In the workforce management world, we often talk about all the different choices you have in recording employee work time and how to make the right choice for your organization. One thing we perhaps should talk about more often, though, is how to ensure a smooth implementation once you’ve made your selection.

Of course, the most important thing is simply to get started. The best system in the world won’t do you any good sitting in its box on top of your filing cabinet. You’ve got to use it before you can realize any of its benefits.

That said, there are things you can do to make the implementation process smoother and easier, increase employee acceptance of the new solution and more quickly experience the cost savings and improved processing from your new solution.

Here’s a set of five simple “best practices” we’ve figured out through our decades of experience helping organizations get up and running with time and attendance tracking:

STEP ONE: PLANNING

You probably have heard the old saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Step one for a smooth implementation is to spend some time planning. Even for a relatively simple punch clock installation, a little planning and organization can make a huge difference in project outcome. For a more complex software system installation, planning is vital.

Document your business policies and work rules. We’ve found this will make configuring your solution much easier. If your chosen solution requires you to enroll employees, such as systems using a badge or biometric terminal, make a list of all employees with their employee ID numbers. This will make the process easier and faster, and you’ll be able to tell at a glance which employees you still need to enroll.

This would also be a great time to schedule a consultation with your employment law attorney for a review of your payroll practices and work rules, to ensure they comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Laws change every day. Procedures that were OK in previous years may no longer be acceptable. It’s important to conduct an internal audit periodically to ensure you’re still in compliance with the latest rules.

Switching to a new time tracking solution is an ideal time for a wage and hour internal audit. If any changes to your procedures are necessary because of changed regulations, you can easily and seamlessly roll these updates in to the overall system implementation.

Determine where you’re going to install clocks or terminals. Make sure the chosen location has all necessary power outlets and network connections. If it doesn’t, arrange to have them installed and tested before the new solution is scheduled to go live.

STEP TWO: COMMUNICATION (TWO WAY)

The second step is communication. Make sure your employees and supervisors are aware of your plans. A new time and attendance system may potentially impact their paychecks, so employees are bound to be concerned.

If the implementation is going to take some time, you might consider holding periodic information sessions, including updates in the employee newsletter or posting project status progress on the employee bulletin board or company intranet or community site.

Make sure your communications run both ways. Ask for suggestions. Your employees may be aware of issues you missed. Listen carefully and do your best to address any potential problems quickly. By dealing with your workers’ concerns up-front, you can avert problems before they happen, and speed acceptance of the new system.

STEP THREE: TRAINING — SUPERVISORS AND EMPLOYEES

Before you take the new solution live, ensure all employees, supervisors (and system administrators, if applicable) have been trained so they know how to make full use of the system’s features.

This may not take much time if you’re implementing a punch clock solution. Most people understand fairly quickly how to clock in and out using a time card. But a short training session also presents an excellent opportunity to reinforce awareness of your policies regarding buddy punching, timeliness and other issues, so it’s a good idea in any case.

Of course, with a software or hosted solution, you will probably need to go into more depth. Focus on the ways the system will help them get paid more accurately or do their jobs better. We’ve found the better employees and supervisors understand the benefits the system brings to them, the more likely they are to quickly adopt the new system.

STEP FOUR: MONITORING / FEEDBACK

Once the system is live, monitor its performance. Do you notice any bottlenecks? Do you hear any complaints from your workers about inconveniences or other issues? Is the system working as you need it to?

One thing to beware of: people telling you what they think you want to hear, rather than what you may need to hear. Don’t assume “no news is good news.” Proactively ask your employees, supervisors and administrators how the system is working for them and solicit their honest feedback.

It’s also important to not only listen to what people have to say, but to actually observe them using the system. Check the compliance level. If many people are often “forgetting” to clock in, for instance, that’s a signal to you that there’s a problem.

STEP FIVE: ADJUSTING

Finally, based on what you learn from the monitoring and feedback step, make adjustments. This may mean installing additional terminals, placing terminals in different locations, modifying the system configuration or making other changes to address identified issues.

Then lather, rinse and repeat! It’s important to keep communicating, soliciting feedback and (if needed) adjusting your time tracking system to keep up with changes in your business. A recent survey indicated the average company keeps its time tracking system for at least seven years. Your business can change a lot in that time. You want to be sure your time tracking solution keeps up.

Of course, we can’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly. But if you follow these suggestions, the chances are much better that the process of setting up the new system will be as trouble-free as possible – and you will quickly begin realizing the improved ROI of accurate, reliable employee time tracking.