Choosing an employee timekeeping system: 4 questions to ask

a photo of a woman on a laptop researching employee timekeeping systems

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Like any essential part of running a business, choosing an employee timekeeping system requires careful research.

You want to find a solution with the right features and functionality to suit your everyday operations. One that will check all the right boxes and ensure accurate payroll cycles.

Our blog has some great time and attendance advice to help you, but that’s not what this particular article is about.

This article is different from many you’ll find on the web.

It’s not about finding a solution that’s only there for you when things are going great.

Rather, it’s about choosing a timekeeping system that will be there for you even when things get rough. It’s about being prepared and knowing what to look for, including important questions you might not think to ask ahead of time because they only come up when something goes wrong.

Finally, it’s also a handy reference in case something did go wrong and you’ve suddenly found yourself needing to expedite your research.

When looking for a new timekeeping vendor, consider these four questions:

  1. Does the solution allow for easy import and export of employee information?
  2. Will help be available when you need it? If so, what kind of help?
  3. Does the vendor require a contract?
  4. Will the solution enable you to enforce your company policies?

Below, we’ll discuss each of these four items and why they’re important. We’ll also teach you how to spot red flags when choosing an employee timekeeping system.

1. Importing and Exporting Employee Records

Every manager knows how important it is for payroll to arrive on time, every time.

Import and export tools are therefore a must for any time and attendance solution and should be part of your timekeeping business continuity plan.

If you’re looking to transition to a new timekeeping system or looking for a service to use in an emergency situation, import/export tools are your life vest.

Why is an import tool so important?

One of the most frustrating aspects of setting up a new system is the process of inputting all of the data needed to use an employee scheduling, time and attendance, or complete labor management system.

All modern labor management systems on the market today require you to set up the following to fully function:

  • Employee names
  • Positions and job codes
  • Base pay rates
  • Basic labor rules (how many hours per week an employee can work, etc.)
  • Email addresses
  • Department names
  • Phone numbers
  • Usernames and passwords
  • Specific pay rates for employees
  • Hire dates
  • Birth dates
  • Payroll ID’s
  • and other data points that are relevant to labor systems

Even more frustrating is that most users already have much of this information living inside of other documents, such as the payroll system, point of sale system, or various Excel documents.

Re-inputting all of this data can be a huge waste of time.

How an import tool can streamline setup

When switching to a new system, an import tool greatly reduces the time and manual data entry required to get everyone up and running.

In addition to importing employee names, positions, and pay rates, you’ll want the ability to import PTO balances and attendance entries, too. This ensures you have up-to-date records you can reference in your new system.

But an import tool isn’t enough. You also want to make sure you can export your data out of the system. This is because you can run into serious issues if your system doesn’t support easy exports of employee records.

What if you suddenly need to send information to your payroll provider or transition to a new provider?

Without an export tool, you’ll be stuck hand-keying in employee times and records. Then you’ll need to manually check them for accuracy, too.

2. Getting Solution Support for your Employee Timekeeping System

A knowledgeable support team is a valuable resource and something you should look for in any solution provider. These are the people you will turn to when you have a question or issue you’re not sure how to best handle.

Receiving a timely response can make a huge difference when submitting your payroll, especially when under a deadline.

When choosing an employee timekeeping system, look for a vendor with a first response policy, support hours of operation, and a convenient way for you to report any issues that might arise.

Take a few minutes to read the vendor’s reviews on Capterra or talk to your colleagues in the business. You’ll find out pretty quickly if the vendor has a rep for going radio silent when customers need them the most.

Look for a timekeeping vendor that acts more like a partner – someone who has your back and puts people first.

Also, don’t forget to look into support quality. Nothing is more frustrating and time consuming than trying to work through a problem with someone who knows even less about their system than you do. Especially during a disaster.

We highly recommend choosing a timekeeping system directly supported by operations and HR experts.

3. Avoiding Vendor Contracts

You shouldn’t have to keep using a timekeeping system if it doesn’t work well for your business. If a vendor updates their pricing, or if their system no longer fits your business needs, you shouldn’t feel forced to stick with them.

A vendor locking you down with a contract prevents you from making the transition you need or being able to pivot quickly in an emergency. That’s why we recommend looking for a subscription-based software when you’re choosing an employee timekeeping system.

Contracts can be a double-edged sword. We recommend going with a subscription-based timekeeping solution. If you absolutely want a contract, these services will usually oblige – but it’s best to wait until after a successful pilot.

Subscription-based time tracking software allows you cancel your account whenever your feel it’s best for your business operations.

(You might also hear this referred to as a SaaS solution. SaaS stands for software as a service.)

However, some subscription-based solutions do enforce a cancellation fee. Always be sure to read the fine print to avoid catching an unexpected charge!

4. Enforcing Your Company Policies

A successful workplace enforces its attendance policy; a useful timekeeping system helps you enforce that policy.

When it comes to tracking employee time, it pays to have a system that prevents early and late punches. This will help keep employees from reaching overtime hours and riding the clock, both of which can cost your business if left unchecked.

In addition to preventing late employee punches, your timekeeping system should track employee absences and tardiness.

If your system doesn’t report on employee tardiness or absences, you can’t address potential issues before they become a serious problem.

Example 1: Clock-in restrictions

Another factor to consider is where your employees are allowed to clock in.

For example, biometric timeclocks are a great way to prevent buddy punching. If you want to use a web-based timeclock, look for a system which restricts clock-ins to certain IP addresses. This at least ensures you have a designated area or device where an employee can enter a punch.

Example 2: Labor law compliance

Lastly, your timekeeping software should keep you compliant with your area’s labor laws.

In addition to employee overtime, you may need to keep track of close-open (“clopening“) shifts, meal penalties, or shift differentials.

Be sure to verify that the timekeeping software prevents labor violations – ask for a live demo, not just a pre-made video or slideshow.

Unpaid premiums can lead to costly fines and lawsuits. Attendance tracking software with built-in alerts, pay codes, and reports will help you avoid labor violations that can come back to haunt you later.

Takeaways for choosing an employee timekeeping system

In this article, we discussed the importance of having a system which accurately tracks your employee attendance, allows you enforce your company policies, stay compliant with your area’s labor laws, and is supported by industry experts.

If your timekeeping system does not do all of the above, it may be time to consider a new vendor. In the end, you need to make sure your employees record their time accurately. More importantly, your timekeeping software should work for you – not the other way around.

If nothing else, we highly recommend that you look for an employee timekeeping system that has easy-to-use import/export utilities. These utilities will be invaluable if something goes wrong or if you need to switch systems quickly.

For example, if your timekeeping vendor is taken offline by ransomware, you’ll need to be able to pivot before your next payroll cycle. Keep in mind that most timekeeping solutions require months to implement and will try to lock you in a contract.

If you need a solution that doesn’t require a contract, can be implemented in just a few days, and puts people first – try TimeForge.

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