Recently, I came across a blog post in which the author opined biometrics are “sheer overkill” when used for time and attendance. I could not disagree more. The emergence of affordable, easy-to-use biometric technology for time recording brings key benefits to business owners and employees.
Unfortunately, the article repeated several misconceptions about biometrics. I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
First, the author hinted biometrics could be used to “spy” on employees: to access restricted databases, to conduct surveillance of employees during their off hours, even to steal identities — all sorts of “Big Brother” concerns. Sounds scary, right?
The Truth: According to Michael Trader, president of M2Sys, as quoted in an article on Workforce.com, “Invasion of privacy is the biggest obstacle employers face. But it’s important to note that no image is ever stored. It’s just an encrypted binary stream.”
Here’s what happens: when an employee is first enrolled in a biometric time and attendance system, the software records a template of the employee’s face, hand or fingerprint and associates that template with the employee’s ID number. This template is simply a numeric representation of the relationship between various points in the scan, not an actual image.
In other words, the system doesn’t store actual fingerprints or faces, only a string of numbers to represent those biometric identifiers. Further, the templates used for biometric verification are stored in encrypted format and cannot be used to re-create anyone’s fingerprint or image. The templates used for biometric time and attendance are not usable for other purposes.
Second, the author tried to claim biometrics are “too costly” to be used for something as straightforward as time recording.
The Truth: As I covered in a previous newsletter article, the true ROI of a system is not measured merely by adding up the out-of-pocket costs. We also have to consider the “opportunity costs” — that is, how much would we have spent on the alternatives if we didn’t implement the current system? In other words, how much expense have we avoided by implementing the new system?
According to an article on Workforce.com:
A 2009 study conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. showed that 21 percent of hourly employees admit to stealing company time. While only 5 percent participated in buddy punching, 69 percent said they punch in and out earlier or later than scheduled, 22 percent put additional time on their time sheet, and 14 percent didn’t punch out for unpaid lunches or breaks.
In a 2008 study conducted by Nucleus Research, 19% of employees surveyed admitted to buddy-punching. In another study, 60% of employers said they know their employees aren’t accurately recording their time or they don’t know if the time recorded is accurate.
As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” A biometric system ensures employees are physically present when they clock in and out. And that increased accuracy can save your organization significant money. In fact, according to Grant Kaufman, Director of Operations at Yarco Co., his firm was able to cut their payroll processing time by 90% after implementing a biometric time recording system.
Our timeQplus Biometric and FaceVerify systems (complete with time and attendance software and scanner) are available for less than $700. Subscribers to our AcroTime cloud-based service have the option of purchasing biometric scanners or leasing them on a monthly basis. Biometric technology is affordable and cost-effective.
Finally, the author claimed biometric technology is “fairly recent” and “may fall short” in reliability when compared with other “proven technologies.”
The Truth: Biometric technology has been around for longer than many people may realize. For instance, the first hand scanners came to use in the 1970s — over 35 years ago. Biometrics have been used in many applications, in many environments, for many years and have proven themselves to be both reliable and easy to use.
Our software offers sensitivity settings to help you fine-tune your scanner to help prevent false-positives or false-negatives, further increasing reliability.
As to the terminals themselves, the scanner plates — both the glass plate on the fingerprint scanner and the hand plate on the HandPunch — are durable and easy to clean. HandPunch scanners are also treated with BioCote anti-microbial coating for added peace of mind. With our new FaceVerify terminal, employees don’t even have to touch the device — they simply look at the screen — so there is little to no physical wear-and-tear on the scanner at all.
Whether you are concerned about buddy-punching or the accuracy of your employees’ reported time, or you simply want to save money on payroll processing, a biometric system is a proven and reliable choice.
Is a Biometric System Right for You?
I can only conclude either the author of the article had an agenda to push or had little experience with biometric time tracking. Biometric time and attendance can not be used to facilitate the sort of Orwellian invasions of privacy he envisions. Biometric technology is a cost-effective means of preventing costly buddy punching. And both the hardware and software are proven, reliable and accurate.
Of course, not every type of biometric device is suitable for every workplace. Some environments are simply too harsh for any electronic device. But for many organizations, biometric time and attendance can be an excellent choice.