Choosing a Time & Attendance System? How to Find the Best One for You

A time and attendance system can save your business time and money. Find out what to look for in these systems.

There are plenty of reasons a company might want time and attendance software. If you suspect your company is losing money because of buddy punching (where someone clocks in for a friend) or ghosting (where a manager is padding hours or creating fake employees to record more hours), these systems can flag or prevent those abuses.

However, even if your business is running well, a modern time and attendance system can save you money. In fact, the American Payroll Association estimates that automating payroll saves a business 2 percent or more per year on payroll expenses. This is not only because you generate more accurate information, but also because these programs automate so much of the payroll process, from scheduling to time-off requests, and can integrate with other business programs, like ones for accounting and payroll.


There are two kinds of time and attendance systems. An on-premise system requires a one-time purchase and can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for software, licensing, installation and hardware. Once you purchase it, it is yours, but it may not come with support or upgrades.

Cloud-based service systems run $1 to $10 per user per month. Some also include a minimum fee, while others charge for installation. With these you get free upgrades and support, but you do not own the system.

Prices may or may not include hardware. If you are interested in biometric scanners or swipe card readers, price them out. Plan on one for every 75-100 employees. Also, find out what systems work with the software that interests you, as you may find them cheaper elsewhere. Some hardware comes with basic software that may suit your needs.

Also consider training. Some services provide one-time training or a train-the-trainer session. Other solutions charge up to $1,500, depending on the extent of training and number of people trained.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a time and attendance solution for your business? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:


Regardless of whether you buy an on-premise or cloud-based system, you want one that’s easy to work with and flexible. Most of these programs offer demos, so once you’ve narrowed it down to a few versions, try some out, and have a manager and an employee test them as well. Employees should be able to clock in and out with ease, see their schedules, and request time off. Managers should be able to approve time off, make changes to the schedule or correct clock-in mistakes, and generate labor reports.

Here are other features to consider:


  • Employee portals let workers clock in and out, request time off, and see how much PTO they have.
  • Employer portals let managers review employee hours, set schedules (if applicable), pull reports and approve time off.
  • Integrations with payroll, accounting or HR software are especially important for ensuring accuracy between programs and saving on time and labor in the payroll department.
  • Access controls limit what information people in specific jobs can see.
  • Mobile and browser-based systems are especially important if you have people working out of the office.
  • Cloud-based systems or backup capabilities ensure data does not get lost.
  • Regulation compliance tools help prevent finable offenses. Some useful ones are for the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act, the Affordable Care Act and the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which is important if your company wins a government contract.
  • Audit trails help you comply with regulations and track changes managers make.


  • Integration with hardware like physical clocks and badge or biometric readers make it easy and more secure for employees to clock in and out.
  • Employee scheduling makes the process easier and lets you copy over recurring schedules.
  • Performance and productivity tracking helps you identify problems and areas to improve.
  • Rounding rules ensure consistent recording of time. These rules let you round to the nearest time grouping, such as five minutes, or to the beginning or end of a shift, such as when someone clocks in early.
  • Alerts notify managers when employees miss a clock-in or clock-out or are absent, late or approaching overtime.
  • Reports that include an overview of hours worked, time-off requests and other stats help you monitor your staff and identify labor shortages or excesses to improve your scheduling.
  • Job costing lets you track employee time by task so you can ensure they are prioritizing their work and that you are focusing on the right tasks.
  • Multi-company support lets you use the same program at all your businesses.

Sometimes, managers hesitate to install time and attendance systems because they feel it denotes a lack of trust in their employees. However, today’s software, which includes the ability to integrate with other payroll systems, makes the payroll process easier and gives managers the tools to more effectively manage their resources, giving everyone more time to focus on the business.

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