These days, it’s more important than ever to accurately record employee time. Organizations of all types and sizes are under threat of lawsuits and labor department investigations. In a tight economy, few companies can afford the costs of time theft or buddy punching. Under pressure to increase efficiency and control costs, managers must have the tools they need to effectively manage employee work time.

If you currently rely on “best guess” time estimates, you need a workable solution to gain control over your labor costs and get an accurate picture of employee work time. If you already have a good time & attendance solution, you might be considering an upgrade to further increase organizational efficiency. Perhaps you’re satisfied with your current time and attendance tracking method, and simply want to review the available choices to make sure your solution is still the best fit for your organization.

No matter what your reason, you will quickly discover there are many different methods for recording employee time, ranging from handwritten time sheets to sophisticated biometric systems. You can choose from traditional punch clocks, installed software or web-based solutions.

With all the alternatives available, how are you to determine which is the best solution for your organization? By answering just a few questions, you can narrow your alternatives and find the best time & attendance tracking solution for you.

A Time and Attendance Solution Questionnaire

  1. How many employees are in your organization? What are your plans for expansion in the near term? What are your long-term growth projections?
    A quality time and attendance solution will last you for many years. Make sure the solution you’re considering can accommodate your current employees and at least your near-term growth. If it’s also easily scalable to meet your long-term needs, so much the better. Consider, too, how long it will take each employee to clock in and out. You may find you need to install additional clocks or terminals to avoid frustrating “traffic jams” at the start and end of shifts.
  2. Where do you plan to locate clocks or terminals?
    Employees are more likely to punch in and out regularly if the location is convenient. Consider electrical outlets, PC or network connections (if applicable), and traffic flow. For instance, does your facility have more than one entrance/exit? With a punch clock solution, employees generally have to clock in and out at the same location every time (unless someone physically moves the time cards). Web-based and some software solutions can offer employees the convenience of clocking in at one entrance and clocking out at another, or even from their own desktop computers.
  3. What is your operating environment?
    Make sure your solution is appropriate for your work environment. For instance, if you plan to use a programmable clock or electronic terminal, make sure the area is neither too cold nor too hot, and that it’s free from excessive dust, grease and grime. In extreme environments, you may find a heavy-duty mechanical punch clock is your best alternative. If electrical power is unreliable or non-existent, consider a battery powered clock. In a professional office, employees may appreciate a web-based system they can access from their computers.
  4. How many locations does your organization have? How large is your facility?
    Traditional punch clocks generally require your timekeepers to physically pick up the time cards at the clock location. This is fine for businesses where all clock locations are relatively near each other. However, if locations are widely-spaced, a networked or web-based solution may be a better choice. Such systems can allow a payroll department to access and process records from a central location, without needing to physically access the terminals or pick up time cards.
  5. Do you have large numbers of telecommuters, mobile workers or other remote employees?
    Punch clocks and software-based terminals require employees to clock in and out where the clock or terminal is installed. This isn’t a problem if all or most of your employees work in centralized locations, such as offices, shops or factories. On the other hand, some software and web-based systems include options for clocking in and out using a telephone or a web browser. These types of solutions are ideal for a highly mobile or dispersed workforce where there may be no standard location for clocking in and out.
  6. What is your budget for supplies and accessories?
    Traditional punch clocks typically require replacement ribbons or toner and time cards. For badge-based systems, you will probably at some point need to buy additional or replacement badges. You may also need to purchase additional clocks or expansion terminals if your workforce grows significantly. Be sure any supplies, accessories or expansion units required by your chosen solution will fit your budget.
  7. What is the level of technical sophistication of your workers and your supervisors / managers? What is your time and budget for training?
    Working with a traditional punch clock system is usually fairly intuitive for everyone involved. Clocking in and out using most automated systems is also a simple matter for most employees. However, supervisors/ managers and payroll staff may require training in the use of administrative features of the system. For systems offering advanced functions such as job costing, time off requests, integration with POS or CRM systems and the like, all staff may need training to be able to take advantage of the system’s capabilities. Be sure you allow for training to ensure you receive full value for your investment.
  8. Do you have a space appropriate for long-term, secure storage of payroll records?
    Experts recommend you retain payroll records for up to 10 years, in case of a wage and hour audit or lawsuit. However, records that can’t be read won’t help you. Time cards are generally more durable than paper timesheets, but neither should be exposed to moisture or fire. Thermal time cards should be kept away from heat to avoid discoloration that can render them unreadable.

    Records stored electronically take up much less space, but can be damaged by magnetic fields, electrical pulses and moisture. Whether you’re storing employee payroll records on paper or electronically, your storage solution must also be secure to avoid identity theft and tampering. Be sure you can provide a secure storage area that offers a suitable environment and is large enough to hold 10 years’ worth of records.

  9. What IT resources do you have available? What is your level of technical sophistication?
    If you’re considering a traditional punch clock solution, you probably don’t need to be concerned with the availability of IT resources. Even most basic stand-alone software based systems designed for firms of 5-50 employees can likely be successfully installed and configured by anyone with intermediate-level computer skills.

    However, if you need advanced features such as network connectivity, special reporting or integration with other systems, you may need IT assistance to install, set up and maintain the system. If your in-house IT resources are limited or non-existent and you need an advanced automated system, you may want to consider a web-based solution. These generally do not require you to install software, and can be managed over any Internet connection using a web browser, freeing you from the need for in-house IT support.

  10. What special requirements, if any, do you have for your time and attendance solution?
    For simple recording of employee arrival and departure times, almost any solution will work well. If you have more complex work rules or need additional features such as employee work scheduling, benefit accruals or access control, make sure the solution you’re considering can already accommodate or be customized to meet your business needs.

    Don’t assume all you need is a basic solution. Take the time to evaluate more advanced alternatives; you may discover features that can save your organization significant amounts of time and money. Balance the potential savings against the up-front out of pocket expenses of any solution you’re considering. In many cases, the time savings and increased accuracy offered by automated time and attendance systems can help these solutions pay for themselves within just a few months.

We hope this questionnaire helps you make the best choice possible for your next time and attendance solution. We invite you to review the array of time and attendance management choices offered by Acroprint Time Recorder Company. With alternatives from traditional punch clocks to installed software-based systems to sophisticated web-based hosted solutions, we can accommodate most business requirements. If you have any questions about any of our offerings, please contact us. We can help you make the right choice for your business.

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