Dear TCEA Responds:
We have an interesting situation in my district that deals with how to prevent employees from clocking in for each other. I just had two technicians who were logging in from home to “clock in” and then drive in to work at a leisurely pace. I’m thinking about switching to a different solution. What do you recommend?
-William, Technology Director
Thanks for your inquiry. There are really two fundamental challenges you describe in your email. Please allow me to address them each in turn.
Challenge #1 – Lack of Trust and Integrity
Preventing Technology Department staff from abusing their access and power can be a problem. These are really cultural and personnel concerns. Create a culture where trust and integrity are the bedrock foundation of all relationships. Training people out of lying, cheating, and stealing can be difficult. That is why you should strive to hire folks aligned to your department’s values and beliefs. If you do not have those clearly outlined (and in prominent display for everyone to see) already, then take half a day and have your team develop the core values that they can all agree on. Then refer to them often in meetings, helping to remind everyone of what they agreed to.
I also recommend having crucial confrontations with affected employees. The CPR approach I have adopted in these situations is based on the work of the Vital Smarts team.
THE CPR APPROACH
The CPR approach focuses on a key element of supervisor/employee interactions over time. Those elements are in bold type below. Each step is documented, although you hope you will not need it after the first interaction.
In the first interaction, focus on the content. In this case, you notice staff are clocking in remotely. You make it clear that you expect staff to clock in while at work. “While clocking in remotely may have been accepted in the past, it is no longer so. From this point on, we will all clock in on site at our offices,” you might say.
In the second interaction, focus on the pattern of behavior. Share the agreed upon expectation, then describe the observed behavior. Ask what happened to cause the behavior to deviate from the expectation to get at employees’ thinking. Avoid jumping to conclusions (it’s so easy to do this, but sets all up for failure). If a pattern of untrustworthy behavior becomes evident, then further steps may be needed.
“As you know, we all agreed to clock in on site at our offices. I noticed you clocked in remotely several times this week. What happened?” This type of entry provides insight into whether the staff member needed more direct instruction or is exhibiting a poor attitude. There may also be other issues (“I have to drop my child off and that always makes me late”) that you can take into account. For example, for a staff member whose start time is too early, you can adjust their work hours to eliminate that obstacle.
In the third interaction, focus on the relationship. Repeated violations of trust have damaged your relationship. You begin to feel you can no longer trust the staff member. “In the past, we’ve agreed that clocking in remotely is not accepted in our organization. You have done so on these three occasions. What’s going on?” Based on the respectful dialogue (or not) that ensues, you will have the information you need to make a decision. Remember, you are genuinely curious about why a staff member would violate organizational policy and rules.
I have used CPR successfully prior to beginning the oral/written warning process that ends in employee separation. Often, it gets the results and maintains a positive relationship with the employee. When the end comes, there’s little surprise to you both. You genuinely cared, were respectful, and urged changes. The employee persisted in negative behavior. As a result, the actions you are forced to take to resolve the problem (ranging from oral to written warnings and/or reprimands) are the direct responsibility of the employee. Often, CPR results in a positive outcome. This happens when you care, avoid hitting people over the head with consequences of non-compliance. People understand why their actions are incongruent with the organization. You can honestly say, “I’ve done everything I can to help the employee be successful.” The situation is win/win for both you and the employee.
When an employee’s contrary actions persist, you both know the problem(s) well. At that point, a staff member may resign. They realize that their way is out of alignment with the organization. If behavior does not change, the district human resources team will have documentation to begin termination proceedings.
While you can always put technical solutions in place to mitigate inappropriate behavior (e.g. fingerprinting), the best approach relies on a strong culture. Build a culture of trust with clear expectations in place. Hold people accountable at crucial moments when a problem is small. “Nip it in the bud,” as the saying goes.
Challenge #2 – Time Clock Solution Selection
There are a variety of time clock tools available. Here are a few solutions that school districts have adopted for employees who need to clock in.
- Frontline’s Time and Attendance* (f.k.a. Veritime)
- Time Clock Plus
*In addition to tracking employee time and attendance, this product integrates with Absence Management (f.k.a. AESOP substitute tracking system).
Making a Choice
What separates these solutions? Features for each are many. For most districts, cost, management and monitoring, and integration with mobile apps may serve as distinguishing features. Unfortunately though, each system can be abused for convenience. Setting clear policies and building a culture of trust will help minimize issues. And it is possible that increased trust and clear policies well communicated can lower costs (e.g. you pay more for each feature). Otherwise, you may find yourself deploying expensive biometric technologies. These biometrics (e.g. fingerprints, voice patterns) are used to minimize policy violations. My preference is for easy to manage and user-centric tools. What are your district’s priorities for a time and attendance system?