Can Time Tracking & Management Software Save Your Business Money?
The top performers in our review are TimeClock Plus, the Gold Award winner; TSheets, the Silver Award winner; and ADP for Small Business Time & Attendance, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system that meets your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 time tracking and management software applications.
Implementing time tracking and management software is a solid investment for many small businesses, because staffing is often one of their largest expenditures. According to the American Payroll Association, businesses have the potential to lower their staffing costs by two percent or more simply by automating payroll.
Time tracking software offers several cross-organizational benefits. First, it provides employees with the ability to record their time more precisely and consistently. Second, for your HR and accounting staff, employee hours can be uploaded or synced to your payroll system. Third, the software's functionality eliminates the time it takes to manually enter information and reduces errors that may occur when deciphering handwritten timesheets or manually keying in hours. Reducing such errors by using an automated time tracking program helps prevent timecard disputes and reassures employees that they're accurately paid.
Most of the time tracking and management software in our review offer virtual time clocks that you access through a browser or a mobile app. In addition, most host your data on their servers, ensuring that its securely stored offsite. Most applications are compatible with a variety of timeclocks, including standard models as well as high-security options equipped with badge or biometric scanners.
Some software is available as a one-time purchase; however, most offer the software as a service and charge monthly or annual fees. You have to contact most of the time tracker companies for a quote since only Redcort Software, Replicon and TSheets post their pricing online.
If your business needs help complying with government regulations, such as in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or with other requirements from the Department of Labor (DOL), look for time tracking software that can help you monitor your obligations so you can avoid fines and litigation. If your business wins a government contract, you also want to ensure the time tracking software you purchase is compliant with the Defense Contract Audit Agency's (DCAA) audit requirements.
Read our articles on time tracking and management software and the reviews for the companies we selected as our top 10 products to learn how these programs can benefit your business. Also check out our Access Control Systems review if, in addition to tracking time, you want to control access to your facility or certain areas of it. If you need a program to create weekly schedules, our Employee Scheduling Software can help you find a solution, and our Time Card Software review can help if you need to track employee hours on a per-project basis.
What Should You Expect Time Tracking & Management Software to Do?
No matter which time tracking and management system you select, there are certain features you should look for. Each of the applications we reviewed includes the following, though a few of the companies charge an extra fee for some features:
- Employee and administrative portals: Your employees can access their individual portals to clock in and out, see how much time off they've banked and request time off. You and your management team have additional controls that allow you to track employees' attendance and hours. You can also approve your employees' time-off requests.
- In-and-out board: In real time, you can see whether your employees are in the office, on a break or clocked out.
- Tracking tools for performance and productivity: You can monitor your employees' daily progress on specific projects.
- Customizable pay rules: You can adjust policies to fit the needs of your business.
- Reports: You can run a variety of reports for hours worked, time-off requests and other stats to help you manage your workforce.
- Hosted data storage: The time tracking software company backs up and stores your data.
The software should be compatible with popular payroll systems so you can easily sync or upload data. Also, the software provider should offer customer support that you can reach by phone.
Time Tracking & Management Software: What We Tested, What We Found
As we evaluated time tracking systems, we looked for web-based solutions suitable for small businesses. In our testing, we contacted each of the companies in our review as a potential customer needing time tracking and management software for 25 employees (some that were hourly; others that were salaried).
We wanted software that would integrate with payroll solutions and included scheduling tools and a productivity tracker, if they were included at no additional charge. We used free trials, demonstrations and walkthroughs to evaluate the features each system offers.
Some of the time tracking software's differentiating factors include whether it accommodates both hourly and salaried employees, whether it has notifications, and whether you can make retroactive calculations and adjustments. In our review, we examined each product using the following five categories:
Because it's likely that you have employees with a range of computer skills, it's important to consider how easy it is to use the employee time clock and how intuitive it is to navigate the dashboard. Systems with a simple, intuitive clock-in, clock-out experience received higher usability scores. Unnecessary links, tabs or other dashboard clutter lowered scores.
The usability score also takes in account how easy it is for employees to submit time-off requests to their managers for approval. While some systems have a clearly marked button the employee can click on to send the request in a single step, others weren't as easy to figure out and required several steps to accomplish the same task.
Even though manager portals have additional functions, navigation should still be intuitive. Some systems make it more complex than others to accomplish key tasks such uploading payroll files.
Professional setup and training are other features we looked for in this category. Even though the best systems are easy to install and implement, companies often offer professional setup and training services, sometimes in person. Some of these services are included free of charge; others cost extra, with fees running from $150 to $1,500. Alternatively, some systems include information on their websites such as video tutorials or a knowledgebase to help with implementation.
Time & Employee Tracking
Time tracking and management software should track paid time-off accruals, including holidays, sick time and vacation days. It should also have self-service employee portals that allow your staff to check in and out, request time off, view their work history and see how much paid time off they've used and banked.
Performance and productivity tools that you use to monitor employees' daily progress on tasks, projects or goals should be included in the software. All of the companies in our lineup offer these features, though some are provided at an additional fee.
You should also be able to use the system for both hourly and salaried employees, and seven products in our review have this capability.
Administrative controls allow you to customize the system to fit your business. You need access controls if you, your HR director or payroll administrator want to decide what information each of your employees can see and use though the portal, and all but one software application in our review have this capacity.
The ability to customize pay rules and policies is another feature to look for, and every system we reviewed has it. With this feature you can set hours for clocking in and out so you can prevent unauthorized overtime, and you can determine rounding rules that help you record time in a consistent manner.
Notifications are useful to have as you can set them to alert your employees if clock-in or clock-out times have been missed. They can also inform you or your managers when employees are running late, are out of the office, or if they're approaching overtime. Only three of the systems in our review lack this feature.
All of the products in our lineup have reporting tools that show you patterns in your employees' time-and-attendance behaviors; for example, if you have employees that are regularly late clocking into work or are taking too many breaks.
Audit trails are important to have in place as part of your time tracking and management system if you win a government contract and need to comply with DCAA regulations, and all of the products in our review have this feature.
If you discover a mistake, it's convenient to have a system with retroactive calculation and adjustment tools that let you correct errors you find, and only one of the products we reviewed lacks this feature.
If you need help determining the number of employees you need to schedule for a project, scheduling and forecasting tools can save you time. Most systems include this toolset as well.
Help & Support
Time tracking is a key component of your payroll system, which is why it's important for companies to have responsive customer service. Telephone support is available for all of the systems we reviewed, and all but one also can be reached via email.
Live chat, which is helpful when you need an immediate answer to a quick question, is offered by half of the companies we reviewed. The FAQs section on company websites can be useful if your question is a popular one, and all but four of the companies have this.
You can access all of the systems we reviewed through both web browsers and mobile devices. The majority of the software also integrates with hardware, including badge and biometric timeclocks. Several systems also work with rugged timeclocks that your employees can take with them when working offsite.
Time Tracking & Management Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
The best time tracking and management software is intuitive and automates your time tracking system. It gives your employees tools to track their hours accurately, helps you manage your workforce with customizable administrative controls and integrates with the top payroll systems. The top-rated software in our lineup, TimeClock Plus, TSheets and ADP for Small Business Time & Attendance, offer these capabilities, along with free setup help and training opportunities.
Other systems on our lineup are also noteworthy, with features that may take them to the top of your list. Consider the following:
- If you're concerned with complying with Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations and need robust scheduling tools, ADP for Small Business Time and Attendance is an excellent choice.
- If you use QuickBooks and want a program that integrates with this popular accounting program, TSheets is a great option.
- If customizable features are important to you and you want to be able to set notifications that help you monitor employees' attendance and hours, check out Acumen Data Systems' ClockVIEW.
- If you need rugged timeclocks for offsite employees, consider iSolved Time.
- If you use a single, Mac computer for your time tracking, Redcort Software's Virtual Timeclock Pro may be a good fit.
Time tracking and management software helps your small business save money by giving you and your employees the tools you need to accurately record, monitor and report time. It automates time recording so you can easily sync your data to your payroll system without the time expenditure and potential for error inherent with manually recording timesheets. It makes it easy to forecast your staffing needs, modify schedules and monitor employee hours and attendance.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate a small business's typical, real-world experiences with the products. For our tests on time and attendance systems, we evaluated free trials, demos or online walkthroughs. The companies had no input on our testing methodology, and our rankings weren't shared with them prior to publication.