Due to the challenges involved in capturing and processing paper-based attendance, organizations have been switching to more advanced attendance management methods such as fingerprint attendance.
Attendance management is an important but often sidelined activity in organizational structures, where timekeeping is essential. At workplaces, timekeeping helps ensure productivity by making employees or workers spend the minimum number of hours required.
At schools, colleges, and other educational institutes, timekeeping helps manage the students as well as the staff members. Many membership-based facilities also keep track of the check-in and check-out times of their members to ensure that members only spend the time allowed at a particular amenity.
In its simplest form, time and attendance can be tracked using pen and paper, in which in and out timings are captured as individuals arrive or leave a facility. However, despite being the simplest and seemingly easiest form of timekeeping, it has many challenges involved.
Fingerprint scanning is one of the most practical applications of Biometrics. Used for identification and authentication, this system compares a fingerprint scan with the pre-scanned images present in the database, to allow entry and control access.
Why paper-based attendance management has lost its relevance and why does it need to be replaced by more secure and automated approaches such as fingerprint attendance management? Let’s find out.
Why paper-based attendance is not a good idea anymore?
Paper-based attendance is extremely easy, to begin with. The simplest way to capture attendance is to write down the entry and exit timings of the individuals on a piece of paper and when you have the weekly/monthly attendance data, compile it to process payroll or produce reports.
If paper-based attendance is so easy to set up and extremely inexpensive, to begin with, why do we need to buy the expensive time & attendance systems?
Paper-based attendance management may seem easy and inexpensive to devise your own attendance management system; however, it suffers from a lot of problems that will eventually cost you more than a modern fingerprint attendance system.
Some organizations may use an electronic spreadsheet, on which clock in and clock out timings are recorded on a computer instead of paper. Superficially, it may seem like a computerized method of attendance capture but this arrangement is no better than a paper-based attendance system.
It is prone to most types of errors that a paper-based attendance system may suffer, however, the difference is that the data is saved in digital format and you do not have to manage paper-based records.
Paper-based attendance data is not secure
Paper-based attendance data and records are not secure. Unlike fingerprint-based attendance, which makes use of digital data security methods, you will have to make physical security arrangements to securely store paper-based records. Storage efficiency is not great either in the case of paper-based attendance records. As the size of data grows, you will need to have a larger space to store them.
Ensuring storage and physical security is not enough. Even if you are able to keep paper-based attendance data safe and secure, the quality of paper deteriorates over time as paper is prone to environmental decay. Being made of organic material, they can grow organisms such as bacteria and fungi in a humid environment.
Paper-based attendance management may seem highly cost-efficient as you just need a pen and paper to start capturing attendance. However, right at the time of attendance capture, you would need someone to look over the process to make sure people are providing accurate clock-in and clock-out timings. This additional supervision adds to the cost of paper-based time and attendance management.
Prone to errors
Capturing attendance on paper can be prone to human errors. Chances of errors increase twofold if attendance data is first captured on paper and then fed into a computer to process further. Fixing these errors at later stages can cost additional time and effort, which will eventually delay further processes such as payroll, leading to inefficiencies in the system.
Prone to manipulation
Paper-based records can be vulnerable to manipulation such as erasing or overwriting is easy on the data recorded on paper. It may also allow people to replace a paper-based record altogether with manipulated data. This vulnerability can let people make changes to recorded data even after it is captured. Data recorded on paper cannot be protected with a digital data protection mechanism, so it has to be supervised and secured physically.
Paper-based attendance: inexpensive but also inefficient and insecure
The best argument in the favour of paper-based attendance can be its simplicity and inexpensiveness. However, it is not as simple and inexpensive as it seems. Let’s compare a paper-based attendance system with a computerized or fingerprint attendance system.
To start with computerized attendance management, either attendance management software needs to be installed locally, or you can subscribe to a cloud service that provides attendance management over the internet. If you want to go the biometric way, there are plenty of biometric time & attendance systems to choose from.
In most cases, you will have to bear an upfront cost and invest time to configure your attendance software, create user IDs, etc. In the case of a fingerprint attendance system, you will have to purchase and configure the system and enroll users before you could go live with it.
Now compare this with paper-based attendance management. Instead of investing a huge amount in attendance software or fingerprint hardware, you can simply start capturing attendance on a piece of paper. Savings can be huge if you choose pen and paper over biometric attendance, however, problems related to paper-based attendance start piling up quickly.
You will have to arrange manual supervision at the time of attendance and compile weekly/monthly attendance data. Paper-based time and attendance management are simple to start with, however, it becomes increasingly challenging when there are a lot of records to process. To process them faster, this data will be required to be fed into a computer, which will take more time and bottleneck the further processes.
Benefits of fingerprint attendance systems
To get rid of the bottlenecks of paper-based attendance management, fingerprint-based attendance systems can be deployed, which offers several benefits over paper-based as well as many other attendance management systems.
Paper-based timekeeping can be highly vulnerable to impersonation, especially when done without supervision. An employee or student may ask someone else to mark them present even when they are not. Buddy punching is a common example of impersonation at the workplace, in which an employee may ask a co-worker to buddy-punch on their behalf, showing them present at work while they are away or absent.
Fingerprint-based attendance management does not allow individuals to impersonate someone else. It uses individuals’ fingerprints to identify them, which is an inseparable and hard to imitate biological characteristic. Even if an imposter is able to create an exact replica of someone’s fingerprints, today’s biometric fingerprint systems come equipped with anti-spoofing and liveness detection methods to fail such impersonation attacks.
Accurate time management
In a paper-based or manual attendance system, people may attempt to provide incorrect clock-in or clock-out times, if there is no or poor supervision. They can also manipulate data afterward as paper-based data can be easily overwritten. Such falsification leads to inefficiencies and may take a significant toll on the organization.
At workplaces, as we have discussed above, inaccuracies and manipulation of attendance data lead to inefficient payroll, in which employees or workers claim payments for the time not worked.
Fingerprint attendance systems have an internal clock, which can only be accessed by an authorized user with administrator privileges. Clock-in and clock-out are timestamped with this internal clock leading to accurate time management.
Unlike paper-based attendance systems, fingerprint-based attendance management is not only highly accurate but also highly efficient. Today’s fingerprint recognition systems can perform a 1:1 match in a fraction of a second. Instead of jogging down your clock-in or clock-out time or inserting your time card in a time clock, you can simply place your finger on the sensor to mark your attendance.
Digital data is easy to process
Processing paper-based data is not as easy as digital data. Performing data processing operations such as searching, replacing, sorting, etc. is not only inefficient but also next to impossible in paper-based records when they grow large.
Fingerprint-based attendance systems promote a completely paperless process for attendance management, in which data is electronically captured and processed. Time and attendance are common applications at workplaces, schools, and many other organizations. It can make a huge positive impact on the environment when organizations collectively promote paperless processes.
Now when cutting trees and scarcity of water are the common concerns in many parts of the world, technologies that reduce or eliminate the use of paper are considered environmentally friendly.
Today when environmentalists are concerned about global warming and climate change, fingerprint recognition can do its bit to save the environment by making attendance paperless. Production of paper takes a significant toll on the environment. The first paper is made out of pulp produced from trees, the second requires a lot of water to produce.
Connectivity and compatibility
Today’s fingerprint attendance systems also offer many connectivity options to connect and integrate them with other systems. Paper-based attendance management does not offer any compatibility and connectivity.
Today, most organizations use some level of computerization to manage their operations. Capturing attendance on paper and feeding it to a computer can become the bottleneck in operations such as accounts, payroll, etc. If attendance data is captured electronically, it can be quickly exported for further processing.
Student attendance in schools
Time and attendance are common applications of biometric fingerprint recognition technology at workplaces. It is also an important activity at schools. However, unlike workplaces, where employee attendance is important for ensuring productivity and processing payroll, schools have to keep track of student attendance to manage scheduling, reporting, and student security.
Despite the different objectives, attendance is equally important in schools and fingerprint-based attendance systems can fix many issues associated with paper-based student attendance. Except for attendance, fingerprint recognition systems can also be used for student security, enrolment, and authentication in schools.
Fingerprint-based systems for student attendance can not only ensure efficient attendance management but can also promote the safety and security of students. Management can quickly know if a particular student has shown up or not by populating digital attendance records.
Students can be more playful with buddy punching, a practice in which a student can mark attendance for someone else. Buddy punching and timesheet manipulation, however, is more common at workplaces, where it can take a significant toll on the payroll as organizations have to pay for the time not worked.
Sex offender screening
Sex offender screening is of crucial importance at schools when processing visitors. It ensures that listed sex offenders can be identified and stopped from entering the schools to ensure the safety of the students.
Children can be highly vulnerable to criminals and sex offenders. Depending on the jurisdiction, sex offender screening at schools can be a compliance requirement while processing visitors. Fingerprint-based visitor management for schools can screen individuals with a regional/national database of sex offenders for up-to-date sex offender screening.
Attendance and timekeeping are important activities at organizations and workplaces. An efficient attendance system can work as a catalyst for payroll efficiency and result in savings. Despite being an important activity, attendance management is often sidelined in favor of other processes. Using a paper-based attendance system can introduce efficiencies and drain company funds due to activities like buddy punching and timesheet manipulation.
Attendance is also a day-to-day activity at schools, which is used for scheduling, reporting, and security. Despite having slightly different objectives, attendance at school is equally important. Fingerprint-based attendance systems can fix issues associated with paper-based attendance for employees as well as students. It can record accurate clock-in and clock-out times, which cannot be manipulated or falsified.