to compare the finger placed on the reader to clock in or out.
HANDPRINT: Scanners measure features like length of fingers, size of knuckles, and thickness of the palm. More secure handprint scanners will map veins below the surface, which are more unique and less susceptible to change.
FACIAL RECOGNITION: There are also a variety of facial recognition technologies, each with varying levels of accuracy and security. At the low end is a simple facial scan for the distances between features and some topographical analysis of the skin for moles, wrinkles and the like. At the more sophisticated end are technologies that use a digital, 3D model to map out the face with great precision.
OPTICAL OR RETINAL SCANS: Using a low-energy infrared red light, a retinal scanner can map out the blood vessels in the retina. Like the fingerprint scan, this image is converted into encrypted code using a complex algorithm. Retinal scans require a special, high-quality image to create the code against which daily clocking in and out will be compared.
Common myths about biometric technology
Many people are concerned about the security of biometric information, and rightly so. As a member of HR, you can help ease the concerns of both management and workers with a little understanding about how biometric information used for time tracking is stored.
The biometric information scanned is not stored as an image. Images of people's fingerprints or irises can be stolen by network hackers and expose workers to potential identity theft. Because the biometric information is not stored in the form of images, this risk is eliminated. Stealing passwords and login credentials is easy. Making use of stolen, encrypted data files that have no meaning without something to compare them against (say, a person's actual finger or eye) – pretty useless.
In addition, because the template is built from data coming fro m multiple, highly sensitive images, the biometric reader and template can't be fooled by imitations. Anyone trying to gain access to a secure area or clock in using a high-resolution picture of someone else's iris or fingerprint to trick a biometric reader will be disappointed.
You can read more detail about why the myths regarding biometric readers are just that – myths – here.
How to enroll employees into a biometric time tracking system
Before a biometric time clock can be used to clock an employee in and out, that employee must be enrolled in the biometric attendance system. By “enrolled” we mean that the biometric reader has already taken the original scans and created the template against which future punches will be compared.
The best biometric time clocks make it very easy for employees to enroll themselves into the system. Simple visual instructions are provided at the terminal and/or through a poster next to the terminal.
If the biometric time clock system is integrated with your existing ERP, HCM or homegrown systems (and it should be), the worker’s time-and-attendance data is automatically delivered to those systems. Thus, a well-integrated biometric system speeds up the process of getting the worker into the other back-office systems, as well as through the on-boarding process.
Here are some valuable tips for on-boarding employees into a biometric system.
Biometric attendance tracking technology offers quantifiable advantages across multiple departments, as well as for the workers and line managers. The more back-end systems you can integrate with the biometric readers, the more they can do!
Use cases for biometric readers at the workplace
The primary use case for biometric time clock readers is to track time and attendance by having workers use their fingerprint to clock in and out. Biometric terminals have the advantage of providing the most accurate and secure mechanism for tracking attendance because they ensure that the person clocking in or out is in fact that person.
Another popular use case for biometric readers is to control access to certain areas. Biometric readers can be installed near doors and integrated with a security system so the doors can only be opened by approved workers. Installing a biometric level of security sidesteps the risk of an employee badge with greater permissions being stolen and misused.
How biometric attendance readers improve payroll accuracy
KEEP LABOR COSTS LOW BY PREVENTING TIME THEFT
Indeed, one of biometric readers’ greatest workplace use cases is to prevent worker time theft. Buddy punching alone costs employers $373 million each year. A 2015 study found that employers using a time and attendance software with a biometric time clock experienced significantly fewer employees reporting that they were able to steal time. While nearly half of employees reported stealing time on 75 percent of their shifts, only three percent of employees clocking in and out with biometric terminals reported that they were able to steal time.
AVOID UNNECESSARY OVERTIME
Companies that can verify each worker’s identity with an easy scan of a unique biological feature have the ability to limit their payroll to work done by the person who is actually present. The cost savings realized from minimizing time theft extend beyond simply not having to pay for false hours in the system. Hours added to a worker's timesheet due to time theft have the power to boost the worker into overtime hours for a shift, costing the company a premium in overtime pay and additional taxes and benefits that accrue due to the "extra" hours.
MINIMIZE PAYING FOR LINE TIME
The ease of biometric terminals also speeds up the clocking in and out process. Having a quick clock-out line means the company isn't paying for those incremental minutes as workers wait in line to clock out. It may only be a few minutes, but multiplied across all workers and shifts, that time adds up.
How biometric readers improve productivity of shifts
Having a quick clock-in line makes workers and managers happy, which tends to make HR happy.
Workers don't enjoy having to come in early – before they're on the clock and getting paid – to stand in line to clock in so they can get working on time. The alternative is that the employees don't arrive extra early to clock in, but still have to wait in line as people punch or swipe in to a traditional time clock. The difference now being that they don't actually get to their stations or to work until after their shift has already started. That certainly doesn't make managers happy.
Using biometric terminals to speed up the clock-in process contributes to maximizing the productivity potential of every shift.
How biometric technology makes HR tasks easier
Increases employee satisfaction through a more accurate payroll and faster lines to clock in and out.
Streamlines the on-boarding process by empowering new employees to enroll themselves in the biometric attendance system, which accelerates the kick-off of other back-end system processes that depend on the employee's enrollment.
Increased security and reliability of biometric attendance translates to greater employee compliance with attendance policies, which in turn improves HR's record-keeping for legal compliance requirements.
Perhaps one of the best ways a biometric attendance system supports HR is by changing the perception of HR from merely a cost center to a department that provides strategic vision. By advocating for the use of technologies that have a quantifiable return on how to improve worker productivity while improving management of labor costs, HR becomes even more valuable.
Bringing in new technology is always a stressful proposition. The three main areas of inquiry for selecting the right biometric system for your company are:
What type of biometric technology makes sense for your company?
What types of integrations are necessary?
What to look for in a biometric attendance system and partner.
Selecting what type of biometric technology suits your company
The two criteria to think about when choosing which kind of biometric technology to use are the budget and the level of sophistication required. Fingerprint readers are the most common because they're the most cost-efficient and budget-friendly. Retinal or face scans use a more sophisticated, and thus costly technology. Retinal (or iris) scans have the highest accuracy rate with virtually no false matches or rejections. Yet fingerprint readers also have a high accuracy rate. False readings only become a potential risk when dealing with large-scale populations. The larger the population enrolled in the fingerprinting system, the higher potential for a false reading.
How easily does the biometric system integrate with your other systems?
A well-engineered biometric time clock system integrates smoothly with popular ERP and HCM packages, such as Workday, Microsoft Dynamics, and Oracle HCM Cloud. Ideally, the biometric terminal vendor already has pre-built integrations for these popular systems, so your company isn't a guinea pig for the integration.
If your company does have its own homegrown solutions, then the vendor should be able to show a track record of customizing integrations so you know that it can build the integration links you need to work with your homegrown systems.
Comprehensive and smooth integrations between your biometric attendance system and other systems help your company maximize its ROI by extending tracking functionality and increased data analysis opportunities.
What to look for in a biometric attendance system and partner
As you consider different biometric terminals and partners, keep these questions in mind:
Can the biometric terminals and attendance system be configured to identify exactly where the employee is clocking in and out? This is especially useful for companies that have large or multiple worksites, so HR and managers can see where the workers are physically located.
How easily can the system scale to meet your company's growing needs? Don't just think about how many employees you have now, but how you expect the company grow.
Do you have offsite or field workers to track as well? Some biometric attendance systems have a mobile component, some do not.
Do you have industrial or outside worksites that require a ruggedized terminal that can withstand extreme temperatures, dust and dirt, or vibrations from heavy machinery?
What sort of tools does the vendor offer to help in the management and maintenance of the biometric terminals? For example, some offer a digital dashboard that shows the workload each specific terminal is handling and can send alerts regarding a downed or disconnected terminal.
Embracing new technologies and the expectations of the digital-native employee
Today, the millennial generation comprises the majority of the workforce. Companies are now expected to provide an employee experience that matches the digital expectations of workers from this generation.
They want to work for a company that they can trust has the same digital-native mindset as they do. They already hold fingerprint and face scan technologies on their own phones. Recruiting and retaining the best of this generation requires that the employer ride the top of the digital wave.
Accu-Time Systems has been riding that wave forward since 1991, when we developed our own terminal architecture. We continue to move and evolve with technology to make comprehensive time tracking systems available to our customers and to enhance their competition. to make available to our customers comprehensive time tracking systems and enhance their competition.