Time is changing: How to responsibly support employees with technology

Employee looking at time sitting on steps with briefcase

The need for HR leaders, managers and organizations to support employees is of the utmost importance for organizations to retain and gain new talent. Never before has the labor force been given the unforeseen opportunity to prove trustworthiness like it has during COVID-19 and the results were nothing shy of amazing. Employees did the unthinkable and not only maintained productivity levels, but exceeded them in many cases despite the struggle of ongoing challenges at home or having to endure physically demanding working conditions.

Preconceived beliefs that stated if employees were granted the benefit of working from home would in effect cause productivity to plummet due to of lack of motivation or distractions were debunked, and instead employees clearly demonstrated that giving people the trust and flexibility to go beyond traditional ways of working pays off. With that said, we're still in a time of crisis and employees can’t help but feel the strain, which is why many are beginning to evaluate next steps in their careers.

In fact, according to SHRM as many as half of workers intend to look for a new job this year, and even more turnover is expected once the pandemic finally ends. Employees aren't being shy about what they're seeking, citing workplace safety and personal wellbeing as primary factors motivating them to change jobs. The time is now to reevaluate how your HR technology can give your employees the support they need, and that starts with how you track and manage their time. Here are some ways to refine your time and attendance approach to focus on experience instead of enforcement to ensure your people still want to work at your organization even when other opportunities arise.

Encourage and promote a culture of self-care

Burnout is top of mind for HR these days, and neglecting self-care is one of the leading causes of burnout. A culture that encourages self-care will not only improve overall mental and physical wellbeing, but it will also allow your people to thrive in your organization. One important way to help alleviate this concern is by enabling and rewarding employees for exemplifying self-care. And though it may not seem like an obvious connection, a lot of this starts with workforce management.

Using your time tools to move away from tracking employees and productivity levels and instead toward enhancing employee wellbeing is where organizations are leaning in. According to another piece by SHRM, with the right solution it even becomes possible to do things like prompt your people to take a break or go for a walk if they've been focusing on one task too long. Workforce activity data captured in time solutions can also be a key indicator of if employees are fatigued or even possibly becoming a flight risk when used correctly. This opens the door for HR and managers to support people in the ways they need instead of just noting who may be late or absent.

Adoption of these workforce management practices will likely continue to grow as organizations increasingly embrace the value of employee-centric platforms to combat the effects of the "great resignation" we talked about earlier. Other innovations like dynamic self-service scheduling tools will help increase the flexibility employees feel they have, while touch-free options for clocking in and out of work safely, health screening tools, and virtual shift swapping or time off requests will increase their sense of psychological safety and control over how their lives and their work connect.

Promote support over surveillance

Another set of scheduling changes we saw from COVID-19 was the need to schedule cohorts of employees together with the goal of limiting or containing exposure becoming a necessary mode of operating from a health and safety perspective. As a result, the need for organizations to know exactly when and where employees were working and who they came into contact with became critical. A key location where organizations collect this information is at the time clock, but new methods of collection needed to be found to allow social distancing in physical workplaces and prevent infection risks.

One important way employers have been keeping employee safety at the forefront when it comes to clocking in is touch-free technology, as I just mentioned. Some companies are making options available for their people to manage time on their mobile device, and even setting up specific geographic locations where employees can clock in to ensure they're at the right places before they start their shift. Organizations are even taking this a step further by using touchless identification methods like facial biometrics as an added level of precaution for clocking in and out in places where many employees may access the same clock.

But this technology has both organizations and employees thinking long and hard about privacy concerns, questioning how this data is stored and when it gets destroyed. As an organization, it's important to be mindful that each state and country has different laws and definitions on how this data is classified and can be used. But one thing is for certain — obtaining employee consent is absolutely necessary to maintaining that level of trust. You need to think through this process carefully and seek out legal advice and learnings from other organizations around unintended consequences of obtaining sensitive information like this and how to avoid them.

Build transparency and trust

Just being up-front and transparent by outlining to employees how information being collected from their activities at your organization is used can go a long way. For example, relating to contact tracing to the shift cohorts mentioned earlier to emphasize that this is a policy built to protect employees goes a long way. Having this type of information on hand is critical to containing the spread of COVID-19 as having it readily at HR's fingertips means potential risks can be quickly mitigated. By and large, if you’re being clear and honest about intended use and how you have their best interest in mind, your people will get behind your efforts.

HR leaders have a legal and ethical responsibility to keep all employee-related information safe during the entire life cycle of private information all the way from inception, to usage, and finally to proper destruction. HR can take advantage of modern cloud technology that encrypts this data and does its due diligence to protect from violations and hacker attacks. This way, HR can ensure that employee data is always kept secure and private but still allow analytics as appropriate on that data. Your people often see the benefit of using personalized HR services that require some level of personal data, such as the predictions we talked about before that help anticipate their needs. When organizations prove that they're keeping their people's data secure, then employees will feel safe and continue to trust you with that information. Gartner's Dos and Don'ts of Using Employee Data is a great resource if you need some tips here.

Conclusion: Time technology isn't just operational anymore

We've learned a lot from how employee activity has changed during the pandemic, and we now understand just how valuable information on workforce activity is for promoting safety, creating stronger company cultures, and helping employees feel they belong and are trusted. If you need help making the case for the value of the technology needed to accomplish the things we've talked about, UKG is here for you. Check out our Value Estimator to get started.

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