8 Employee Time Tracking Tools for Small Businesses

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

How do you choose time tracking tools for your small business?

Time tracking tools can give small businesses a competitive edge. Are you taking advantage of them?

First things first: What is a time tracking tool?

  • Time tracking tools automate employee time and attendance
  • The software creates timecards and stores them online
  • Import time data directly into the payroll system
  • For punch in/out, employees can use biometric hardware, web-based clocks, or a mobile app
  • Geotracking and geofencing help track hours for mobile workers
  • Employee self-service lets your team manage their own HR information
  • Additional tools include shift scheduling, job costing, tip or mileage tracking, and PTO management

Time tracking software help you manage your people as efficiently as possible. In the process, you will reduce labor costs and make life easier for your team. In addition, compliance tools protect you from wage and hour violations.

8 Must-Have Features of the Best Time Tracking Tools

Since you can’t run your business without paying your employees, time and labor is mission-critical. Therefore, when looking at tracking software, focus on payroll accuracy, efficiency and convenience.

  1. Online timesheets
  2. Payroll integration
  3. Advanced reporting
  4. Accruals management
  5. Employee self-service
  6. Mobile app
  7. Biometric clock integration
  8. Custom clock prompts

Let’s discuss each feature.

1. Online Timesheets

Paper timesheets could be called wasted time sheets. After all, employees have to take time out of work to add shift start and end times. Managers have to remind employees to fill them out and then collect them every pay period.

Not to mention, they are prone to errors. For example, employees estimate punch times after the fact. Some even pad their hours to bump up their paycheck a bit. Furthermore, when a manager finds a missed punch, they have to spend time investigating. Clearly, there is no reason to use paper or spreadsheets when a low-cost tool can automate the process.

A time tracking system tallies the hours for each shift and pay period as well as overtime and PTO accruals. The software doesn’t make arithmetic mistakes, managers don’t need to double check. Furthermore, supervisors don’t need to decipher sloppy writing or investigate missed punches.

2. Payroll Integration

Whether you use QuickBooks Online, Gusto or some other platform, you should be able to import employee hours data directly. Otherwise, you are not getting all the benefits of automation. If your payroll manager is currently manually entering data from timesheets into a spreadsheet for export, here’s your chance to make their job a whole lot easier.

3. Advanced Reporting

Even small businesses can use big data like larger orgs. Time and labor insights from your tracking software helps you make better decisions. Consequently, the best software for tracking time should generate reports with a couple clicks.

4. Accruals Management

At many orgs, PTO lives in HR, outside of time and attendance. But this makes no sense–because vacation and sick leave are integral to payroll, scheduling and compliance. The answer is to sync PTO to timekeeping.

Good PTO management is essential for employee retention and a positive corporate culture. To keep employees happy, you need to manage PTO so they can take time off without impacting business operations. With the best time tracking software, employees request time off in the system and managers can see all requests in a centralized location. Importantly, they can see PTO when building schedules. This ensures shift coverage when employees are on leave. Simplified approvals is a compelling reason to use a timekeeping solution.

5. Employee Self-Service

When you track time with cloud-based software, employees have 24/7 access to timecards, paystubs, PTO balances, and a host of other HR data. Indeed, there is no reason for employees to call HR for any of that. After all, your employees use modern apps every day in their personal lives. Certainly, they shouldn’t have to use archaic processes at work for tracking time. What does that say about your company?

6. Mobile App

When employees can use their personal devices it ensures quick and universal user adoption for any mobile system. After all, your employees are comfortable using their smartphones and tablets to manage their personal lives, so it’s natural for them to use the same devices at work for timekeeping and HR.

Coupled with employee self-service, a mobile tracking app takes cloud-based convenience to another level. Mobile and remote employees can clock in and out with their phone–wherever they are working. GPS tracking and geofencing give managers additional oversight for offsite workers. Certainly, if you want to account for each work hour, rely on an easy to use mobile app.

7. Biometric Clock Integration

If you have employees working onsite, your time tracker should sync with hardware clocks. Advanced time clocks save your labor budget from buddy punching–one of the worst kinds of time theft. In addition, clocks with custom prompts gather information at clock in. Job codes and wellness checks, for example.

8. Custom Clock Prompts

Modern time and labor systems allow employers to collect information at clock in and out. Job codes, locations, work groups and wellness attestations are some examples.

Time and Labor Needs by Industry

Time Tracking Needs for Manufacturing

In manufacturing, employee time theft and overtime drive up costs. Fortunately, labor management software paired with verification time clocks solve these problems. As mentioned previously, biometric clocks end buddy punching and hours padding. Plus, schedule adherence restricts out-of-schedule punches. Look for:

  • Time clocks
  • Schedule adherence
  • Meals/breaks tracking
  • Overtime alerts
  • PTO tracking
  • Customizable pay rules

Tracking Time for Retail Employees

Retail owners know that when employees work at multiple stores, double booking is common with spreadsheet scheduling. The best time tracking software won’t allow you to double book. Plus, managers can easily view multiple calendars and locations. Look for:

  • Multi-location scheduling
  • Fair workweek settings
  • Schedule adherence
  • Missed punch alerts
teacher and student

Teacher and students in Logan, Utah. Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash.

Time Tracking Needs for Education

Did you know that the average elementary school has more employees than 90% of U.S. businesses? In addition, a school has numerous employee types, pay rates, and pay frequencies. Not to mention, seasonal schedules, union contracts, and grant tracking. For these unique needs, look for:

  • Mobile app to track time regardless of location
  • Work-hours tracking for multiple job roles
  • Settings for seasonal staffing fluctuations
  • Multiple pay frequencies
  • PTO, vacation, leave management
  • Work-study hours and grant-tracking alignment

Time Tracking Needs for Construction

Careful time management improves employee productivity in an industry with thin margins. However, tracking employees at job sites is difficult with physical punch clocks. Therefore, use a mobile app with GPS tracking to see when and where employees clock in.

Communication and productivity go hand in hand. Managers and employees communicate about schedules, timecards, time off, and shift swapping bidirectionally through the system. When everyone can see changes in real time, it ends the back-and-forth texting so common with distributed workforces.

  • Job codes
  • Mobile punching and shift trading
  • Self-service timecard, schedule, working hour accruals
  • Multi-crew scheduling and unlimited projects
  • License expiration alerts

Time Tracking Needs for Hospitality

Certainly, the quality of management affects both the guest experience and profit margin. In a workplace where employees are largely unsupervised, oversight is a challenge. The solution, therefore, is a cloud-based time tracking solution. It can handle around-the-clock shifts, job roles, and multiple locations. Look for:

  • Forecasting to match staffing demands to expected occupancy
  • Track time for multiple employee types and locations
  • Mobile punch in/scanning clocks reduce shift change confusion
  • Online trade boards let employees pick up extra hours without back-and-forth texting
  • Compliance tracking prevents wage and hour issues
healthcare employee

Medical technician in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash.

Time Tracking Software Needs for Healthcare

Preventing understaffing, scheduling confusion, and staffing imbalances are necessary to take the best care of your patients. Similarly, employee self-service helps you take care of your team by supporting flexible schedules. Advanced reporting simplifies FLSA, ACA, and Payroll Based Journal. Consider:

  • Scheduling by department, shift, skill, task, or job position
  • Certifications tracking
  • Online shift-swapping with or without manager employee monitoring
  • Auto-alerts for no-shows and encroaching overtime

Track Time for Professional Services

Priority one for professional services is to capture every billable hour. Furthermore, you need to tie work time to clients or projects. Your time tracking app can help. Look for:

  • Mobile clocking
  • GPS tracking
  • Job codes for improved project and resource management
  • Bulk approve and export timesheets and PTO approvals
  • Integrated expense tracking

How to Track Time for Non-Profits

Above all, non-profits need an affordable tracking app because they must unlock value from every tool and process. Additionally, dispersed teams are common, so mobile tools are essential. Good software reduces waste and helps orgs get the most from their labor dollar–making them more attractive to funders.

  • Priced per employee—scales up or down
  • Mobile app for anytime, anywhere punch in/out
  • Track paid/volunteer hours
  • Advanced reporting

Employee Time Tracking Needs for Multi-State Employers

If you have recently added a location this year—kudos to you! It’s an achievement many companies never attain. However, employee management takes on a new level of complexity. With this in mind, here are some time tracking apps and tools to help you avoid pitfalls:

  • Advanced employee scheduling
  • Biometric time clocks: ensure accurate timekeeping for state-specific minimum wage.
  • Schedule adherence: prevent early punch in from mandated breaks. Restrict unauthorized punch outs that could affect overtime and minimum wage.
  • Schedule alerts: Set overtime and out-of-schedule punch alerts.
  • Records management: Compile HR documents in a searchable database to simplify FLSA recordkeeping requirements.

Case Study: Field Service Company

Let’s discuss a customer that started using our software recently. For 30 years before getting an automated system, the company had required employees to clock in at the headquarters before they began their service calls. This meant that an employee who lived within a few miles of their first appointment had to drive to the office (which may have been across town from their residence) to clock in before they began their shift. At the end of the day, they had to repeat the process. When the company adopted a mobile workforce solution, they not only saved on fuel, the time savings allowed their reps to serve more clients. That’s just one example of how a mobile time and labor solution impacts day-to-day operations.

Is your business tracking time the same way you did 20 years ago? If so, upgrading to a mobile solution is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to improved efficiency and reducing labor costs.

WorkforceHub Time Tracking Tools for Small Business

WorkforceHub unified Time and Labor is created for and tailored to small businesses. Click here to learn more.


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