Time-conscious businesses spur sales revival for clocking-in machines

Organisations turn to traditional methods with a biometric twist to keep track of staff

A Sales of clocking-in machines have rocketed in recent years, as companies turn to decidedly old-fashioned methods to improve absence management, increase security and cut lateness. 

Suppliers told People Management that machines incorporating biometric technology, such as facial recognition or fingerprint readers, were proving particularly popular with customers. 

Colin Mason, director at Allday Time Systems, said his company had seen a 10-15 per cent year-on-year rise in sales of clocking-in machines over the last two years, with biometric devices selling particularly well.

Mason said: "The main reasons for more businesses using clocking-in machines are to improve cost control – particularly among those that import materials and goods and have seen costs rise elsewhere because of the falling value of the pound – as well as security, health and safety and improving certain aspects of people management, such as reducing lateness or improving absence management."

Meanwhile, Ben Lassoued, managing director of Computime Systems, said sales of PC-based entry-level systems throughcomputimedirect.co.uk, a website aimed at SMEs, had increased by 15 per cent over the last year, thanks mostly to an increase in biometric system sales. Sales of clocking-in machines at its sister website, aimed at larger companies, increased 12 per cent over the last year. 

Lassoued told People Management that employers were particularly keen on biometric solutions because they improved security and eradicated so-called ‘buddy punching’ – where an employee logs in or out for a colleague who isn't present.

"Biometric technology is a growing market," Lassoued added. "Its popularity is gaining more ground each year and it’s getting to be a more recognised and acceptable solution in workforce management and security."

Edward Houghton, the CIPD's research adviser for human capital metrics, said the rise in popularity of clocking-in machines was part of a wider trend towards collecting more data on all aspects of working life. 

“If HR departments are thinking about this effectively, then they are looking beyond just having those simple metrics and they’re questioning some of the measures around the health and wellbeing surrounding individuals and workers and what makes work high quality for them,” he said.

Biometric clocking-in machines haven’t always enjoyed a positive reputation, and are often associated with an overly controlling management style or a desire to snoop on staff. In 2009, cleaning staff for Eurostar went on strike, citing the introduction of a clocking-in machine that incorporated fingerprints among their list of reasons.

However, Houghton said: “People have become more aware of how [biometric] technology is being used and they’re no longer shocked to see it coming into their home lives and into the workplace… [but] if we don’t approach it in a transparent way and articulate it clearly to the workforce about why we want to collect this data, then it’s highly likely that the workforce will not want to participate and will feel disengaged because they don’t understand why and how this technology is being used.”

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