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The decision whether or not to upgrade a companys time and attendance tracking from a manual system to an automated one shouldnt be difficult. Some company estimates indicate that manual tracking can add an additional 4 to 6% to overall payroll costs. This figure is without even considering the millions of dollars lost each year to the practice of buddy punching, where another employee clocks in for a friend who is either late or absent entirely. And, its not just the cost savings that should motivate companies to implement automated systems. The additional benefits and control for company mangers that are provided by centralized data capture are enormous in and of themselves.

There are also substantial barriers that keep companies from realizing the huge benefits provided by time and attendance tracking software. Employees generally oppose implementing automated time and attendance systems. Often, the ones who are abusing a manual system dont want to have to give up their time stealing practices. They generally know that a new system would curtail these activities.

Biometric tracking systems also make employees uncomfortable. Many people dont like the idea of having the employer capture the kind of personal information that is provided by a fingerprint or hand geometry. There are a number of religious and ethical reasons why employees often object to having to give up personal information.

There are a number of automated time and attendance tracking solutions available, most of which are less invasive than biometrics. Some companies use a token system, which is actually the most widely used automated time tracking system at present. The token looks like a credit card and can use different types of technology to interact with a time clock. The card may contain a magnetic stripe, a bar code label, or a radio frequency chip called a proximity card. A token system can be highly effective in manufacturing and similar environments where employees use them not just to check in and out of work, but to log onto machines at their workstations. Barcode labels are more frequently used than magnetic strips because they are less easily damaged. A proximity card or badge is more quickly read than a barcode or magnetic strip because it contains a radio frequency chip that sends a signal to a reader. On the other hand, a proximity badge system is considerably more costly to install. And, none of the token systems offer enhanced security.

Time and attendance can also be automatically tracked by a computer browser system. Employees sign in at their computer or workstation and the information is sent to a central database. This is a least costly method because most companies already have the computers needed to install it. However, there is no way to curtail buddy punching with this type of system. Using an automated voice mail system wherein the employee calls in and gives a password is similarly ineffective.

Despite its obvious drawback, biometric systems that use finger or hand geometry, or the retina of the eye to verify identity is ultimately the most secure. It is very difficult to falsify someone elses hand or eye, so buddy punching is virtually eliminated. These types of systems can be adjusted for various security levels and are more likely to justify costs in situations where security is a consideration.

When a company is considering an upgrade to its time and attendance tracking system, there are a number of factors that come into play. The level of change and ease of transition, the control that will be provided by such a system, and the cost of the proposed solution, are all factors that should be properly thought out before a new system is selected.




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