Recently, I read on an online news site that legislators in Florida are considering withholding up to $1 million from the state Department of Corrections until the Department installs and begins using an electronic time and attendance system.

Apparently, the lawmakers mandated the system back in 2010 and again in 2011, but now they think the Department of Corrections officials have been dragging their feet on implementation. So they’re thinking about upping the ante, by holding in reserve $1 million of the money earmarked for the Department, pending “successful statewide implementation” of the new system.

Now, I have to tell you, it warms my heart to see lawmakers taking time and attendance tracking so seriously. But what really made this story stick in my mind were the reader comments.

What’s the Big Deal, Anyway?

Here’s what first got my attention. A commenter who identified herself only as “Kathy” wondered, “What the heck is the difference in signing a time card and using an expensive time clock?” and speculated the new system was “just another way to make prison workers miserable.”

Sadly, this is how many people think about time and attendance.

What I found interesting, though, was that several other people who posted follow up comments — all of whom said they were employees of the Department of Corrections — were in favor of the new system.

They wanted a modern electronic system because they felt it would help solve the problem of unpaid work time. As one said, “If you’re on the clock, you get paid, plain and simple.”

They also were concerned that on the existing time card system, some employees were able to get away with coming in late, forcing their more prompt co-workers to cover for them. They (correctly) felt that a more modern system would help identify these slackers and perhaps put a stop to the problem.

Here’s One Big Difference

So, what’s the difference between signing a time card and using a time clock?

With handwritten time cards or timesheets, employees tend to estimate their time rather than recording exact arrival and departure times. Somebody who straggles in at 9:10am might write down their arrival time as 9:00am. Someone who slips out at 4:55pm may write down their departure time as 5:00pm.

Some time cards don’t even require employees to record start and stop times. The time card only asks them to enter the total number of hours they worked each day. In this situation, the temptation is great to simply record a full shift worked every day, regardless of the exact arrival and departure times.

Unless supervisors are closely monitoring and taking notes on when each employee arrives and leaves, they may not notice or remember these small “rounding errors.”

A few minutes here, a few minutes there. It doesn’t seem like much. But it only takes a few such minutes a day to add up to big money lost over time. Multiply the time and money lost by the total number of employees, and the scope of the problem for the employer can become truly breathtaking.

Newton’s First Law (Inertia) in Action

The advantages of electronic time tracking don’t stop with improved accuracy in recording employee time. I’ve written before about the many benefits offered by an automated time and attendance system when compared against handwritten time cards.

Then why do so many organizations still use handwritten time records?

Many organizations that still use time cards do so out of inertia. They may have started with basic handwritten records, and they simply haven’t changed. However, by doing so they’re missing out on all the time and money saving benefits a modern time tracking system could bring their business.

But these businesses aren’t the only ones suffering from inertia when it comes to their time and attendance tracking.

(Spring)Time for a Time and Attendance Review

By some estimates, the average organization holds on to their time tracking system for seven to 10 years. On the surface this may seem to be practical — these companies are certainly squeezing every bit of use possible from these systems.

But updated time tracking systems are coming out all the time. If your system is more than a few years old, some of these new solutions may be much better suited to your needs. Given the very short payback period of automated time and attendance tracking, it doesn’t make sense to limp along with an outdated system when you could easily and economically step up to a new solution that perfectly fits your business requirements.

Here in most of the USA, we recently changed over to Daylight Saving Time. Safety experts recommend folks use the spring and fall time changes as reminders to check the batteries in their home smoke detectors. (Excellent advice, by the way!)

Similarly, I encourage you to use the spring Daylight Saving Time change every year as a reminder to take a look at your organization’s time and attendance system. Does it still meet your needs? Or have you outgrown your old process?

Is it time for you to “spring forward” into a more modern time and attendance system?

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