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The Forgetting Curve

Published: January 10, 2016

Do you know what you were doing two hours ago? What about at 8:45pm yesterday? What if we asked if you can recall exactly what time you finished work on Wednesday last week? What about every start and finish time for the whole week?

In 1885, a German by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus published his theory of the exponential nature of forgetting, to explain how the further back in time we need to go to remember, the fuzzier things start to become. For the mathematically inclined, the formula R = e (–t/s) describes the theory, where ‘R’ is memory retention, ‘t’ is for time and ‘s’ is the relative strength of memory. It is typically represented by the above graph called ‘the forgetting curve’, providing a rather succinct explanation of how memory worsens over time.

Yet with all we know about memory from Ebbinghaus and his neat formula, many businesses continue to rely on the memory, and the honesty of their employees to report times worked via paper-based systems. The sad reality is that even the most honest of your employees may tend towards unintentional errors when reporting on their times worked if they are using after-the-fact, paper-based timesheets to record it.

Such errors can be extremely costly to a business over time, especially when the number of employees in your company starts nearing the 100 mark and beyond. The below table illustrates how just ten minutes of overestimated time can impact a business financially in just one week.

Implementing a Mitrefinch employee time and attendance system can instantly eliminate time-consuming paperwork both for your staff and your payroll and human resources department, by having employees’ comings and goings recorded automatically.

Biometric (finger scanning) devices provide the additional benefits of cutting out ‘buddy punching’, where one employee takes another’s card and clocks in or out on his or her behalf, covering up for a late arrival or allowing the second person to make a fraudulent overtime claim.

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