The Ultimate Time and Attendance Guide

It’s Time to Upgrade your Timekeeping Software Solution.

Let’s face it: buying new time and attendance hardware and software is an investment in your company’s future. It’s something you don’t do on a large scale very often. In fact, the time and attendance system you buy today will likely be in use for more than a decade.

Being sure you have found the right system for your business is essential.

When you look to replace a broken or outdated system, many people default to the system they have been using rather than demanding a more customizable, innovative solution. Initially, you might think that replacing the system will be too expensive, time-consuming, and painful.

The mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might seem to work well as a cost saving measure, but it prevents your business from finding new efficiencies, provably reducing costs from time and attendance errors, and expanding its toolbox to meet growing needs.

So, before you get caught in a rut or sign a purchase order for the newer version of your same old time clock and software, ask yourself this:

“What do I need to know before buying a time and attendance software system?”

In this in-depth guide, we’ll answer that very question and many others. We’ll look at how manual time tracking has been outmoded by automation, introduce you to some of the most important features you’ll be looking for in your next upgrade, and highlight questions and issues you’ll need to know as you embark on your search for a time and attendance system that is perfect for your organization.

Getting it Right the First Time

There’s a lot to consider, and everything from functionality, to interoperability, to cost must be weighed carefully.

One basic rule of thumb any company can rely on is that if you need anything beyond basic functionality (if you need true automation or complete system integration) free software is not going to suffice. Many of these systems are only marginally better than using a spreadsheet to manage time and attendance manually. The old adage— you get what you pay for— is certainly true here.

Whether you are at the enterprise level or an emerging business, companies large and small benefit from cost-saving automation and better payroll transparency for their workforce.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

If you’re looking for employee time tracking software, you may want to consider some of the other features that may be beneficial to you. Generally speaking, time and attendance tracking software buyers fall into one of the following categories:

Workforce Accounting and Payroll Professionals

If you are approaching timekeeping from a payroll perspective, you will be looking for the most reliable and accurate way to empower your employees and track their time. Delivering accurate workforce data collection, choosing the right time clock or input device, and ensuring that special rules for calculating pay rates and optimizing labor costs may be some of the most important aspects of timekeeping for you.

Add-ons to your time and attendance solution might include cost forecasting and advanced employee scheduling to improve labor efficiency.

Human Resource Professionals

If you are approaching timekeeping from an HR perspective, time and attendance could be one of many functions you need in your solution. Your ideal system might include benefits administration, applicant tracking, employee education, certification and training tracking, and other features that assist with human resource functions.

Finding time and attendance software that integrates with other common business systems and tracks your workforce data accurately will be key to ensuring that your data can be accessed easily and that all that data works together to create a holistic view of your employees.

Basic and Integrated Timekeeping Systems

When considering a new time and attendance solution, think about your needs. Do you need or want a basic system or one that is integrated with your other payroll and/or HR systems?

Basic Time & Attendance:

Often used by small businesses with ten or fewer employees, the most basic time and attendance solutions consist of manually tracking employee hours using simple timesheets, printing out paper schedules, confirming attendance and absences with supervisors, and tracking employee hours for payroll using simple spreadsheets or calculators.

These solutions are not integrated with other business software and require considerable time and effort to keep accurate and organized. For example, a business might keep track of each employee’s worked hours with paper time sheets that are meant to be completed by the end of each shift. The hours from these sheets are then added up, with each employee’s breaks subtracted, overtime and shift differential rates applied, and then put into payroll.

Performing each of these steps by hand, mistakes are bound to happen. And any mistake or misstep in this process can have disastrous consequences such as raised labor costs, employee underpayment, inaccurate recordkeeping, or incorrect payment rates. All of these issues take extra time (and money) to correct, if those errors are recognized at all.

Integrated Time & Attendance:

Ideal for any sized company, an integrated time and attendance system consists of time clocks that are integrated with time and attendance software. These automate data collection for employees and assist in tracking hours and tasks, and providing this information to payroll services without requiring intensive manual intervention.

With an integrated time and attendance system, hours worked, pay rates, overtime and shift differentials, and many more factors for payroll are automatically calculated. No more manual entry of hours, or risking mistakes in calculation and recordkeeping.

And these systems provide the best platform for connecting workforce data directly with other business software through powerful integrations.

Saving Money with Better Time Clock Hardware

It is important to remember that time and attendance systems are clear money-savers, unlike most capital equipment expenses.

However, it is not uncommon to see businesses accidentally expose themselves to long-term costs and risks by avoiding a higher expense in the short term. Often smaller organizations will opt for simple punch clock hardware instead of biometric time clocks to cut costs in the short run, not realizing the benefits that come with higher-end hardware.

Alongside providing unmatched security, biometric time clocks ensure accurate timekeeping and improve employee accountability. With individualized verification, employees can take ownership of their own attendance and easily check their hours worked, available breaks, and system notifications

For many medium-sized and enterprise-level companies, complete business software integration and automation are key drivers in their time and attendance initiative.

Remember: Investments in your time and attendance system are known to pay off in the long run. Keep this in mind as you consider price, because every feature that prevents accounting errors, provides efficiency, and improves security is a worthwhile investment for your business.

Choosing the Right Vendor for Your Business

As we dive deeper into your options for time and attendance systems, it is important to consider how interconnected your timekeeping system will be with hardware such as time clocks and software such as scheduling programs, payroll or enterprise resource planning systems, and task tracking tools.

In addition, considering the relevant secondary features of your chosen vendor’s products are also particularly important for ensuring your system performs well and meets all of your needs.

System Integration & Automation

Some systems just don’t play nicely with others. One of the fastest ways you can weed out a time and attendance application from your list is by asking the question:

“Will this system integrate smoothly with my payroll solution?”

Furthermore, can you automate processes between the two systems? Your ROI can be improved dramatically, and your data entry nightmare will be eased considerably, if you can synchronize employee data between systems.

How about ERP, MRP, and other manufacturing systems? Databases? Can these be seamlessly integrated as well? Many time and attendance software developers list the business systems with which their software will integrate. Make sure yours is on the list, or you may be stuck with an incomplete, dysfunctional system until your contractual obligations allow you to switch one of the systems. In any case, no one wants to invest in a system that won’t support their workflow.

Advanced time and attendance software allows complete integration with manufacturing and production environments. Processes, box routing, inventory tracking, and much more can be fully integrated with your time and attendance system. Enabling you to track and report each employee’s productivity, this type of system integration provides employers with powerful reporting capabilities that will help introduce further savings.

Another level of system integration synergy exists between time and attendance and access control systems. Most employee time clocks can double as access control terminals, making it very cost- ffective to deploy both solutions simultaneously. When paired with biometric employee authentication, these integrated systems improve efficiency and security.

Complementary Products & Services

Ask each prospective vendor if they offer complementary products and services to learn more about the company. Some time and attendance providers opt to focus solely on their core competency while others branch out to provide related services.

Neither practice is necessarily good or bad; it just depends on the company’s focus. Will you get good support if you’re a small fish only purchasing one of their twenty services? Does the company’s spread of focus diminish the quality of its time and attendance product?

But the real question here is:

“Does my company need any of these supplementary offerings now or in the future?

Some common related services include:

  • Employee Scheduling
  • Facility Access Control
  • HR Management
  • Employee Benefits Tracking
  • Payroll Systems
  • Pre-Employment Services
  • Project Time Tracking for Cost Accounting
  • Professional Services for Customized Implementation or Integration

Company Practices and Satisfaction

Of course, along with all these other complementary services comes the wedding ring and ceremony; Once you’re locked-into several of these services, it becomes difficult to switch if you’re unhappy or require better functionality.

Many of the large payroll providers do just this—they’ll tell you that you must use their time and attendance system to use their payroll system. In most cases, this is simply not true. Journyx software, for instance, can integrate with practically any of the market-leading payroll systems, providing additional functionality to meet complex requirements.

This brings us to the topic of vendor reputation. It’s interesting how even the players with great reputations—such as these large payroll providers—can get away with practices such as lackluster server security, failing to provide adequate support, charging excessively for supervisor and administrative software licenses, and refusing to provide system configuration for even enterprise customers.

When evaluating vendors, you can evaluate reputation by using any search engine. Type in the company name, then the word “problems” or any synonym. On the company’s website, look for testimonials and case studies. And when you’re toward the end of the purchase cycle, ask for customer references.

Vendor Services

One important question to ask a customer reference is “How would you rate their integration services?” If you’re looking to integrate several different services, make sure the vendor has experience in the area and a track record of success, as well as flexible software that can rise to the challenge.

Regarding integration, support, and other services, don’t be shy to ask for references that resemble your intended deployment along with relevant case studies.

Common services offered by time and attendance providers include:

  • Software training
  • Implementation services
  • Professional services and software configuration
  • Integration with payroll, ERP, and other business systems
  • Ongoing technical support

Software customization and software engineering are not commonly found in the timekeeping industry but are a valuable service for many companies. Some time and attendance applications are set up in a specific way, meaning it will be up to you to make your business structure and nomenclature match the system; other systems can be fully configured to use familiar labeling to make using the software as easy as possible.

Secure and dependable cloud hosting services are essential for companies providing time and attendance. Check with your potential vendor to ask how secure your cloud hosted workforce data is, how often data backups are performed, and how frequently maintenance and downtime might impact your service.

Regarding maintenance and support, a good provider is going to offer several levels of well-defined support and maintenance. With something as important as employee time and attendance and payroll, you need to make sure your data, reports, and payroll exports are there when you need them.

If you are a global company, you might need 24/7/365 support to ensure valuable time or data isn’t lost. Ask what levels of support are available, and the services associated with each level.

Regulatory Compliance

A properly automated time and attendance system can help you maintain regulatory compliance. In the United States, for example, you might have to ensure that your workplace follows federal regulations set forth by a laundry list of legislations and regulatory bodies such as:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • Payment Card Industry Standards
  • FairPay Rules
  • Fair Labor Standards Act

Beyond these major regulations, your organization also has stay in line with state and local regulations, and adhere to complicated policies concerning union contracts and hiring stipulations as well.

By providing accountability, reliability, access to your organization’s historical records, and secure systems, an automated time and attendance system helps you meet the requirements of these acts and regulations.

Since all wage and labor information is accurately recorded and maintained for future reference, a complete time and attendance system will also be a tremendous help in any auditing or litigation process.

Purchase Criteria and Timekeeping System Features

Undoubtedly, the project to update or roll-out an employee time and attendance system stemmed from some pain or inefficiency your company is facing. Everybody has different needs, unique pains, and specific features that are considered essential. The problem is that every time and attendance application is different, and many aren’t going to satisfy every feature wish list.

At the same time, there are going to be some features that are nearly universally found in time and attendance software. One would expect to find functionally like storing employee information, recording punches, and managing time off.

We’re going to skip the “no brainer” features and skip to some of the items that are really going to be the deal-sealers or deal-breakers. You should make note of how important each feature is for you to make a better purchasing decision when comparing time and attendance software.

We recommend prioritizing features and noting which are essential for your company, because not every vendor handles these features equally well.

Biometric Capabilities

Can the software integrate with biometric time clocks? Are you limited to certain brands of time clocks? Do you have to rent the time clocks from the time and attendance vendor, can you purchase outright, or do you have the option for ClaaS (clocks as a service)? Even if you’re currently not using biometric time clocks, you may want to down the road. It’s important to at least check and see if the software can be integrated with biometric time clocks. Since a biometric time and attendance system typically provides the most accurate employee data, it’s better to be prepared to make the transition eventually.

Real-Time Data Functionality

The most useful time and attendance software is going to give you a real-time look into your employees’ activity. By using real-time data, you can ensure that employees are achieving their goals, your customers are being served, and your worker’s hours are all accurately accounted for.

If you experience a network outage and you are not using a real-time system, you are going to be missing punches. So, once you have resolved the network problem, you are going to have to resolve your payroll and timekeeping problem.

In addition, if you have more than one administrator managing your account, you don’t want to have a conflict if two administrators are trying to update the same item at the same time. A real-time system will reduce this type of conflict considerably.

Advanced Pay Rate and Pay Rule Capability

Naturally, setting pay rates and pay rules are a basic function of time and attendance software. But if you are looking for anything beyond the most basic functionality you are going to need to ask the vendor if their software can handle your specific pay rules.

If you want to assign more than just one pay rate per employee, free time and attendance software isn’t going to cut it for you. And if you want to manage and automate shift differentials or weighted overtime, you may not find that functionality in entry-level software.

Good time and attendance software will allow you to do just about whatever you want regarding pay rates and pay rules. For example, good time and attendance software will allow you to automate varying calculations by creating pay rules based on time of day (shift differentials) or employee position.

Task and Labor Tracking

Many companies need visibility beyond the simple in or out status. Companies such as marketing agencies, engineering firms, and service repair businesses need to have insight into how long an employee worked on a specific project.

This information is useful for more than just the companies that need to track employee labor for client billing purposes. By tracking how employees spend their time, businesses can more accurately scope work, resources and realistic timelines based on historical data. Corrective actions can be taken as companies determine how to best utilize, train and optimize their resources for improved performance.

Advanced Employee Scheduling

Employee scheduling and timekeeping go hand in hand. While some solutions for employee scheduling work as standalone software, some vendors offer scheduling as an extension of their time and attendance solutions.

It’s important to determine whether the level of employee scheduling functionality that comes standard with the software will be adequate for your needs. Most employee time and attendance software that features employee scheduling will only cover basic features, but some vendors offer fully-featured scheduling suites that integrate seamlessly with their timekeeping programs.

Look for employee scheduling features such as schedule defaults and schedule templates. Obviously, also make sure you can create schedules for individual employees as well as groups.

Next, ensure that you can view data based on coverage. Can the software show you the total number of hours worked by day, by employee, or by department? Can you view break times? Can schedules easily be printed for display in the workplace? Do you need specific types of employees per shift (maybe managerial level or with specific certifications or skill sets)? Answering these questions may be exceedingly difficult with some systems, while simple and easy with others.

Tracking and Forecasting Labor Costs

Tracking the costs associated with labor is an advanced feature that is not commonly found in time and attendance software. Nevertheless, it is a powerful feature that can help drive down labor costs company-wide and help you manage your business more efficiently.

Through labor cost forecasting, you can easily plan out shifts ahead of time to meet needs, and never run into issues with under-scheduling or over-scheduling to meet your labor demand. This feature can easily save you money by analyzing previous shifts and preventing inefficient scheduling in the future.

Tracking labor costs can also help identify the internal costs of producing your products or delivering your services, improving your top-down clarity and enabling tighter control over profitability.

Youth Employee Regulation Compliance

Special rules apply to employees who are minors, dictated at the federal and state level.

Entry-level time and attendance software probably won’t have special rules to manage and control labor for minor employees. However, if your company hires a considerable number of employees under eighteen, choosing a time and attendance system that incorporates rules for minor employees is a necessity.

Denoting school days, available hours, earliest availability, latest availability, and maximum consecutive days worked are all essential features to schedule and account for minor employees and comply with state and federal law. If youth employee management is critical for your business, make sure you ask your prospective providers the capabilities of their minor management functionality.

Restricting Access for Time Logging

If you’ve experienced the problem of having an employee punch-in a half hour ahead of time, then just sit around and socialize until they’re supposed to start working, you need to be able to restrict access for punches.

With advanced time and attendance systems, you can specify appropriate times for employees to clock in and out. If the employee tries to clock in or out at an unscheduled time, the system will automatically deny the punch. Obviously, this is just one of the ways a time and attendance system can save your company money. When researching time and attendance companies, be sure to ask about this useful feature.

Skills & Certifications Tracking

Designating employees with skills and certifications allows you to speed scheduling, ensure proper coverage, and eliminate errors. An advanced feature not commonly found in entry-level time and attendance software, skill and certification designation enables you to identify the specific employees possessing a special skill, certification, degree, etc. that qualifies them for a specific task.

To make this feature truly powerful, many time and attendance providers combine skill and certification designation with scheduling to ensure proper coverage. For instance, if certain lab procedures require a doctor with a specific degree or specialization, the scheduling manager can create a rule requiring the scheduling of an employee with that certification. This can also be used in a retail setting to ensure the appropriate number of shift leads and supervisors are present for each shift.

Advanced Reporting Capability

Reporting is a core function of time and attendance software. Still, if not scrutinized, you may find that the reporting capability of the software you choose is entirely inadequate. Consider your current and future needs for reporting carefully. Consider reporting options (like report types), reporting functionality (like searching and sorting), and export capabilities.

Advanced time and attendance software may offer an easy button to prepare a report for auditors. Journyx’s time and attendance software not only has an Auditor Report, but it also features more than 75 reports, including the Timecard Report, Break Time Report, Project Time Report, Excused Time Report, Monthly Overview Report, and more. You can also create completely customized reports, even scheduling them to be emailed to you in specific intervals.

When researching time and attendance software, ensure it has the reporting functionality you need so you’re not left out in the cold post-purchase.

Mobile Employee Time & Attendance

Field service employees and mobile workforces are notoriously difficult to manage when it comes to time and attendance. But bringing accountability to your mobile workforce is essential for businesses with a substantial number of mobile employees.

Many of the better time and attendance companies provide solutions for mobile employees, typically utilizing cell phones or tablets for clocking. Many vendors can even allow managers to make updates to the system itself via a mobile device.

If you have more than a handful of mobile employees, the investment in ensuring mobile capabilities pays for itself quickly. Ask your prospective time and attendance companies if they offer a secure solution for your mobile workforce.

Final Conclusions

Purchasing time and attendance software often seems like a huge undertaking when you first start the research process. At first you may not have known what you needed, what’s out there, and what’s feasible. We hope this in-depth guide has made the process seem a lot less daunting by providing you with industry insider hints, advice, and the most important features to consider as you’re looking for your next upgrade in time and attendance.

Ultimately, your time and attendance system should meet your organization’s needs and save your business time and money. But just as importantly, it should provide you with a clarity of value for how your workforce spends their most valuable resource— time.

Contact Journyx today to take the next step in finding the perfect time and attendance solution for your organization.

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Journyx helps you track time for projects, payroll, and more. Learn how Journyx can help you use time to your advantage in your business.