Staffing is one of the top expenses for small businesses, which is why implementing time and attendance software is a smart move. The American Payroll Association estimates that automating payroll saves a business two percent or more per year on payroll expenses. It does this by helping your staff record their time and attendance with greater precision and by giving you the ability to sync or import the data into payroll, saving you the time it takes to manually enter timesheets into a payroll system and eliminating potential errors that may be introduced in the process. Additionally, automated time and attendance systems assure your employees that they're paid accurately, preventing timecard disputes.
For our review, we considered time and attendance software that is suitable for small businesses. We reached out to each company as a potential customer with a small business of 25 employees, both salaried and hourly, that needed a web-based time and attendance solution.
We requested payroll integration, employee scheduling and productivity tracking tools if they didn't cost extra. We tested all of the systems featured in our review using web browsers and virtual time clocks through product demonstrations, walkthroughs and free trials in order to grasp the full experience of deciding on a time and attendance software program for a small business.
Key differentiators include whether the system can be used for salaried as well as hourly employees, whether notifications are available and whether retroactive adjustments and calculations can be made. Here's more on the five categories we used to examine the products in our review:
Most companies have employees with varying computer skill levels. We paid extra attention to how easy to use and intuitive the employee time clock and dashboard are. We looked to see whether there were any unnecessary links, tabs or information in the employee portal that may cause confusion. Those that were given a higher usability score made the employee clock-in, clock-out experience very simple and intuitive.
In addition to clocking in and out for work and breaks, employees also need an efficient way to submit time-off requests, and the ease of this function was also considered in the usability score. Some systems include a clearly marked tab or button that allows employees to send the request to their manager in a single step. Others required several additional steps that often weren't as direct or easy to figure out.
Although the administrative and manager portals contain more information and functions than the employee portals, they should still be easy to navigate. However, some solutions pack a lot of tabs or text links into a limited amount of space, making it difficult to find the link or path needed for key functions such as exporting payroll files or adjusting employee times.
We also considered whether professional setup and training are available. The best systems, though very simple to install, come with free, professional setup and training, and some even included in-person assistance. Other solutions require a setup fee that can range from $150 to more than $1,500. A few systems don't offer personal help but instead provide video tutorials or a comprehensive knowledgebase on their websites.
Time & Employee Tracking
In addition to enabling your staff to log their hours, time and attendance software should track paid time off and sick leave accruals. They should include a self-service employee portal that your staff can use to log in and view their work history, request time off and see how much vacation time they've accrued. The software should also have management tools that help you monitor employees' performance and productivity. All of the products in our lineup have these features, although some companies charges extra for these services.
The best time and attendance tracking systems should track both hourly and salaried employees, and all but three of the products in our lineup include this feature.
Administrative Reports & Controls
It's important for human resource directors and administrators to be able to set access controls that determine what information each employee can access through the portal, depending on his or her job description. They also need to be able to set custom parameters for tracking and paying employees. Some such customizable rules include establishing set hours for clocking in and out in order to reduce unauthorized overtime and rounding rules to ensure a consistent recording of time.
The best time and attendance software includes notifications that alert your staff if they've missed a clock in or clock out, and inform you when an employee is absent, tardy or approaching overtime. All of the software we reviewed includes reporting features and audit trails, helping you see at a glance if you have an employee that takes too many breaks or is consistently late reporting in. They're also compatible with payroll systems and either integrate with them directly or generate compatible reports that you can upload to your payroll service.
Most time and attendance software allows you to make retroactive adjustments and calculations in the event a mistake is discovered and you need to go back and adjust a time entry. All but one of the time and attendance systems in our review include scheduling and forecasting tools that can help you determine how many employees you need for an upcoming project.
Help & Support
Because time and attendance software is an important part of your payroll system, and any errors affect employees' pay, it's important to connect with support personnel. All of the services in our review offer telephone support, and you can also use email to reach out to all but one company.
Approximately half of the services on our lineup offer live chat on their websites, which is helpful if you have a quick question that you need an immediate answer to. More than half of the companies also have a FAQs section on their websites that provides answers to popular questions.
All of the time and attendance software in our review can be accessed through web-browsers and mobile devices. Most integrate with physical time clocks, including those that utilize badge and biometric scanners for additional security. Half of the programs integrate with rugged time clocks that employees can use offsite to track their time.