How do we implement a time and attendance system?

08 December 2005
How do we implement a time and attendance system?

How do we implement a time and attendance system without demotivating our staff?

Charles Trevor-Roper, Coaching to Success The immediate response to the introduction of such a system, from both line managers and team members, is likely to be one of "Big Brother", "They don't trust us", "How confidential will the records be?", "Why change?" and "What happens if I leave my card behind?" Everyone will have an image of the queue of workers waiting to clock in on a massive ticket-punching machine. All very negative.
The answer is to sell the positives. For the line managers, the new system will mean:

  • The easier production of work rotas (everyone's favourite task, and interestingly, always the first task to be delegated).
  • It will link the rotas to forecast turnover, helping to achieve targeted wage percentage.
  • The rotas will link directly to wages software.
  • The rotas will also link into personal screens for each team member, enabling the operator to monitor hours against the requirements of the Working Time Directive.

The new system will be more difficult to sell into the line staff. Individual benefits would be:

  • The earlier publication of rotas - enabling planning ahead.
  • Pressure days, when too few staff are on duty for the level of business, would be reduced.
  • Better management of time off and holiday requests.

The way to overcome resistance to change is to ensure that everyone has as much information as possible, and that the change is managed gradually. The software and its benefits to them should be fully demonstrated to the line managers in a heads of department meeting. They should then hold dedicated team meetings cascading the information and benefits down. The system should be introduced a department at a time, starting with the easiest.

Patrick Sullivan, Dukes Court Having the scars myself, I would say the short answer is that you can't - unless the things that lead to high staff motivation are in good order at the outset. Above all, staff must have a high level of trust in the management.

Your reasons for introducing the system must be very soundly based - for instance, to reduce the administration of manually calculating complex wage supplements. In that case you could guarantee that these records could not be used in disciplinary matters. You need to genuinely involve a wide spectrum of staff in the selection of the system and setting the "rules". You absolutely must be seen to have taken their concerns on board. Excellent communication is vital.

Don't underestimate how emotional a subject this is for managers and supervisors, who may see their people management skills being called into question and freedoms eroded.

One of the messages that can come across very strongly is "We're not giving you a minute." Everyone knows this is highly likely to engender a similar attitude in staff. If you have high staff motivation, why risk damaging it? And if you don't have high motivation levels, you will only make things worse.

You may be trying to manage the staff by a system instead of by your managers. Should that be the case you need to address the fundamental problem of management competence before you introduce the system. Spend your money doing that and you may even find that you do not need a full-blown system.

So if your employee relations are already really good and you have a positive reason for introducing the system, you may get away with it if you involve the staff fully in setting it up. If not, you need to get your management sorted out first.

Carol Ann Guilford, HR Solutions With any change you should involve and consult your employees, as involvement really does help obtain a "buy-in". If you have more than 150 employees, you should be working to the new Information and Consultation Directive that came into force in April. Even if the directive doesn't apply at this time, it's still best practice to implement some form of consultation. The directive is about management providing sufficient information to employee representatives and allowing them to consider the information and respond.

Employees must understand that a time and attendance system is not "Big Brother" but an invaluable management information system to collate accurate data electronically. It tracks jobs from start to finish, providing efficiencies, accurate timings and costings, which in turn can only add value to the company. It also ensures accurate payment of wages, as well as providing a management tool for monitoring and managing timekeeping and absences. This should be seen as positive as employee records will be objective and accurate, so any issues arising from poor timekeeping and attendance are based solely on facts.

There should be a clear policy on absence, with a trial period so that the benefits of such data capture and how it is being applied can be seen. If implemented as outlined, there should be no demotivation.

Research shows that employers who involve employees in such matters are likely to benefit through increased motivation and commitment.

Of course, this article is intended only as a guide. If you're looking at implementing such a system, you should seek professional advice.

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