A time and attendance system can benefit your business in numerous ways, especially when it comes to employee scheduling and payroll. With so many product choices, though, it can be challenging to determine which solution will best fit your needs. If you’re looking for a time and attendance system, here’s everything you need to know about what time and attendance systems are, what they offer and how to choose one. We also provide our picks for the top time-tracking programs on the market.
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Time and attendance systems allow employees to clock in and out of work electronically via time clocks, internet-connected computers, mobile devices and phones. Some solutions even offer the ability to punch in and out via text messages and other communication methods, such as Slack. When an employee clocks in or out through the system, the data instantly transfers to software that can seamlessly import the information into your payroll solution for proper time tracking and employee payment.
However, these solutions do more than just track when employees come and go. They can also monitor mobile employees via geolocation and geofencing, manage paid time off (PTO), create employee schedules, provide detailed labor reports, and give business owners real-time data on who is working, who is not, who showed up late and who is nearing overtime.
Time and attendance systems do more than track employees’ hours. You can also use them for scheduling, time-off management, labor reporting and other HR functions.
Time and attendance systems include self-service functionality that allows employees to handle many time-tracking tasks, such as reviewing the hours they’ve worked, their current and future schedules, and their PTO accruals. Intuitive built-in tools make it easy for workers, HR leaders and business owners to stay on top of attendance-related matters. [Learn how to create a PTO policy.]
Many of these systems come in both cloud-based and on-premises solutions. The on-premises versions are stored on servers within your business’s on-site IT infrastructure, while the cloud-based setups are housed by the program’s vendor. In either case, users access the features digitally.
Given the breadth of functions that time and attendance systems offer, it should come as no surprise that there are various types. When comparing products, you’ll probably encounter the following options for time tracking:
You can use employees’ unique biological features, such as fingerprints, to track their attendance without any possibility of “buddy punching,” which is one way employees can steal time. However, make sure you’re aware of the laws surrounding biometric time clocks before you implement such a system.
With so many time and attendance systems on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your business. When you’re shopping for such a solution, look for these attributes:
Overall, business owners and their HR teams should find time and attendance systems beneficial, but here are some specific advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind.
These are some of the benefits of time and attendance systems:
Some time and attendance systems are sold by vendors as stand-alone solutions, while others are marketed as part of an HR software package.
These are the main drawbacks of time and attendance systems:
The cost structure of a time and attendance system depends on whether you choose a cloud-based or on-premises solution. Cloud-based systems have small recurring monthly costs, while on-premises systems typically have large one-time fees.
With on-premises systems, you pay all of your costs upfront. You can expect to pay several hundred to several thousand dollars for the software, user licenses for each employee, and installation. There are no monthly fees for the service thereafter. However, these one-time costs don’t typically cover any ongoing support or software updates.
For a cloud-based system, most vendors charge a per-employee fee that ranges from $1 to $10 per month. Some cloud services also have a base or minimum monthly fee. Additionally, providers may charge a one-time setup and implementation fee. Unlike with on-premises systems, however, all software upgrades and support are included in your monthly expenses.
With cloud-based time and attendance software, you won’t have on-site hardware to worry about, so moving your business is easier. Plus, your employees can access cloud-based systems from anywhere at any time, making them ideal for remote teams and multilocation businesses.
One expense you might incur for either setup is a time clock. Many time and attendance systems work with a range of time and attendance time clocks, which can involve PINs, swipe or proximity badges, or biometrics such as fingerprint or facial scans. The complexity of the clock you select will determine the cost. Prices usually range from a couple hundred dollars for a basic clock to several thousand for a sophisticated biometric clock.
We researched and tested a wide variety of products to determine the best time and attendance systems. Here are five of the many great options available to your business:
Still have questions about time and attendance systems? Below, we’ve answered some common questions to help you select the right platform for your business.
The biggest difference with time and attendance systems is that everything is digitized and automated. Traditional time clocks and timecards require manual data entry for everything. Time and attendance systems only require the push of a button for all of your company’s attendance information to sync with the software. That software then seamlessly integrates with the best payroll services for accurate payment, thereby eliminating duplicate entries, errors and guesswork. In addition, time and attendance systems log hours, job codes and information about breaks and PTO digitally and in real time, which traditional time clocks and timecards cannot do.
The type of time clock that’s compatible with a given time and attendance system depends on which solution you choose. Today’s time clocks collect time in different ways, including via punch cards, magnetic swipe cards, barcodes, PINs, and biometrics such as fingerprints or facial scans. Most vendors offer a variety of methods, and you can choose the one that’s best for your workforce.
Any time and attendance system that works with a biometric time clock is a biometric system. Because nearly every time and attendance solution that works with physical time clocks offers biometric options, there is very little difference between the two.
Biometric time clocks are best to use if you are concerned about “buddy punching,” in which an employee clocks in on another employee’s behalf. Biometric systems prevent that by tying the clock-in process to each employee’s unique biometrics.
The only time and attendance systems that don’t have biometric options are those that don’t incorporate biometric time clocks and instead rely on other means to punch employees in and out. However, even some of those systems now offer fingerprint scanners that plug into computers or use programs that take employee pictures with a computer camera as a way to incorporate biometric options.
No, you do not have to use a time clock with a time and attendance system. Some businesses prefer employees to clock in and out only through a computer, mobile app or phone. Forgoing a time clock can cut down on costs, as each time clock can run anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars.
While it might seem like time and attendance systems are only good for businesses with hourly employees, businesses with salaried workers can reap a number of benefits from them as well. A system that tracks how long employees work on specific projects can help with labor projections. Additionally, businesses with salaried employees may appreciate the PTO management aspects of these systems.
Time and attendance systems use virtual clock-in methods and GPS technology to monitor remote workers via mobile devices. Some systems use geofencing to limit where employees can clock in and out from, while others use geolocation to record exactly where workers are when they punch in and out. The systems can also use geolocation to track employees throughout the day, not just where they start and end their shifts.
Time and attendance systems integrate with payroll systems by allowing you to transfer your time and attendance data to your payroll program with one click. This cuts down on errors in collecting data and streamlines the entire payroll process.
Time and attendance systems manage PTO in several ways. They can track how much time off employees have earned and used, as well as manage accruals for sick time, vacation, bereavement and any other type of time off employees may receive.
Some time and attendance systems also handle the request-and-approval process. This allows employees to ask for time off directly within the system, and managers can either approve or deny those requests.
Although fancy-looking biometric time clocks might seem cool and exciting, the best time and attendance system isn’t always the most eye-catching one. Instead, you should choose the system that offers your business the highest value within your budget based on the research and product comparisons you’ve conducted. Keep the above information in mind when you’re evaluating different systems. Then, pursue free trials or product demos, and you’ll know intuitively which platform suits your needs best.
Max Freedman contributed to this article.