Employee time tracking: How cloud solutions benefit today's hybrid workforce
Time is money. With typical payroll costs representing up to a third of your company’s revenue, accurate employee time tracking is one of your most critical business functions. And while the modern world of work has grown more complex, time-dependent wage models are certainly nothing new. For thousands of years, laborers were paid a daily rate, with the ancient Babylonians even developing a set of recommended wages where a carpenter gets this many grains of silver per day, a tailor gets that many, and so on. Even way back then, it was essential to be transparent about time and wages.
With the industrial revolution and the rise of centralised workplaces, companies began to see the value in standardising working hours and ensuring that workers were where they were supposed to be throughout the day. In 1880, clockmaker Willard Bundy, invented the first employee time clock with a punch-card system that still remains in use. And while time tracking technology has progressed light years from where it was in Bundy’s day, it still remains a challenge for every company. Fortunately, today’s cloud-based time tracking software is meeting that challenge – delivering accuracy and flexibility, and analysing valuable workforce data to support improved profitability.
What is time tracking and why is it a hot topic right now?
In 2022, Gallup conducted an extensive survey of over 140,000 employees. Added to numerous other workplace surveys in multiple countries, the results confirmed what everyone had been saying: Remote work is here to stay. In fact, one of Gallup’s statistics showed that in 2019, over 60% of employees worked exclusively on-site. Whereas by 2022, that number had dropped to just 19% – even after COVID restrictions had largely been lifted.
For HR departments, this has meant a lightning-fast shift to entirely new ways of working. For example: remote workers tend to be more widely distributed geographically. This adds enormous complexity to time management protocols. Each state, province, or country may have differing regulations about time off, maternity leave, benefits, allowable overtime, and much more.
Modern businesses also find themselves in a time of rapid operational change and more complex customer expectations. Companies know that to compete in this economy, they need to leverage Big Data and AI-powered business technologies. Cloud-based time tracking solutions integrate with other essential business systems to let you record, report, analyse, and customise all your employees’ time-usage activities. This lets you spot opportunities and risks ahead of the game. It gives you the visibility to anticipate changing workflows and spot inefficiencies and non-compliance risks – in real time.
How do cloud-based time-tracking systems work?
The best time-tracking systems are flexible and user friendly for employers and employees alike. They can be customised to best align with individual or roles-based rules and parameters. They operate on a unified platform and can connect in the cloud with other HR and business software systems to benefit from a variety of relevant data sources. Cloud-based systems also respond to events and actions as they happen, delivering the agility that is needed to ensure up-to-the minute accuracy and relevance.
Here’s some additional key characteristics of the best time-tracking systems:
- A unified platform is centralised and integrated. In the past, payroll costs have often been siloed across regions or departments and managed on legacy software applications – or even spreadsheets. This made it difficult to analyse payroll data and to compare payroll costs to productivity and hours spent on various tasks. A unified and centralised platform integrates time tracking with payroll software and other HR and business systems to give accurate, real-time fiscal intel and contribute to more robust data-driven insights.
- A personalised interface improves usability and relevance. With time-tracking being one of the most used self-service applications, your teams need to find it easy to use – and be able to access from devices, wherever they are. When time tracking systems are cumbersome and not intuitive, even the most conscientious employees can become exasperated or procrastinate – guesstimating after the fact and entering several days’ worth of work all in one go. Cloud-based time tracking systems help to avoid this with a simplified and user friendly time entry interface that is role-specific and personalised. Furthermore, customised cloud time tracking systems can give both employees and employers access to on-demand reporting, alerts, schedules, and other relevant insights.
- Embedded analytics and reporting support multiple scenarios. It’s hard enough for even HR experts to stay on top of complicated compliance and labour regulations. Employees should certainly not be expected to master this and keep it all straight. With cloud-based time tracking systems, rules can be set for each employee (or role) to – for example – get automated warnings about too much overtime or recalculate hours due to sudden schedule changes. Embedded analytics and reporting tools can also leverage AI and diverse data sets to extrapolate on real and potential workplace scenarios – thereby providing actionable and relevant information and answering a variety of employee or managerial questions as they are asked.
Time tracking for employees: The risks of getting it wrong
Employee litigation has risen to unprecedented levels in the past few years. In 2021 there were record payouts for class action workplace lawsuits in the U.S, with the U.K. and a number of other countries seeing similar patterns. Forbes points out that “Based on sheer volume and statistical numbers, workers scored the most success in securing certification of wage and hour class and collective actions in 2021.”
Obviously, a core function of employee time tracking is to record hours worked. But for both workers’ well-being and corporate risk management, time tracking software must have the capacity to recognise and report – in real time – when employees hours, time off, breaks, or other related issues, are at risk of being non-compliant. And to be effective, your time tracking systems must be able to accurately support this functionality in every region and country where your company does business.
Further risk comes in the form of actual monetary loss from inaccurate timekeeping. Every year, companies lose billions of dollars to employee time theft – whether intentional or unintentional. Let’s face it: it’s an awkward topic. Nobody wants to admit that their employees may be playing fast and loose with hours. Because of this, when large organisations tighten their belts and focus on cost-cutting measures, they sometimes overlook the millions they may be losing due to time theft.
How can improved time and attendance tracking help your business?
Modern organisations are in a time of enormous change and unprecedented competition. To thrive, they must strive for end-to-end visibility across their whole operation. They must capture and analyse data, break down silos, and find ways to become more agile and resilient. Considering that most organisations spend between 15% to 30% of their revenue on payroll, time management is a crucial component in workforce optimisation and improved accountability.
Cloud-based time tracking solutions add value in some of the following measurable ways:
- Centralised visibility into cross-business work processes. How much time should reasonably be allotted to certain tasks? What are our most and least labour-intensive operations? Are our workflows more productive in one location than another? By creating custom reports, and using advanced analytics, businesses can leverage time tracking data to help get more accurate answers to these questions – and insights as to how to optimise in the future.
- Increased accountability. In addition to reducing loss due to time theft, enhanced accountability for both employers and employees can benefit your business operations overall. For example, in most organisations, many workers can do their jobs remotely, however, there will always be some that have to come to the physical site. With the rise of hybrid and remote work, many organisations have experienced challenges due to this perceived “unfair” disparity. Transparent and thorough time-tracking systems can help to improve morale by letting your teams know that everyone is equally accountable for their time usage – whether on site or off.
- Resilience and agility. Leading organisations are able to pivot and respond quickly to market forces and change. A new manufacturing process, an innovative business model, a pending merger or partnership – all these initiatives depend upon accurate analysis and solid planning. Time tracking in the cloud delivers live insights about person-hours by task, region, and project. This gives business leaders the confidence they need to deliver fast and competitive quotes and budgetary decisions.
- ·Speed and efficiency. Traditionally, timekeeping and approval tasks have been some of the most time-consuming in any business. For example: in most organisations, before hours are sent to payroll, they must be approved – often, first by a team leader and then by a department head. If one person has special authorisation for extra overtime for some reason, then that single case will need to be isolated and explained – and so on, across a range of workers and roles, both remote and on-site. Cloud-based time tracking systems allow for different rules and role-based exemptions to exist simultaneously – yet still be visible and manageable from a central point. And when all the corner-cases are covered and accounted for, this means department heads can automate and authorise batch approvals – reducing wasted time (and frustration).
- Employee retention and satisfaction. Of course, when employees feel overworked, that can lead to dissatisfaction and burnout. But being underworked or working below one’s abilities is also a major source of frustration for employees – not to mention a wasted opportunity for employers. Cloud-based time tracking software can centrally amalgamate data and input to deliver a bird’s eye view across operational areas – or the entire workforce. This allows HR teams and managers to analyse specific data sets to see where there are bottlenecks, irregularities, or inefficiencies. Armed with these insights, organisations can make sure that over-taxed teams get the support they need, and that talented employees get noticed and promoted.
Are you ready for cloud-based time tracking solutions?
Digital transformation has changed the way we live and do business. It has given organisations the ability to see around corners, optimise their resources, and better understand the data that their operations generate. While employee time tracking solutions have evolved over time, they have also remained one of the most essential components of any organisations. Why? Because they reflect the fact that people – with their various skills and talents – remain the most valuable and essential asset that any organisation can have.
When it’s time to integrate cloud-based time tracking solutions into your organisation, be sure to keep that people-first approach. Ensure that you have good communication and change management plans in place at the start. Make sure you have a comprehensive road map and project plan in place and be sure to celebrate all the little successes on the way to your HR transformation goals.
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