As any small business owner knows, tracking time and attendance for multiple employees can be a nightmare. Fortunately, several affordable solutions exist that are accurate and significantly streamline several HR processes. Here's what to look for in a time and attendance system.
A lot of companies continue to believe that managing employee absences involves a convoluted, burdensome process that includes significant expenses and requires dedicated employees to control and administer it. Needless to say, this is not entirely true.
While there certainly are big, all-encompassing HR and management systems that include everything from simple leave time control to RFID-based clock in and clock out, there's also a range of affordable, easy-to-use, mid-tier applications that can help you automate attendance management without breaking the bank and causing undue stress for your employees.
There are far too many of them to mention here, but the best ones usually offer the following functionality:
- Simple time-off request and approval process. Perhaps the most obvious but no less useful feature you should look for in an absence management application is the ability for regular employees to quickly submit a request for time off without having to navigate a nightmarish interface of a typical HR system. The same works for your approving manager – the less clicks they have to do to approve a request, the better.
- Instant email alerts. In order for your new system to really work, all parties involved need to be constantly informed of any changes. Instant email alerts and notifications should ensure that a manager never misses an incoming request while keeping the employee up to date on the status of their request. An automated system that calculates an employee's accrued time off is a lot more reliable, allowing you to sidestep the errors usually associated with manual data entry. Just set up the rules, and watch it do its magic without worrying about Susan from accounting losing a week of vacation time because HR forgot to save the document.
- Automated balance calculation. Excel is great, but when it comes to something as delicate as calculating and tracking time-off accruals (PTO, vacation, sick time) for several employees, it's not a great system. It is prone to crashes, it offers no way to track changes, and its infamous lack of support for collaborative work, as well as limited access, severely restrict your options and mean that even a simple task like an employee checking their current time off balance often becomes an exercise in frustration.
- Employee absences schedule. Efficient absence management software requires a good deal of transparency so everyone is constantly on the same page regarding who's out of the office, when and why. A clear, easy-to-read chart with details on your team's requested and approved absences can be a great help in planning and redistributing the workload while allowing employees to avoid any clashes with co-workers' schedules.
- Reporting. Details are important, which is why no good absence management tool should be without a solid reporting module. Whether you need information on a specific employee or would like to get a general overview of your staff's absence history and current time-off balances, getting that data in report form should always be easy and straightforward. Multiple configuration options and the ability to export your data to different formats are additional benefits.
In addition to the features covered above, systems like actiPLANS provide mobile applications that offer extra functionality. You can inform co-workers through the app of any sudden changes to your schedule, such as if you're running late or leaving early, or check who's out of office at the moment and when they'll be coming in, essentially turning your phone into a portable attendance-tracking system.
Editor's Note: Looking for a time and attendance system? We can help you choose the one that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:
When simpler is better
In today's progressive world, more companies are adopting more relaxed, employee friendly policies regarding attendance. The sad thing is, a large number of businesses continue to use outdated practices and overly complicated tools to enforce them while there are dozens of simple, affordable solutions that are available. Whether you're looking at transitioning to a simpler solution or thinking about introducing an attendance management system, be sure to give some of these mid-level applications a try to see if they work for you.