Using labor-tracking software to simplify employee time tracking—and streamline recordkeeping—is the choice more and more businesses are making.
The question for businesses with remote and/or hourly employees is usually not “if” but “how”. In other words, how will a switch from paper labor tracking to digital labor-tracking software affect us? And how will we choose which labor tracking software, when there are several offerings that seem suitable at first glance?
We’ll take a look at the basic definition of labor-tracking software, some of its benefits and must-have features, and what to look for when you start your search.
What is labor-tracking software?
Labor-tracking software allows HR or payroll administrators to digitally capture hours worked by employees via computer, app or wireless device. The software enables review and admin-based editing of labor data on the backend. After labor hours are collected, labor-tracking software integrates with payroll or accounting software for simplified payroll processing.
Benefits of labor-tracking software
Most HR or payroll managers who switched to labor-tracking software after trying to manage everything on paper say they would never go back. Even HR and payroll admins who never worked with paper time cards appreciate the simplicity and automation that labor tracking software affords.
These are some but not all of the benefits users focus on:
Accurate payroll hours
Even honest employees round their hours when they are filling out a time card or timesheet, for the sake of simplicity—and whether consciously or not, they usually give themselves the benefit of rounding up. Workers also have a tendency to forget having left early for a doctor’s appointment last week or to pick up their child, or that day that they called in sick.
In this digital age, there’s no reason to remain unclear on when or how long employees actually worked during the day or week, or over the course of the project. It’s helpful to have this information in real time for a variety of reasons. With labor-tracking software, hours worked will become transparent, you’ll have much more actionable information at your fingertips, and your payroll costs will inevitably go down. Users have reported savings in the tens to hundreds of thousands over the course of the first year using labor tracking software.
Visibility for managers and employees
To be able to check when a key worker or crew arrived can be invaluable information for supervisors, managers and forepersons who are closest to particular projects or job sites. The same goes for knowing how many workers are approaching overtime on a given job.
Employees, too, can benefit from the ability to look back at their week and see how many hours they’ve worked, or to review their total over the pay period and approve it before payroll is processed. This way workers stay more conscious of the time they are working, know what to expect come payday, and can curb bad habits—such as coming in late or cutting out early.
Better project planning
Central to planning, always, is experience—knowing what happened before provides wisdom as you plot out a future roadmap. But it’s difficult to sidestep past mistakes on projects when you only have a rough idea of hours worked, when progress slowed or when it sped up—and next to no clue how much time was spent on separate tasks.
With clear visibility into total project hours plus a breakdown of hours spent on specific tasks or activities, those tasked with scheduling or managing can hand out the shifts without over- or understaffing. They can increase efficiency by smoothing out bottlenecks with a little extra help in the slow spots. And they can target unexpected time drains to see what can be done to train workers more thoroughly and improve the process.
Improved estimating and bidding
Using your data from the daily and weekly tracking of hours by project and cost code, with labor-tracking software you can also nail down the total cost of labor on a given job. When estimating costs on a new project, businesses can gather the data from similar past projects and combine it with knowledge of any key differences. This will allow you to ensure a profit margin while also keeping estimates lean and avoiding bloat that might prevent you from winning the job.
Labor-tracking software or apps that fulfill the basic time tracking functions—clocking in and out, and a GPS stamp at clock-in—aren’t difficult for developers to create these days. The question is whether the features are too thin or shallow to give you real value. A full-featured product provides real-time agility in managing remote workers,. It also supplies a bird’s-eye view of the labor process that would have been difficult or impossible to access manually.
Below are a few of the features that make the best labor tracking software out there worth the expense:
- GPS timestamps and GPS breadcrumbing – You need a reliable record of where workers clocked in and out—otherwise tracking them remotely doesn’t mean much. Businesses also need the capability to monitor the location of workers who travel on the clock.
- Cloud-based access for admins – Software that’s accessible from any device with a browser (i.e. Software as a Service, or SaaS) allows those with different administrative or managerial roles within the company to access it. They can filter for data and reports most relevant to their tasks, and target specific areas for improvement.
- Field notes and mobile forms – Two-way communication with the field is another strategic benefit of labor tracking software. Good time tracking software will provide a field notes-like platform for employees or supervisors to create multi-media updates that are attached to jobs. It will also allow for the insertion of quick, compliance-related questionnaires in the clock-in or clock-out workflow.
- Biometric or photo ID verification – Biometric or photo ID verification provides confirmation that your employees are being honest and clocking in as themselves. It also helps match names with faces if you have a large workforce, or seasonal employees.
- Adjustable crew tracking – The ability of a manager, super or foreperson to quickly clock in for a pre-established crew, create a new crew on the spot for clock-in, or eliminate members of a crew who are absent or late is essential for busy, fast-moving businesses.
- Overtime reporting – There isn’t much point in monitoring overtime if you can’t nip it in the bud or reroute an employee’s efforts and hours to curb overtime usage. Automated reporting on which workers, and how many, are approaching overtime helps a business become proactive in controlling the number of overtime hours worked.
- Robust cost-code tracking – The option to create custom cost codes or tasks based on the activities involved in a project, and to have workers clock in and out on the relevant tasks, opens up the visibility onto which tasks are taking longest, what is moving the quickest, and what to estimate and bid on future projects.
Considerations when choosing a labor tracking software
While must-have features are good to be aware of, there are a few underlying and all-important factors to consider when shopping for labor-tracking software.
Ease of Use
When software isn’t straightforward, it can cause headaches on a daily basis. This goes for the backend cloud software being used in the office and the worker-facing app in the field. You want simple adoption by employees—no emails required—and a quick, clear clock-in process. Weekly functions such as generating reports should be easy, too.
To take appropriate advantage of the digital data it produces, labor-tracking software must integrate easily with payroll or accounting programs. Integration with HR software is helpful, too.
With a SaaS model, what you are paying for is the maintenance of the cloud software and the professional server where the software and your data resides. You’re also paying for the development and refinement of new features. Still, it should be readily apparent through customer testimonials and product demos that the Return on Investment in terms of time and money savings for your labor tracking software will outweigh the cost.
Labor-tracking software is only as good as the support you get from the provider. If you want real transparency on project and job site trends, to be able to stop overtime before it starts, and to be able to smoothly integrate with payroll, you will have occasional questions and you need efficient answers. Web-based support articles are helpful, but so are reliable, knowledgeable tech support representatives.
Trends in Time and Attendance
SaaS labor-tracking software is on the rise. As we touched on before, it adds tremendous flexibility to labor tracking that you just can’t get with on-premises software models. An admin or anyone else with permission can hop onto the backend software from any computer. A company owner or C-level manager can enter the software and download a report on a moment’s notice.
Imagine your payroll person remembers the night before payroll is processed that he or she forgot to sync the time tracking data with your payroll software, or failed to make an important edit that an employee requested after reviewing his or her timecard. Not a problem—it can be done from anywhere. Permission-based access means employees working at a desk can clock in and out through a browser rather than via an app.
As you shop for labor-tracking software, we hope you ask plenty of questions, and use the above information to inform your search. ExakTime offers the flexibility of a SaaS model as well as all of the must-have features that make labor tracking software a huge help to businesses, from cost-code tracking to mobile compliance sign-off to robust reporting. We’re also proud to provide an award-winning, U.S.-based support team who will be with you every step—from implementation to first use and beyond.
Contact us for a free demonstration of our product in action.