How biometric technology can improve people management
Technology has made people management become increasingly complex and fraught with risk. Just this week, Tesla accused an employee of hacking, theft and leaking to the press. Tesla said it has suffered “significant and continuing damages” as a result. However, there are many elements of people management that could get a significant helping hand through the use of biometric technology.
Everything from fingerprint, facial recognition, voice-printing and iris recognition are being increasingly used by companies around the world to save time and money and to ultimately tighten up their processes to function more effectively.
The time is right. Recent research by IBM suggests 75% of millennials are now comfortable using biometric technology, thanks in no small part, perhaps, to Apple’s decision to use facial-recognition security to access the iPhone X, which launched last year.
There is also the benefit of employee perception changing for the better when they see the company they work for is forward-thinking and that ultimately, biometric technology can save them time, hassle and even improve their working environment.
Over the next few years, biometric authentication in the workplace and especially in people management will become a key strategic priority for many companies, especially large ones with many employees.
Biometric authentication and hiring
For companies needing to hire a lot of employees quickly for seasonal reasons or a big growth push — think G4S for large events, or Sainsbury’s during a Christmas period — biometric identification systems can be a godsend and even save embarrassment.
Essentially, biometric technology can be used quickly and easily in the screening process, making it simple for both the employer and the employee. For example, right-to-work documents — the bane of many HR departments — could be shared and verified using a biometric service, making the process simple and fast. Any issues could also be flagged at this point. After all, an employer that hires an illegal worker may find themselves breaching the law.
The technology also enables remote on-boarding. If a new employee is relocating from another city, they will no longer be required to make an expensive and time-consuming trip to their new employer’s office merely for the purposes of bringing in documents to prove their identity.
Mitigating risk and fraud
Biometric technology will also play a key role once employees have taken up their positions. If a biometric profile of an employee is created during the initial screening process and the employee is working, it can be checked against when the employee is undertaking any activity associated with risk, which could weed out fraud and create a clear understanding of what each staff member is doing (or, has done). In Tesla’s case, they could have quickly found out who was accessing company data and how they were using it, if it were biometrically protected, perhaps reducing the damage caused.
One of the biggest security weaknesses in the workplace is also still widely used by people and companies worldwide: passwords.
Replacing password with biometrics, especially multi-modal procedures — think fingerprint and facial recognition used together for verification for optimum security — is a serious step forward countering fraudulent activity, such as phishing and social engineering.
With so many employers signing into systems and databases using old-hat passwords, changing to biometrics should be a high priority. It will be key to improving the functionality of a workplace as well as the security.
Measuring and improving wellbeing
There are huge possibilities for biometrics in the workplace of the future. And while many will talk about tracking employees’ time and productivity, there is also a more positive use for biometrics.
For example, an employer can discover whether or not their workplace environment is a healthy and happy one. Demands on staff are only going to increase. Technology already exists to measure an individual’s heartbeat as a “signature”. As a result, there could be an increase in wearable tech, sensors, and data analysis to measure mental as well as physical health, to adjust the environment to help employees to feel more relaxed, productive or creative. Data could be used to adjust the physical environment to create the right temperature, lighting, or even encourage someone to take more breaks or be better hydrated.
All of this could go a long way in harmonising a workforce which will lead to better staff retention — a key indicator of good people management and often the success of a company.
Data and people can’t be discussed without mentioning privacy. It’s imperative that any organisation is totally transparent with regards to how they are using biometric technology and the data collected. How this happens will differ from country to country because what is acceptable, and legal, differs across the world. But respecting people’s data and privacy is paramount.
The implementation of a biometric identification system in the workplace is neither time-consuming nor hard to do. And in the long term, the benefits are clear.
Over the next few years will see an explosion of biometrics in almost all sectors and people management will be no different.
Grant Crow is the CEO of SmilePass – a flexible platform delivered as a service using best in class biometric solutions to manage identification and authentication.