Choosing a new Time and Attendance system for your company can be a fairly daunting task, given the large number of solutions available on the market, but we have a few top tips that might help you and your company along the way.
Time and attendance Systems have evolved a lot from the age of the punching time clocks and manual pay rolls. Modern systems enable seamless integration with various payroll packages, simplifying accounting procedures, ensuring full compliance with all labor requirements and, more importantly, ensuring a high level of accuracy – both in terms of data logging and processing.
Deploying a solid, reliable and comprehensive time and attendance system can have some rather significant associated costs, and, for this reason, it should represent a strategic decision for any business.
Companies should start by evaluating their specific requirements and consider the features a Time and Attendance system would need in order to meet their organizational goals. But before they do, they should take into consideration cost savings and other benefits provided by Time and Attendance Systems.
Cost savings and other benefits of Time and Attendance Systems
There are several reasons why every company needs a Time and Attendance system, with automation and improved accuracy being among the major ones.
Electronic time and attendance systems record entry and exit data using a specific log-in device (clocking machine, card reader, biometric fingerprint unit, etc.). The data is then transferred to the software program typically via a network (wired or wireless), at any increment of time. This improved level of process automation provides significant support with payroll and compliance reporting as well as accruals and carry-forward policies.
Accuracy is also significantly improved when using an electronic time and attendance system, as these technological solutions prevent or minimize human error, which can unfortunately result in employees receiving incorrect paychecks.
Using a T&A clocking system also reduces the frequency of “buddy punching” (one employee asking another employee to punch in/out on their behalf) and time-theft when using ID badges, and all but eliminates them with a biometric system. Plus, it further helps streamlining your business operations through labor-related insight that allows you to fine-tune your workforce.
Another significant advantage any time and attendance system will provide is that it reduces the overhead for companies accounting departments, which is particularly important for small and medium enterprises (SMES), where these departments typically have just 1 or 2 employees.
Summing up, the main benefit provided by a Time and Attendance system is the overall optimization of business processes, which can lead to significant reductions in costs.
Evaluate your company’s needs / requirements
The most important step in the purchase and deployment of a new Time and Attendance system is deciding exactly what your company needs. For this reason, companies should conduct an internal audit of all processes and policies before choosing a specific product or solution.
Some of the factors that have to be taken into account at this stage are: the number of employees and whether they work on a shift/rota pattern, the number of sites a company has (single site/multi site/enterprise), any specific requirements related to the industry vertical (food industry, law enforcement or emergency, local or government authorities, etc.).
Once a clear set of requirements has been defined, stakeholders can start searching for a solution combining hardware and software components that meet the organization’s needs and budget.
Time and Attendance Hardware options
Time and Attendance Hardware typically includes the specific components used for identifying an employee and logging the time he/she registered. Also known as clocking units or time clocks, they come in various shapes and sizes, and use an extensive range of technologies for logging credential identification requests.
Based on the type of technology they use, the most popular time and attendance hardware options include:
Magnetic stripe card readers
A magnetic stripe card time and attendance reader works similar to a credit card reader. A magnetic strip containing the employee’s ID is used to log in and out every time the card is swiped.
Proximity smart card readers
Proximity smart card readers work in a similar way to magnetic stripe card readers, with the important exception that employees only have to wave the card in front of the reader. Some devices also include a numeric keypad to add an extra level of accountability and security – the chip and pin solution.
This solution significantly reduces the time required for employees to actually clock in. It also makes for more reliable systems, which provide superior long-time reliability and lower maintenance costs, especially since proximity smart cards have a significantly longer service life.
Biometric time and attendance readers
Biometric time and attendance readers represent the most secure methods of time and attendance tracking, entirely eliminating the potential for buddy-punching and related forms of time theft. The system stores an employee’s fingerprint or hand biometric data then uses advanced algorithms to verify it for each successive identification attempt. In addition to security, biometrics is also designed for operations that have minimal supervision of employees.
The superior level of security and functionality delivered by these systems can also double as a security access control system, limiting access to certain rooms or buildings.
Numeric input devices are rarely used independently and more often than not paired with another type of input device, most commonly either a swipe card or biometric reader. After identification is provided through an ID card or thumbprint, an extra layer of security is added by requiring a PIN for verification.
Employee self-service time and attendance interfaces
Employee self-service time and attendance systems can be accessed through the web and typically support mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. These apps can also make good use of a smartphone’s GPS module to attach geolocation data to the clockings, meaning that managers will have accurate information regarding their employees’ whereabouts at any given time.
Time and Attendance Software options
Time and Attendance Software is the vital core of any Time and Attendance system and without a doubt the main factor to consider during the purchase process. Currently, the most important trends in time and attendance software include either cloud-based applications or software running on local machines. Each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, but share a common set of features one should consider before deciding for a particular system.
Centralized and Comprehensive Workforce Data Management
Your Time and Attendance Software should provide extensive, centralized functionality – meaning that all clocking data is consolidated in a single location, while the application also stores significant employee information.
Companies or organizations installing a new Time and Attendance system should consider their future growth plans. Will they extend to new premises, hire new staff, or both? If that’s the case, then they must ensure that their systems of choice provide sufficient scalability, meaning that it can accommodate for the extra staff and/or locations in a seamless manner.
Reporting functionalities represent mission-critical features in terms of productivity and return on investment (ROI). The ability to generate reports in real time, all of which can be exported to a variety of different file formats, is a key factor. Equally important is the capability to generate custom reports depending on the user’s specific requirements, allowing managers to review data across departments, wage types, and even compare physical locations.
Working Patterns, Rosters, and Shifts
The ability to organize your workforce based on their working patterns, rosters and shifts is another major factor, as it helps streamlining the managers’ activity. This feature can also be enhanced by adding manning level warnings, based upon employee skills required during the working week. Any shortfalls to the expected requirement, due to absenteeism for example, can trigger a system email.
Full Integration and Support for Payroll Packages
Last but not least, when choosing a time and attendance system, it needs to be able to integrate with payroll solutions to transfer clocking data and translate it into payroll calculations smoothly.
The modern workforce is a very mobile one, so time and attendance systems have to keep with the times as well. Used together with a larger PC- or web-based platform, mobile features are usually represented by apps that are easily deployed on phones, tablets, or similar mobile devices. With this app employees are able to clock in or out, indicate break periods, edit job or cost codes, and send or edit messages to management.
Managers can view and approve employee hours, fix missed time entries, and review GPS location data providing precise information on the whereabouts of each and every employee. Mobile apps should also be very versatile, so that they are fully compatible with most iPhone and Android devices for simpler, more streamlined integration.
Choosing the right vendor
Choosing the right vendor for your Time and Attendance System is a complex process and should take into account multiple factors – not just the technical characteristics and features provided by their respective products.
It is highly recommended that that you thoroughly verify the level of after-sales support they provide (a technical help-desk is a must), as well as their credentials and reviews. If possible, arrange to visit one of their customer sites, ideally in the same industry segment as your own company, so that you can gain a better understanding of just how well the system works in similar conditions.
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