Today, there are tons of business tools that can help you do and measure nearly everything. However, as it often happens, the wide variety of different choices can quickly get confusing. This is especially so for three types of business time management software in particular:
- time and attendance tracking,
- time tracking and
- employee monitoring systems.
You may want to enable your employees to clock in remotely and start searching for time trackers. Or you need to track time on projects and reach out to employee monitoring companies. Soon enough, you’ll realize that’s not what you need at all.
You’re not the one to blame. The terminology is rather new and it varies. To make matters worse, some features usually overlap between solutions. But essentially, these three are different tools that serve different purposes. In this article, we’re going into more detail on each of them in the hopes of clearing up the confusion once and for all.
Time and Attendance Software
Attendance tracking programs were the first ones that emerged. Before their launch, employers would rely on other attendance tracking methods, like punch cards and manual attendance sheets, to record when each employee came to work and how long they spent in the office.
Time and attendance software is based on the idea of punch cards - employees ‘punch in’ when they start working. Except, now it’s all done through a software interface. This practice started with restaurants, but very soon it spread across all types of businesses and, nowadays, it’s an especially popular method of attendance tracking in large enterprises.
So, how does it work? Actually, the system is very straightforward. All employees have to do is indicate that they’re at work either on their computers or phones. Managers can even opt for implementing biometric clock-in, where workers’ identity is confirmed by a fingerprint scanner or by taking a photo for facial recognition. This is meant to eliminate the possibility of buddy punching.
Different versions of this software vary in the array of features they offer, but they all share a couple of basic functionalities. Most notably, they can record clock-ins and clock-outs for each employee. Typically, these are entered manually by employees, but if attendance tracking is integrated with time logging or computer monitoring software, it can be done automatically based on computer activity.
This kind of system also very often has a scheduling feature that lets employers assign shifts or even employees to swap them with each other. Managers and HRs can also use it to manage sick leaves and vacation days.
Time and attendance trackers may also include geofencing that uses employees’ GPS location to allow clock-in, which is especially useful and popular in the industries where employees are paid on an hourly rate and often do field work, such as, for instance, construction workers.
Ultimately, what you get from all these features and measurements are clean and accurate reports that focus on employee attendance timesheets. You can see who’s complying with the working hours policy, who tends to be late, and so on. In addition, attendance software also lets you calculate overtime and, if your system has the option to specify employees’ hourly rate, you can even compile payrolls or calculate billable hours.
The usual features time and attendance software has:
- Clock in/out
- Biometric verification
Time Tracking Software
Time tracking system is a much more detailed technology that can be used to analyze not just when employees are present, but also what they work on during their office hours. Similarly to attendance taking software, this technology was first typically associated with service businesses but has since become good practice in many different industries.
The main focus of time trackers is to track time on projects based on the task duration. In other words, this software aims to help you figure out how much time was dedicated to different tasks and processes within each project.
This means that the central feature of time tracking systems is measuring the exact time spent on each project and, more specifically, on each task. Basically, you, as a manager, are able to assign each task within a project to different employees. They in turn have to indicate that they’ve started working on a specific task by clicking the ‘Start’ button and that they’re done with it by clicking ‘Stop’. This way, that time gets automatically allocated to the relevant project and when all the tasks are combined, you get a project duration.
Nowadays, though, there are technologies like automatic time mapping that do all of the work for you - instead of manually clicking start/stop, time on tasks is associated automatically just by working in the background. This feature is specifically tailored for insurance, architecture and design teams, because the software has to be able to recognize what employees are working on inside specific software tools.
Apart from this, the software can also take care of budgeting by factoring in your hourly rate and other project-specific costs, and even help you make invoices with speed and accuracy. Some of the additional functionalities include payroll calculations and sometimes project management.
Having this in mind, it’s not difficult to see that time tracking software can offer you a lot more useful insights than a simple attendance tracker. You can use it for project and deadline estimates, budget management and planning, task delegation process, etc.
What’s more, the array of capabilities expands dramatically when you combine it with employee monitoring to include productivity analysis and other features. This way, it also becomes especially valuable as a client report basis as it provides proof of work, accurate project timelines, billable hours and budget reports, as well as real time progress overview. This improves client management both because it takes care of the accountability issues and because it makes your project estimates more informed and accurate over time.
There are quite a few time tracking apps on the market, and the reasons why some of the more sophisticated solutions, such as Workpuls, are better suited for different industries only become apparent when you compare the most popular software for tracking time.
The most notable features time tracking software has:
- Task delegation
- Time reporting
- Employee monitoring
Employee Monitoring Software
Lastly, computer monitoring program is the most sophisticated and comprehensive method of employee software tracking out of the three. It’s also the most complex in terms of features, as we’re going to see later. For now, it will be sufficient to note that there are three different types of employee monitoring, depending on its central features and use cases: security focused, control focused, and productivity focused screen monitoring software.
As the most advanced system, employee tracking software can be used as a standalone control and productivity enrichment tool, but it also plays well in combination with both attendance and time tracking systems. Standalone, it gives you insights into what your employees are doing, which apps and websites they’re using, whether they’re active or not, etc. But in combination with the other two types of tracking software, it gives all of these metrics a time dimension and makes the process of taking attendance automatic.
It’s pretty amazing how much you can learn about your employees’ performance through monitoring software features. Firstly, you can know if and when they’re actively using their computers as well as measure the amount of idle time that they spend on breaks, meetings, etc. Next step is the basis of any monitoring program - detecting which apps your employees use and which websites they visit.
Control and security focused monitoring software may also include features like screenshots that you can collect automatically at random intervals or manually when the need presents itself. Some platforms also offer a keystroke logging functionality and keyword alerts as an additional security measure.
Productivity focused software bases its data on classification of apps and websites into productive (or work-related) and unproductive. This way, you know what fraction of employees’ active time is spent on actually working on projects and work-related tasks.
Additionally, the fact that monitoring software detects every computer activity means it can be used to track attendance. Employees clock-in when they start using their computers and they clock out when they turn them off. This is especially useful for remote workers who don’t come to the office.
All of this data can be accessed in real time or as a periodical report and can also be aggregated on a team, department or company level for better overview. Based on these minute pieces of information, you can get detailed productivity and performance analyses for every employee or team. Therefore, this type of software can help you make decisions on how to optimize your processes, improve productivity, increase control and security and much more.
The most common features in employee monitoring software:
- Productivity monitoring
- App and website usage
- Activity tracking
As we have seen, employee time management software can have many faces. The three general types of this system all have their own focus, specific features and ideal uses. But their real power becomes apparent when you combine all of these tools and use them together to gain the most complete and accurate picture of your employees’ and company’s performance.