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July 28, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

How to Track Employee Attendance

What is an employee attendance tracker? That isn't a question with a single answer. How to keep track of employee attendance efficiently and cost-effectively is a different challenge for every employer. A human resources manager handling a construction crew with a mix of part-time and full-time employees has different attendance tracking needs than one overseeing three shifts of warehouse employees, or an HR team struggling to schedule fully certified staffers at a long-term healthcare facility.

Even with all of those diverse types of employers, there are some universal concepts at play when it comes to managing and recording employee time and attendance. With more than half of businesses increasing their spending on employee compensation this year, developing a strong understanding of potential attendance tracking benefits has never been more important for employers of all stripes.

What are some common ways to track employee attendance?

Time and attendance tracking has been an essential practice for employers for as long as workers have been receiving paychecks. The ways in which organizations keep track of employee attendance have evolved along with technology, with a variety of methods in regular use today. A few common attendance monitoring techniques include:

  • Software-based employee attendance systems
  • Apps and mobile phone-based attendance systems
  • Manually recording employee hours in a spreadsheet
  • Swiping an employee ID card, key card, or badge
  • Physical punch cards
  • Biometric tracking such as fingerprint and retina scans
  • GPS tracking of employee locations
  • Paper-based attendance registers or timesheets

Which tracking method works best varies widely from employer to employer. Some easy ways to track employee attendance for one company might lead to nothing but headaches for a different organization. Let's take a closer look at some of those time and attendance solutions and see where the advantages and disadvantages lie.

Punch card time clocks

The classic image of a line of workers queuing up to punch in at the start of the workday is largely a thing of the past. That's largely because punch card time systems are out of date and prone to fraudulent behavior like buddy punching. Newer solutions like biometric time clocks and attendance tracking software can virtually eliminate that kind of time fraud, making punch cards mostly obsolete.

Card swipe time clocks

A time and attendance system that requires employees to swipe or scan a badge or employee ID card is basically the modern equivalent of the old-fashioned punch card system. After workers swipe their cards, their attendance data is automatically uploaded to the employer's computer system and recorded there.

While this approach does not provide as much safety and security as a touch-free time clock with facial recognition, it can still be a feasible attendance tracking option for some employers. Even so, relying on physical ID cards that can easily be lost, forgotten, or even stolen opens the door for costly delays and fraud that cancel out the efficiency of your attendance and time tracking software.

Paper timesheets and attendance registers

Paper-based workforce management systems had their day, but that day is long past. Even for small businesses, relying on manual time entry and paper attendance registers is a time-consuming, inefficient process that takes up space and presents a serious risk for costly errors.

Relying on these outdated tools also puts employers at a disadvantage on the data front. Recording and analyzing employee data has tremendous value for everything from managing payroll to creating effective schedules to setting health and safety policies. Harvesting that data from paper records eats up a huge amount of time that could be much more easily handled by an automated employee attendance tracking software system. In today's business environment, upgrading to automated attendance management tools is essential.

Time and attendance spreadsheets

Using spreadsheet programs like Excel to manage employee attendance is an upgrade from a paper system, but even that technology has become outdated. Manual entry systems that require managers to enter employee time and attendance data by hand are very time consuming, leave too much room for error, and can contribute to burnout and employee turnover for staffers who grow bored with entering the same data day after day.

In an era of constant cybersecurity concerns, these outdated methods of online attendance tracking also present possible gaps in your organization's data security system. Upgrading those data entry functions with an automated employee attendance tracker system can go a long way toward solving all of those problems.

Biometric time clocks

Attendance tracking hardware has advanced almost as impressively as software solutions in recent years. Simple punch card and timesheet systems have been replaced by automated, biometric solutions that identify employees based on fingerprints, retinal scans, and facial recognition. Some attendance tracking time clocks even allow completely touch-free operation, instead relying on facial scans and voice commands.

These new time and attendance hardware options not only help to eliminate time fraud and human error, they can also contribute to a more health and safety conscious workplace by maintaining social distancing in work spaces.

Mobile employee attendance apps

Today's workforce is more mobile than ever before, and time and attendance systems are following suit. For businesses in industries like transport, construction, and healthcare that frequently have workers in the field rather than in a centralized location, mobile attendance apps that allow employees to clock in and clock out from wherever they are working on a given day.

There are clear advantages for employees, but what is a mobile phone attendance system's benefit for employers? A mobile attendance tracking app also give employers greater control over and insights into the way their workforce manages its time. GPS tracking allows your HR team to keep closer tabs on the physical location of your workforce, which helps prevent time fraud and makes it easier to provide workers with the resources they need. The employee data collected by a mobile attendance app also provides invaluable information that can inform everything from hiring decisions to schedule management.

What are the advantages of an automated employee attendance system?

For most employers wondering how to monitor the attendance of employees, more automation is the most effective solution. Here are a few key areas where a fully automated workforce management system can benefit an entire organization.

More accurate and timely payroll processing

By eliminating the hours spent manually processing and submitting employee time and attendance records, your organization can put valuable time back in the hands of your HR and payroll teams while also eliminating a large percentage of your human error costs.

Reduced risk of time fraud

Common time fraud practices like buddy punching, altering timesheets, or overestimating hours become much more difficult to get away with when you monitor daily attendance using an automated software system.

Fewer overtime hours and reduced absenteeism

Careful tracking of employee hours is an invaluable asset for setting schedules, labor forecasting, and making hiring decisions, all of which can prevent understaffing that leads to expensive overtime pay. Those same measurements help your team identify potential absentee issues before they become a problem.

More useful employee data

Today's employment universe is data-driven more than ever, and an automated time and attendance system is possibly the most reliable way to generate, track, and record vital data about when and how your workforce really works. Time and attendance data provides crucial visibility into multiple aspects of workforce management, impacting everything from seasonal hiring patterns to compliance and safety measures to schedule management. Investing in a time and attendance tracking system that makes employee data easier to record, report, and analyze can save an organization considerable amounts of both time and money.

Easier compliance with labor laws

From FLSA record keeping requirements to ACA reporting to state and local regulations, time and attendance touches on a whole lot of compliance issues. The added security and easily accessible data that comes with automating your employee attendance tracking makes it much easier to stay compliant with all necessary laws and rules.

More empowered employees

Self-service tools like a mobile employee attendance app  give workers greater control over their own scheduling and time tracking. That creates a culture of employee empowerment that can boost productivity and help reduce turnover rates. Those are very important factors in labor-driven industries that often struggle with employee retention.

While there is no single best solution to tracking employee attendance, an automated time and attendance system that integrates easily with payroll and scheduling software is vital to maintaining a productive, data-rich, and error-free workplace. Find out more about the many ways Ascentis workforce management solutions can get your attendance tracking system up to speed.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.