Employee time measurement has come a long way since the days when staff would manually stamp time cards and hand them in.
Through the wonders of cloud technology, it’s now possible to track your employees’ activity, log information about time invested on certain projects, and produce meaningful reports to give you a clear picture of what’s going on in your small business.
Time-tracking software is useful for all types of businesses, from small startups to large enterprises. These applications are a great investment for many types of businesses, whether you’re in accounting and bookkeeping, construction, hotels, cleaning services, plumbing and heating, retail, or any other industry where tracking team activity and handling expenses are paramount to your business.
Time-tracking applications are useful for the whole team for tracking time, processing payroll, and dealing with important administrative processes. A good time-tracking app is scalable, and can be used at different levels (e.g. field or in-house staff, team managers, HR, Payroll) to save time and money, and give clearer insights into projects. Employers benefit by knowing how time is being used, while employees can relax knowing that they’ll get paid for every minute they work.
Types of Time-Tracking Software
Time-tracking software comes in several shapes and sizes. Some come as modules within accounting and invoicing apps such as FreshBooks, where employees can log hours from wherever they are and then automatically generate invoices through the software.
Likewise, comprehensive online project management software will often include time tracking features. Mavenlink, for example, offers time tracking and approval support, allowing for effortless billing and activity logging in a project-focused environment.
If you don’t have a time-tracking module within your existing business software, there are plenty of standalone time monitoring applications. Many of these have free trials, so they’re ideal if you want to shop around for something that fits your budget.
Choosing the Best Time-Tracking Software
When you’re researching which application to use, there are several functions to look out for. Of course, you’ll need to think about which of these features are surplus to your requirements, but the best time tracking software will serve most, or all, of the following functions:
The ability to monitor the time of both hourly and salaried employees is the main purpose of a time tracking application. If you have staff in the field, look for a service that offers multi-device clocking in/out. Some solutions, such as Vericlock, offer the ability to punch in via text message or SMS, or through a smartphone app, for example.
Offline support is a must if you have staff who are working in locations where Internet access is limited or unavailable. Some time tracking tools, including TSheets, offer GPS features, so you can physically track what your field staff are up to.
Many tools will offer you the ability to set up alerts to remind your employees to clock in and out, and a safeguard feature for automatically clocking out those staff who aren’t supposed to be clocked in.
Timesheet handling is an important part of a time-tracking application. Software that allows you to divide timesheets by project is ideal, because it makes the billing process easier. When choosing a solution, pay attention to its approval workflows.
Ideally, you want a solution that allows a project or department manager to quickly and easily approve or reject a timesheet. Timesheets.com is an example of a solution that allows you to do just this. Many applications send you email alerts when a timesheet or expense has been submitted.
Overtime control is another aspect of time-tracking software that can make your life easier and save you money. Many of the best applications offer overtime alerts, which can notify a manager when an employee is clocking over. This can help you avoid paying for costly overtime in cases where it may not be necessary.
The best time-tracking software will allow you to monitor project resources and track tasks, and some allow you to add project notes to tasks so that everyone involved is on the same page.
Support for recording billable and non-billable expenses and for invoice creation are other handy features that some time-tracking tools — like Replicon, for example — include, and help to bridge the gap between project management and payroll.
Reporting is a crucial advantage of an automated time tracking application. A good software like Toggl lets you generate a wide variety of different reports to help a manager gain insights into things like time worked, expenses, and invoices. Reports can generally be customized, allowing the user to define exactly what information they want to be included in the reports. Although software can gather all this data, it’s very important that managers have the right training to be able to analyze and interpret the data in the most effective way.
Be sure that the time-tracking app you pick includes the ability to export or print reports so that they can then be shared easily with bosses or employees.
Help and Support
While it’s imperative that you choose a time-tracking solution that is reliable and easy to use by everyone in the company, it’s also vital that you research the customer support service of an application before selecting one.
The best ones should offer email, phone, and live chat support so that you can quickly solve issues with the software during the integration phase and quickly squash any problems that arise.
One important factor to consider when selecting a time-tracking application is to pay attention to its integrations. Integrations are key because they allow you to synchronize your time tracking application with data from other business software that you’re already using.
Look for a time-tracking software that offers integration with the packages you’re using for payroll, CRM, accounting, content management, project management, and ERP, and you’ll be able to slot your time-tracking functionality into these.
Take the time to research all of these factors when choosing the best time tracking software, and the payoff will be an increase in employee productivity, better payroll control, and improved billing accuracy. What this means in real terms, simply put, is cost savings for your small business.
Factory Time Clock Photo via Shutterstock