How to set up photo ID cards in your workplace


photo id cards
Photo ID cards improve security & bring a sense of community

Bringing photo ID cards into your organisation can play a significant factor in ensuring the security of your building and the protection of your staff. So how do you go about setting it up?

First, think about what you want to achieve.

Do you want the photo ID cards to just identify the wearer, or do you want them to also act as access control cards (to gain entry to your building) or as smart cards (to pay for their lunch in the canteen for example)?

The answer to this will determine what kind of cards you need, and how much investment/time will be involved. If this is purely an exercise in badging, a plain PVC card will do – which you can choose to print yourself by investing in an ID card printer, or by using a card bureau service. You can buy cards that come with signature strips, or mag stripes that work with simpler loyalty systems for example.

If you want your photo ID cards to work with your existing access control system, speak to your installer about whether your existing cards can be printed on – or indeed whether you need to swop from a token or fob to a card. Most access control cards can be printed on with a specific type of ID card printer.

If you truly want a smart card, you’ll need a card that comes with a chip embedded – for example Mifare cards (think an Oyster card), or one that’s capable of taking on smart card capabilities. Again, these can be printed on – usually by a card bureau.

Then consider how you’ll manage the programme.

Who will be responsible for creating the photo ID cards, managing the records and dealing with the day-to-day administration? Usually this responsibility lies with HR, but if you don’t have your own HR department, give at least two people responsibility. That way, if one person is on holiday when a card is ‘forgotten’ or ‘stolen’, things won’t grind to a halt.

If your photo ID cards are doubling up as access control cards, put robust procedures in place for what happens if a card goes missing. Your access control software will allow you to block or delete a specific card – ensuring it doesn’t allow access to your building if it drops into the wrong hands.

If you’re bringing in a programme for security reasons, make sure you stick to it.

Don’t make it one rule for one, one rule for another. That means senior management need to be onboard too, otherwise it undermines the whole programme. If the primary purpose for bringing in photo ID cards is to improve security, everyone needs to wear a badge.

That means following procedures for ‘forgotten’ badges too. Give out temporary badges to members of staff who have left theirs at home that day.  

Police it.

Giving all staff a Photo ID card for security purposes is only effective if it’s going to be enforced. If you have someone permanently in Reception, give them the responsibility for checking everyone is wearing a photo ID card when they enter the building. Most importantly, they should stop anyone who is not.

In some industries where security is paramount, for example in healthcare or schools, staff should be given permission to challenge anyone not wearing a badge. This secondary level of checking should reveal anyone who made it past reception unnoticed.

Now you need to consider how you’ll create the cards.

There are two ways you can print your photo ID cards: by investing in a plastic card printer and doing it yourself, or by sending the data to a card bureau for them to print them for you.

Keeping your card printing in-house

There is a wide range of card printers available on the market. At the entry-level end, you can pick up the Evolis ‘plug & print’ Badgy for less than £600.

But if you’re printing a large quantity of cards, or you need them to do more clever things (like print volumes of double sided cards with smart card capabilities) then you could be looking at spending more like £1200. Then you’ll need to factor in the running costs, in terms of blank cards, ribbons and cleaning kits.

Keeping your card printing in-house is sensible if you have a regular need to print new photo ID cards, for example for temporary workers, or contractors.

Outsourcing to a card bureau

If you don’t want to shell-out for a card printer, look for a plastic card supplier with a track record in printing photo ID cards. They will take your data and print the cards for you.

But make sure you check their credibility. It isn’t particularly wise to choose a supplier in China you’ve never heard of – even if they are cheap – integrity of data won’t be guaranteed. Ask sensible questions to protect the identities of your employees – how will the supplier store your information? Are their staff CRB checked? We would expect to be asked this type of due diligence.

Some plastic card printers will also take away the hassle of administration from you. Many, like The Card Network, operate a card issuance service, where all photo ID cards are sent with a personalised letter directly to employees.

On a simple level, photo ID cards identify the wearer, and whether they have the right to access the building. They also make it much harder for the cards to be ‘adopted’ by anyone other than the rightful owner, which automatically tightens security. They also bring a sense of community to your workforce, a benefit that can’t be underestimated.