A large number of employers are unhappy with their time and attendance systems. When we look into their cases we see a few common themes:

1. The Hardware
The hardware for time and attendance is often the same throughout South Africa. Biometric (fingerprint or facial recognition) Chinese built platforms that tend to function as they are intended i.e. to record when a person clocks in and clocks out. They are usually quite reliable and the only time they tend to be an issue are where they are poorly located on the site (allowing employees to bypass them) or don’t have back-up power or a stable wi-fi or ethernet connection meaning data for large patches is unavailable or unreliable;

2. The Software
There are various vendors of different sizes providing Time and Attendance software in the market. The software can be of varying quality with the most significant attributes impacting the client being:

  • Can the data be reliably extracted to excel?
  • What rules can be set in the system (see below for further discussion on the rules) and are these reliably translated to the data?
  • What is the setup and after sales support like? It is this attribute which causes some of the biggest frustration for employer as the time and attendance data is critical for prompt payments to staff, but they often feel let down by the after sales support;

3. The Rules
Most employers who are new to time and attendance systems assume they are plug and play i.e. once installed they are easy to use. In practice the two most important elements to getting this right are setting the rules and managing the process (see point below). By setting the rules we mean establishing in the software how the system should treat unusual situations e.g.

  • If an employee is 10 minutes late is this allowable or should it be treated as short time;
  • Inputting shift schedules into the system so the system automatically reflects overtime and normal time correctly;
  • Correctly calculating and averaging hours according to the BCOE as opposed to calculating overtime on a daily basis (this can significantly increase costs for an employer if done incorrectly);

In many cases the employer doesn’t spend any time on this aspect and by the time it is implemented it is difficult for them to revise their practices as they have set a precedent. Badly set rules cost money and make reconciling the hours for payroll time consuming and challenging.

4. Managing the Process
This is the process of extracting the data for the period, reviewing it for any anomalies, following up with management and revising / redefining any incorrect records. We have never seen an employer without some data issues to resolve in a period. These could be trying to understand why an employee worked for 18 hours straight (usually they didn’t clock out); trying to adjust time where there has been a change in the shift schedule and specific employee data is incorrectly reflected; or investigating employee absences. Irrespective of the cause, the biggest mistake we see made by employers is this task is allocated to their payroll or HR team to manage at the last minute just before they have to run payroll. By this stage there is no time to check with line managers. It is far, far better for the data to be daily or weekly and signed off by line managers. This promotes the right behaviour and significantly improves the quality of the data.

5. Integration with Payroll
For many employers, this is one of the key attributes they look for in their software, but in practice this does not improve the chances of a successful implementation. It is the old problem of GUGO (Garbage In Garbage Out). If the rules are bad and the process is badly managed, it doesn’t matter whether the system integrates or not. Sometimes it makes it worse because nobody actually checks the data and they assume it is correct.

6. New Software and Apps
Time and attendance is a pace where we expect new applications and AI to make a significant impact. There are already apps to allow for monitoring of employees through the GPS on their smart phones and for facial recognition cameras to track individuals around a site. However, the expense and software development to fully implement these have not really been tested in South Africa to the best of our knowledge. That said, even if you do have these enhancements you will still come back to the following two critical success factors in getting time and attendance right:

  • Set the rules correctly in advance.
  • Manage the process daily/weekly to correct anomalies and get line managers to sign off.