8 Ways to Set Up an Employee Time & Attendance System

Gone are the days when the punch card/time clock was your only option for accurately tracking employee time & attendance. Now, you have multiple options that give employees greater access to their records, and managers have more ways to analyze hours, make schedules, and assess labor costs.

The spectrum of options ranges from the simple do-it-yourself solution to state-of-the art time & attendance software solutions —with costs and implementation appropriate to each option. Our article takes a look at some of the pros and cons of each. 

1. Pencil and Paper or a Spreadsheet

Small businesses in their first year or two might choose to utilize a manual time & attendance system. You can create a simple time table in a word processor and print it out for employees to use. Alternately, you can set up a spreadsheet on a single computer or other device that employees access upon arriving to, and leaving, work. A shared spreadsheet can be as complex or simple as you like. If you are highly skilled, you can create formulas and macros that track hours, accrued PTO, and shift availability, among other things. For greater accessibility, you can share a clock-in spreadsheet via Google Drive/Docs or some other cloud-based system.

One possible solution is to use the track changes feature in Google Docs. This way you can double-check the accuracy of employee entries and show that only employees have made those changes. That is, the spreadsheet allows you to check when employees changed the shared spreadsheet, and where on the sheet their changes occurred. Thus, if an employee enters hours for a friend, you will easily see who made that change – and when. One caveat is that employees can access the spreadsheet from anywhere, not only at work.

The difficulty with many of the manual methods is that they’re both significantly more time consuming, and provide little accountability. Employees might begin to distrust how management tallies their hours, and management might suspect that employees are clocking in for one another, or entering inaccurate numbers. In the absence of true accountability, businesses might be opening themselves up to issues with their employees.

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2. Time Clock Hardware

Time clocks are yet another option for your time & attendance system. This hardware-based option can be very affordable. Simple, entry-level time clocks can be purchased for under $100. That price will buy you a stand-alone clock that can accurately record employee punches. As your budget grows, there are far more robust systems on the market.

As your business expands, so can your time clock features. These days, hardware-based systems can record employee hours with fingerprint scanning or photo verification, eliminating the possibility of friends clocking in friends. Advanced machines can handle up to, say, 500 employees and multiple clocks’ time cards. All of your hardware can be networked over your LAN, WAN, VPN, or WEB. When it’s time to pay your employees, time & attendance data can be accessed via a PC and exported to a .csv file for your payroll processor.

Of course, hardware systems can break, and they quickly become outdated.

3. Badge Systems & Keyfobs

Employee badges and keyfobs offer employees the opportunity to register their time as a seamless part of coming to work. All they need to do is wave their badge or fob before a pad and they’re clocked in. Of course, this still leaves open the possibility of employees covering for one another and then management has a headache every time a keyfob or badge is lost or stolen. Luckily, this happens less often than we fear, and it’s a snap to re-assign a keyfob for an employee.

Badges and keyfobs can have other uses. Your building can encode these devices to allow employees access to certain areas, and restrict others. Entry keypads can be turned on or off to allow or disallow entry at certain times of the day or week.

4. Biometrics & Fingerprint Systems

Biometrics and fingerprint systems are more ubiquitous. When employees clock-in, they can scan their fingertips or have the system take their photo at the time of arrival. Another aspect of biometrics is hand geometry.

Your employees can punch-in by simply having the time-clock hardware scan their hand. There is no need to keep up with a key fob or passcodes. Your employees will simply place their hand in the scanning area and they are instantly clocked in. There is no need to remove small bandages or wash off dirt. This solution can be easy for all of your employees to manage, particularly those with disabilities.

5. Time Clock & Attendance from Your POS

For restaurant and retail businesses, a natural solution is to integrate your time & attendance system into your point-of-sale devices. Your employees will appreciate the seamless transition from clocking in to entering orders. Plus, you can disseminate messages to individuals, the whole team, or a certain part of your team. For instance, you can let your kitchen staff know that a supply order is coming later than normal, or tell a specific salesperson that she has received the days off she was hoping for.

This sort of integration is great for management, too. When you access time & attendance information simultaneously with sales numbers, it is easier to create a schedule. Last year’s numbers can be used to staff shifts, and you can put your strongest sellers on the floor to maximize the bottom line.

6. Time & Attendance Clock-In from a Computer

Integrating time & attendance systems into your employees’ computers is a solution that works great in an office setting. Employees can clock in and out, review their schedule, request time off, and track their PTO, benefits, and other HR concerns. The seamlessness of this system gets workers to their stations and at work first thing in the morning.

If your employees are not at the same station every day, they can use individualized codes to access the time-tracking software. You might also integrate biometrics to eliminate the “buddy punch” phenomenon. When these solutions are networked, your employees can access them anywhere there is an Internet connection.

7. Mobile Time Systems

Your employees are sure to have mobile devices of their own or that you have issued to them. Your employees can use their iPhone, iPad, Android, or Blackberry devices to clock in easily and efficiently.

When they clock-in, well-designed software systems can include geometrics, so management can see where employees logged in from. When your employees are traveling, they will appreciate the ability to seamlessly integrate their clock-in procedures with minimal hardware requirements. You will appreciate knowing that they are at their worksite on time.

8. Any Device Time & Attendance Software

If you have a diversified business with employees working in a variety of environments, a time & attendance system that works on multiple platforms is extremely useful. Construction workers on a job site can clock in using individual smartphones or a company iPad, administrative staff can clock in from their computers, and your salesforce can use a mobile device, a laptop in a remote location, or their desktop computer in your office.

Since your time & attendance software is free from any rigid hardware configurations, you can solve your punch-in issues with ease. Further, your employees will appreciate the ability to access their HR records, place requests for time off, or assess the state of their various benefits. These solutions are cloud-based, and can be updated and improved on a regular basis by the manufacturer.

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Any-device time & attendance software doesn’t have to break your budget. Our flexible, cloud-based software solution can be placed on almost any device, integrates with dozens of payroll providers, and grows as your business grows. Call us today to get a quote or see a demo.

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