Employees are often the single biggest expense of any business. Before they are paid a single dime, businesses have spent money recruiting them, hiring them and adding them to the payroll. Since employees represent such a significant expense, it's important to get every bit of value out of each one. One way to do that is by making sure your staff is on site, on time and on task. Time and attendance software can help get that done.
Quite often, time and attendance is part of a larger human capital management platform. Companies like ADP and Kronos, to name a couple of more well-known entities, excel at offering solutions that cover payroll, benefits and talent management, with time and attendance being just a piece of the puzzle.
There are also companies that focus solely on time and attendance. A good time and attendance tracking system can help businesses learn who is literally "stealing" time with late arrivals, long breaks and early departures. These systems can also help keep businesses compliant with wage and labor regulations, staffing during the busiest times, and even help with budgeting.
Some of the latest features and advancements on the old "punch clock" that you can consider when choosing the right solution for your business include:
Time-tracking capabilities: This is the foundation of any system. It tells when employees are on the job and when they are "clocked out." Sophisticated systems allow employees to clock in remotely have restrictions to keep people from logging in from an unrecognized IP address.
Time off/sick-leave management: Most employees accrue time off as they work. A good system keeps track of that accrued time and employees should be able to access data showing what they have available and request time off on the spot.
Overtime/tardy monitoring: Some of today's systems alert supervisors when someone is putting in too much time or there is a pattern of late arrival. Workers also get notified when they are about to go over their allotted time or are tardy too often.
Scheduling tools: Most employees want holidays off, but that's not always possible. Scheduling tools can help ensure you have plenty of people working to keep orders flowing and customers happy.
Ease of use: The best systems shouldn't be too hard to administer, or too difficult for employees to self-serve.
Customer service: Any system you pay for should come with access to a real support team that can answer any questions and help you over any rough patches.
Integration options: With scheduling being such a big component of these systems, it can be important to find a system that lets you integrate with your existing HR and payroll programs.
Mobile access: This is a great feature for organizations with a remote or mobile workforce. It allows employees to clock in and out, and log time spent on specific projects, while also allowing managers to track locations to ensure people are where tey're supposed to be.
Biometric recognition: There is always someone who will try to "buddy punch" for a pal who is late or absent. Biometrics are a great preventive measure for employers who want to ensure their employees are really present.
Editor's Note: Looking for Time and Attendance Systems for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:
Hourly employee tracking: These systems can make it easy to track hourly employees' time and pay to the minute, but also keep a business compliant with hourly work and wage rules.
Salaried employee tracking: This can be important for companies who have exempt employees whose pay comes from multiple departments or your business needs to track time based on billable hours for client projects.
Messaging: Want to be able to set alerts to notify managers if an employee is late or fails to punch in? Systems with messaging allow you and your management team to create messages for individual employees, work groups or those at specific locations.
Online punch card: Take the guesswork out of when employees punch in or out. A worker's time can also be tracked to a designated job or project.
Payroll management: This is a great feature that can help your accounting department handle withholdings, and many can tie directly into your current accounting software. Often, the package is part of a larger human capital management system.
Reporting/analytics: Employees create a data point every time they check in or out of work. The ability to have and review that information creates opportunities to create a more effective work environment based on staffing and productivity. You also know who is pulling their weight and who isn't.
Workstation tracking: This feature informs managers not only of an employee's attendance, but whether or not that employee is in the right place doing what they are supposed to.
Cost: Systems can be physical or in the cloud and that can impact overall costs. The level of support also is often tied to overall cost, so it's wise to shop carefully to ensure you get the features your business needs, but the level of customer service that keeps you up and running.
Overall Winner: Best Time & Attendance Software/Services for Small Business -- Deputy
Deputy, the Australia-based scheduling solution has the right combination of features and price to be our top pick for the best time and attendance software or service available for small business.
While scheduling is an added feature for most time and attendance systems, Deputy is a scheduling system first. Managers can create drag and drop schedules for employees regardless of work area or location. New employees are easily added through the manager dashboard, and depending on the level of freedom an organization wants to grant its employees, workers can go in the system to manage their availability or switch shifts.
If scheduling is all your business needs, it's $2 per month per user. If you want to track attendance and export data to payroll, it's just a dollar more at $3 per person, per month, and it comes loaded with features.Deputy also provides customizable solutions for larger or more complex businesses, with custom pricing options.
Read our full Deputy time & attendance review.
Winner: Best Time & Attendance Software/Services for Scalability -- uAttend
Every time and attendance system reviewed has the ability to grow with your business, but uAttend's up-front pricing and variety of time clock options make it our choice for scalability.
uAttend touts the ability to capture every punch in the cloud, no matter where it comes from. Employees can use a physical clock, the uAttend app, a touch-tone call or the Web.
Plans start at $18 per month for up to nine employees and go to $99 per month for 99 employees. That's not per month per employee but per month. Each cloud account plan comes with two time clocks, an administrator and unlimited data exports. Additional clocks cost $10 more per month and additional administrators cost $6 more per month. You also have to pay $5 more if you want your data in a format other than comma-separated values.
Read our full uAttend time & attendance review.
Winner: Best Time & Attendance Software/Services for Offsite Staff and Virtual Businesses -- TSheets
The size of the mobile workforce is expected to grow to more than 105.4 million people by 2020 and make up more than 72 percent of the U.S. workforce. TSheets is our pick for the best and easiest option for tracking all those mobile workers.
Whether it's construction workers, delivery drivers, landscapers, or home health care providers, TSheets keeps tabs on who is where and when they got there. The cloud-based system, by Quickbooks, has a variety of options to let employees input their time. Workers can use their laptops, mobile phones, the TSheets app or even a Tweet. The device's GPS alerts managers to the location of the check-in. Even if the employee loses their cell signal, the app syncs up and collects the data once the device is back in range of a signal.
Read our full TSheets review.
Winner: Best Time & Attendance Software/Services for Very Small Businesses -- ClockIt
While ClockIt may no longer be free, it's still the robust online system it always was, and it's really inexpensive, with features that make it our top pick for very small businesses.
Being an online service cuts out the costs associated with hosting a system on-site or the need to buy expensive time clocks that can run north of $1,000. ClockIt's pricing is unique in that its model is targeted at teams and not individuals. Its smallest plan is $15 a month for up to 10 users. Most services charge a monthly fee and then a an additional fee per employee per month.
With ClockIt, you'll get the basics like time and attendance, reporting and leave accruals. There is an app that runs on iPhones and Android, and a kiosk businesses can use it for time entry. There are also some extras like GPS tracking of employees and route planning for mobile workers to help them be a little more efficient traveling from site to site.
Read our full ClockIt review.
Winner: Best Free Time & Attendance Software/Services -- SwiftTime
Soniga Software's SwiftTime is a web-based time and attendance application that may not seem like much to look at, but it provides plenty of features for free. Soniga has been writing time and attendance software for a couple of decades. The Web version is based on the desktop model that companies can run on their own servers.
It's not the prettiest system but it's easy to read. Employees can clock in from any Web-enabled device including smartphones and tablets. Companies can integrate the time and attendance with their payroll to calculate hours and compensation. There is also a way to track salaried employees in addition to hourly. Contractor work can also be calculated and tracked in the system.
Read our full SwiftTime review.
Integration, ease of use and support played critical roles in determining our winners. We pored over each site, reviewed client testimonials and asked businesses what services they used. We then did side-by-side comparisons of features, pros and cons of the services and, of course, price. We understand payroll and processing can be a huge burden on any businesses. So review your options carefully and talk to your peers when shopping for services.
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