Just recently I was interviewed for an upcoming article on a fairly popular small business news website. The article addresses the question “What is Timecard Software?”. As part of this interview I answered some questions the journalist sent me via email about time card software. I thought it would be useful to reproduce those answers in a blog article.
1. What is timecard software and how does it work?
Time card software is used to collect information about when employees arrive at work, when they take breaks, and when they leave for the day. It is designed to replace paper timesheets, punch clock machines, and time card machines. The software will store this time card information and make it available to payroll staff and managers so they can run reports to work out employee payroll, what employees are spending their time on, and who is (or isn’t) at work. Typically timecard software takes one of two forms. The first is installable software that shares data across your network and allows your employees to clock in and out on one or more computers. The second, is a web based time card system that allows employees to clock in and out via a web-enabled device. These days a third type of system is becoming more popular, namely time card apps on mobile devices. However, these are typically linked to some sort of web based timecard system anyway.
2. What are the benefits of using such software?
There are three main benefits to using time card software. The first, is that it will save a company money. Cost savings come through reducing the time taken for manual payroll calculations, a big reduction in payroll errors, reducing employee time theft, and reducing consumable costs from manual timesheet systems. The second area of improvement will be freeing up of time of both payroll staff and employees. A good time card system should make processing payroll much faster and should allow employees to clock in and out very quickly and easily. This time saved can be spent improving other areas of the business. The final benefit is one of increased employee satisfaction. Obviously payroll staff will be happier because their jobs are easier. But less obviously, normal employees should be happier with a good time card system. Payroll errors should be reduced, they should be able to see quickly and easily what vacation / sick time they have owing, and if the time card system allows it, they should be able to request time off and communicate easily with payroll staff using the time card software.
Time Clock MTS on Windows 10
3. What are the drawbacks?
Clearly any system is going to require up-front costs and on-going training for new and existing employees. Also, there’s almost always going to be a need for an internal “product champion” that people can fall back on if there are questions or issues with the time card system. Other problems can be more technical especially if the time card software is installable rather than web-based. Computers can fail and the time card software can be incompatible with new operating systems. This can lead to an on-going cost of ownership that web-based time card systems do not have. The final drawback is usually one of employee resistance. Some employees will hate the idea of a system that can track their times accurately and cannot be manipulated. This problem is more of a cultural one rather than a drawback of the software itself. It is, however, an important problem that must be addressed.
4. Can employers use timecard software to help manage remote or offsite employees?
Off-site employees and remote employees are easily dealt with by web based time card systems. Such a system should allow employees to clock in or out with any web-enabled device or perhaps via an app on a smart phone. The data will be recorded back to a central server where it can be easily reported on by payroll staff. Installable desktop time card software can be a little more problematic, but the problems are not insurmountable. Remote login tools like Windows Terminal Services or even free tools like Log Me In make it fairly simple for a remote employee to clock in or out via a remote desktop connection.
5. What are things small business owners should look for in timecard software?
There’s probably 5 key things I’d recommend anyone look at before purchasing a timecard software system. The first is to ensure that the system is compatible with your computer system. The second is to evaluate both upfront and on-going costs. It’s simple to get fooled by a low cost system that has high on-going maintenance costs just to keep the software running.
The third area is one of technical support. Ensure your chosen vendor has excellent online support resources. My experience is that most people like to work out problems with their time clock software before picking up the telephone so make sure the online support resources are there. The fourth thing to consider is to ensure that the chosen system has the features you require. Look beyond the simple need to clock employees in and out and hourly rates. Look for the ability to deal with the sorts of overtime you need, look for vacation and sick time accruals and look for the ability to track time spent on jobs. The best way to work out if a timecard system has the features you want is to try it before you buy it. For at least one full payroll cycle.
The final thing to consider is ease of use and quality of reports. There’s no point having a system that is laborious to run and takes a lot of time to maintain and equally there’s no point having a time clock system that just doesn’t give you reports on the time clock data you need.
6. Do you see time timecard software becoming more of the norm moving forward?
Absolutely. There’s low cost time clock systems out there (such as “Time Clock MTS) that can be had for well under $100. Even if you’ve got just a few employees you’re likely to recoup that cost in time savings in just a month or two if you’re currently using a paper based time card system. We have users of Time Clock MTS who have 5 employees and users who have 1000 employees. They are all finding it worthwhile. We’ve also got a free version of Time Clock MTS available for companies who have less than 4 employees so there’s really no reason for even the smallest business not to be using time card software.
Online Time Clock MTS on Windows 8
7. What do you think is holding back some businesses from adopting timecard software?
Three main areas. The first is a perception that there will be some sort of need for an internal IT whiz to keep your time card software running. A good time card system should be easy to install, simple for employees to use to clock in and out, and produce reports quickly and easily. The second area of concern most people have is one of security. They believe any time card system will be easy for employees to manipulate. A system like Time Clock MTS includes a raft of features to stop this. Including integration with fingerprint scanners, using internet time servers to set the internal software time, taking pictures of employees when the clock in or out, and a strong password system. The final reason is one of perceived cost. Sure, some systems are very expensive but there’s some really affordable installable and web-based time card systems out there these days that really do pay for themselves very quickly.
Here’s a question I want you to ask yourself:
How Much Time and Money Are You Wasting Collecting Employee Timesheets and Processing Payroll?
If you’re not using a good employee time clock software system then the answer to this question may be A LOT! Let’s have a look at the four areas in your employee time clock and timesheet processes that are costing you money.
The Time Taken for Manual Calculations
Any manual timesheet system requires someone in your payroll staff to key in and manually total the timesheet for each and every employee in your organization. Our experience suggests (and industry experts agree with us) that it takes, on average, about 2 minutes to key in and add up a week of time clock information for a single employee. If your payroll staff cost you $25 per hour then you’re looking at a cost of $43 per year per employee just to manually add up your timesheets.
Don’t think that software can save you time? Well, think again. Here’s what Eduardo Nilo had to say about Time Clock MTS:
Potential Savings (running total) : $43 per employee per year
Errors in Manual Calculations
If you’re making manual time clock calculations for your employees then you’re making mistakes. There’s no avoiding it. Mistakes happen whether it be because your employee timesheets are illegible, your payroll staff make keying errors, or sometimes their math is just plain wrong. Conservative estimates suggest that up to 1% of payroll calculations are wrong due to errors in manual calculations. Even if we halve that number (that’s just one error in 200 manual time clock calculations) you’re still looking at a cost of $100 per employee per year due to manual calculation errors. How did I arrive at that number? Well, assuming that the average employee works 2000 hours per year an error rate of 0.5% results in a potential 10 hours of manual calculation errors. At a rate of $10 per hour that’s a cost of $100.
A good employee timeclock system will make things easy for you and stop payroll calculation errors. Here’s what one happy Time Clock MTS user had to say about how our software was helping him:
Potential Savings (running total) : $143 per employee per year
Recovering Stolen Employee Time
Whether you call it time theft, time clock fraud, or simple carelessness your employees WILL over claim their hours worked if you’re using an manual time clock system or manual timesheets. It might be because they get to work late, leave slightly early for lunch, come back slightly late, or deliberately leave late in an effort to claim over-time pay. It can also be simply filling in the wrong times on paper timesheets or time cards. How much time do employees steal whether knowingly or un-knowingly? Some studies suggest it’s up to 4 hours a week (or nearly 10% of your payroll)!
Regardless of how it happens a well implemented time card system will help to eliminate this. Here’s what a user of our time clock system, Time Clock MTS, said when they started using our system:
What sort of savings can software like Time Clock MTS deliver from reduction in stolen employee time? Well, even if it can stop 25% of stolen time you’re looking at up to 50 hours of saved payroll time per employee per year. Or a cost saving $500 per employee per year.
Potential Savings (running total) : $643 per employee per year
Stationery and Consumables Savings
The final area in which employee timecard software will help you save money is through the elimination of the need for time cards and paper timesheets. It’s not a huge saving but even if you bulk buy your time cards from Staples or a similar store you’re still going to spend $5 per employee each and every year on consumables. One company using Time Clock MTS is saving real money on paper and printing costs when compare with their old manual systems. Here’s what they had to say:
Potential Savings (grand total) : $648 per employee per year
So how much money are you wasting not using time clock software? Well it turns out the answer is about $650 PER YEAR PER EMPLOYEE.
The four ways you’re going to save money right now by using time clock software is through the elimination of manual time card calculations, stopping payroll calculation errors, reducing employee time fraud or theft, and by eliminating time card consumables. The cost savings you can expect by improvements in each of these four areas is a quite remarkable $648 per employee per year. This far outweighs the cost of an employee timeclock system such as Time Clock MTS which is just $99 (US) for the single computer edition that can track up to 500 employees.
There’s a no-obligation fully functional 30 day trial available, so why not give our time clock software a try and start saving money today!
I thought it would be worthwhile looking at the major factors that should be considered by any company when deciding whether a particular employee time clock software package is going to be suitable for them. Over the last few years I’ve had thousands of emails from companies who are looking for a new system to track their employee time clock data and this list of six review points is based on what I’ve learned from those emails.
Does the Time Clock Software Run on Your Computers?
Most companies have a mix of computers, new and old, a mix of different versions of Windows, with some (or more likely) most computers cluttered down with years of installed software and Windows service packs. Getting software to run on these older computers can be somewhat hit and miss. These points must be considered carefully especially if such a computer (or computers) have been ear-marked as the potential candidates to become the new employee timeclock computers. So, the question to be asked is, will the software you’re evaluating run on these computers? Don’t take the vendors word for it (they’ll almost never say their software won’t work on your computers). Take advantage of their free time clock trial (they do have one don’t they?) and verify that the software will run on all the computers you plan on installing it on.
Upfront and Recurring Costs
The next point to consider when reviewing your potential new software is the up-front and any recurring costs. Upfront costs are just those to purchase a license to use the software. On-going costs could include a fee to keep the software working each year, a fee for on-going technical support, and a fee for maintenance (access to software updates). It’s not unusual for software vendors to have a low up-front cost and then backend the deal with high ongoing costs so beware of getting caught out. I’d suggest calculating software costs out to a period of five years to work out the real cost of ownership of your new employee time clock software.
On-Going Technical Support
Any timeclock program for your employees is going to become an integral part of your company so you want to ensure that the time clock vendor is going to be there to support you during this time. This support should take many forms. The first (and most important) point to consider when evaluating a potential timeclock program is the quantity and quality of help documents, getting started guides, and tutorial videos. You’re going to want that sort of information at your fingertips when you are trying to sort out problems setting up features within the software. Things such as complex overtime arrangements, or vacation accruals, or time rounding, or one of dozens of other requirements companies have of their attendance systems should be well documented and easy to understand.
The second point to consider when evaluating technical support is the quality of the support you receive direct from the time clock software vendor. At some point you’ll probably want to contact them during your software trial period to evaluate both the timeliness and quality of their response. Remember you could end up using the same employee timeclock software for years so you need to ensure that the support staff are people you can work with.
Features of the Time Clock Software
Ensuring that the features that a time clock program will meet your requirements is potentially the most important factor when evaluating that software. Look beyond your need for employees to simply clock in and out and track their hours worked. Look at your deeper on-going requirements and determine what time clock needs you have that you’ll be using all the time. Great time clock software will allow your employees to accrue and track vacation and sick time, it’ll allow them to take and track breaks, and it’ll allow them to clock in and out of different jobs that you need to track. One the administrative side of things you’re almost certainly going to want the the software to do all of your overtime calculations for you and you’ll need some sort of built in time clock security to stop time clock fraud. The manager of the new time clock system should be involved in evaluating the new time clock system and be allowed to voice their needs for features they’d need the most. Be sure not to make decisions in isolation to the people who will actually be living with the software day-to-day.
Ease of Use
There’s no getting away from the need to track employee time and attendance if your employees are to be paid to keep them happy and you’re making sure you’re not paying them too much (to keep your business happy). If done well, and with a minimum of fuss then it will hardly be noticed, but if done poorly it can certainly negatively effect the internal workings of your company and make your employees less than happy. With this in mind when you’re choosing an employee attendance system you should ensure that it is easy to use. There are two key usage areas that you must examine closely when trialling the software. First, make sure it’s super easy for employees to clock in and out. If your chosen employee timeclock system adds even a few seconds per punch in and out then those seconds add up across the weeks of the year. And that time is wasted money. The second area to examine closely are the administrative and reporting functions. Adding new employees, editing time punches, adding time taken off, and tracking sick time should be easy and intuitive. Running payroll reports should be a snap. Make sure the software allows you to filter reports by date, employees, shifts and departments so that you can monitor your different cost centers easily. And finally make sure the software can export reports to payroll systems and your spreadsheet software of choice.
Quality of the Time Clock Reports
The last point to look at when you’re evaluating potential time clock software is the quality and quantity of reports available. There should be simple reports available allowing to review employee lists, employee PINs, active job lists, and at least one report that can quickly show you who is or is not at work. Then of course there should be payroll based reports that describe how many hours employees have worked, overtime worked, and of course pay owing. In more advanced systems you’d want to see reports such as job cost reports, weekly and monthly time breakdown reports, vacation and sick accrual reports, and detailed audit trail logging of employee time punches. Also, as I’ve mentioned previously, ensure that your chosen software can export reports to a variety of different formats and can create export formats suitable for export to your payroll system of choice.
I hope you’ve found this list of six key factors to consider before purchasing an employee time clock software system useful. If you’ve got any questions please feel free to Contact Us.
There’s nothing worse than buying boxed software and getting back to your office and realizing your computers don’t have the right version of Windows, or are too old, too slow, or need more memory to run what you’ve bought. You might even find that you need a permanent Internet connection to use some software and in the case of employee timeclock software that’s not something that’s always desirable. Being able to try a prospective time clock system BEFORE you buy it will help you determine if the software will run on the old PC you’ve earmarked as a clock in computer. You’ll find out quickly if it’s compatible with the version of Windows, and if your PC hardware will cope with the software. And you’ll find all of this out before you have to spend a cent.
1. To ensure your employees can use the software
It’s important to take advantage of a free time clock software trial to ensure that the employees who use it every day will be able to understand how to clock in and out. Not all software is the same and some is most definitely harder to use than others. With this being the case if your employees don’t know one end of a computer mouse from the other it’s important that they be given the opportunity to see the software that they need to clock in and out of every day. If you’ve got a lot of employees and they are wasting time every day because the software is hard to use then you are just needlessly wasting time and money. Being able to trial your time clock software before purchasing will allow you to discover important usability issues like these before it’s too late.
2. To test the fit through an entire payroll cycle
Reading a glossy software brochure is one thing and watching an online video demonstration of a prospective time clock system is something else. But both are like a picture of a beautiful meal. They give you an appetite but it’s not until you taste that you really know whether a meal (or an employee timeclock) is what you really want. Free time clock trials should give you the opportunity to try (taste) the software through an entire payroll cycle to see if it really does meet your needs. For example, can it cope with employees who forget to clock in or out. Can it generate reports quickly and easily as payroll deadlines approach. And can it save you money while it’s doing all of this for you. Only a time clock trial that runs for at least one full payroll period will tell you if it’s going to meet your needs or not.
3. To see how you live with the time clock software day to day
We’ll indulge in another metaphor here. Downloading any old time clock software, clocking in and out a few times and making a decision in a few minutes is akin to buying a suit by pulling it off of the rack looking at the size and saying to your self that will fit! You don’t know whether it’s a GREAT suit until you get it home, wear it to work, see how it sits on your shoulders and understand what needs adjusting. Sadly you don’t get this chance with a suit, you have to buy it and get it adjusted and then live with it. If your time clock software comes with a free trial you don’t need to buy it to understand how it fits. Your company can live with it day to day and understand how it will fit in your day to day operations and decide if that fit is a good one or a poor one. Given that a good time clock program will become an integral part of your staff management processes it’s essential to ensure that the fit is a GREAT one. So take full advantage of a free time clock trial before you purchase anything.
4. To ensure ongoing reliability and data security
It’s a sad fact of life that a lot of software is shiny and beautiful on the surface but under a thin veneer doesn’t really work too well at all. Often it’s not possible to find usability problems, bugs, or data calculation issues until you’ve used the software for a while. If your prospective employee time clock program offers a free trial then this will allow you find out if any such hidden nasties are lurking just below the surface.
5. To ensure a good fit with your payroll rules and overtime requirements
Our experience suggests that the two most complex parts of any employee time clock system are coping with overtime and dealing with vacation and sick time accruals. Often a workplace has several different sets of accrual and overtime rules that are applied to different employees. It’s not until you get into the guts of a time clock trial that you’ll understand whether it will be able to cope with the way your company accrues leave or pays for vacation. You can imagine the trouble you’d be in if you purchase some software and don’t find out until later that it won’t do proper seventh day California overtime!
It seems to be the week for new Time Clock MTS users asking great questions. Here’s a few questions I’ve just been asked about the Time Clock MTS Client software plus some great suggestions.
Question : The client version icons go blue after a short time; on the admin stations the icons next to the staff names stay green or red based on their clock in status; do you know why there is a difference?
Answer : This is the clients going idle to stop them clogging up the network. Whenever an employee clicks their name it will update their status. Look here for more information: The Time Clock MTS Client Idle State
Question : We also wonder why the client version does not allow for robust administrative privileges like the trial version (after logging in as administrator, of course).
Answer : The client does allow you to run reports and so on but not configure software options, add employees, and so on. This is a design choice in the software.
Question : Can you change it so that you can have multiple administrators logged in at the same time?
Answer : 3) No, you can only have one administrator logged in at once. But as I said above you can run reports from the client computers.
Suggestion : I would like to suggest that the administrators be given access to change the formatting of the “canned” reports without having to export into excel. For example, we have a few fields that we would like bold; it would be great to be able to go into the report settings and input some html code to make those fields format to our preferences.
Answer : Selective formatting of reports is under development right now.
Suggestion: We would also like to see the administrators have power to change certain defaults on the interface screen. Currently each staff member would have to go in to change certain settings (for example punchcard vs. job punchcard, view employee information etc.) when viewing or printing their time sheets. We would love it if we could set defaults so they have fewer things to choose.
Answer : Employees can only view three different reports. This provides them with a good amount of information without overwhelming them with the entire list of several dozen different reports.
You may or may not be aware that we’ve had a free online weekly timecard calculator available for a while. It’s been pretty popular with several hundred people a week using it to create a simple weekly timesheet. Due to popular demand I’ve created a new time sheet calculator for two weeks. This new calculator allows users to enter 14 days of time card data and includes provision for time taken off as breaks. Once all time card data is entered the calculator can print the results to a PDF file which can be saved or emailed. It pretty easy to use and gives instantaneous feedback as you enter your work time. Even better it’s completely free to use as much as you like. So if you’re in need of a BiWeekly Time Card Calculator please check it out!