Try Before you Buy
There are literally thousands of different options for tracking employee time. They range from manual punch clocks that you mount on the wall to highly sophisticated software with GPS tracking and facial recognition capabilities. Diving head first into such a vast marketplace can be a daunting task and can quickly leave business owners lost and frustrated. Here is a quick guide on how to best navigate a search for a new timesheet system.
Start with an open mind
Just because you have been filling out a paper employee time sheet or using a manual punch card system for decades doesn’t mean that is the best solution. Technology has evolved and as a result has become less expensive. If you are using paper and pencil you probably don’t immediately need all the functionality or high tech gadgets that are available. However, don’t limit yourself based on a lack of familiarity or inexperience with technology. There are plenty of options so make a list of the “must have” features and then search for the solution that supports those features, but doesn’t have unnecessary functionality that is going to cost you more.
Begin your search on a review site
There are numerous sites whose sole purpose is to advise business owners on making purchase decisions. These are excellent places to begin your search. Websites such as Top 10 Reviews and CNET perform independent reviews of software and hardware products and then give pros and cons. The best types of reviews are from the customers that have already used the product. It is best to look on a 3rd party site for customer reviews because negative reviews rarely make it onto a company’s site. Capterra and Software Advice are two examples of websites that host a customer review forum for software and hardware products.
Customer reviews are not the final say on a product especially since a disgruntled customer is more likely to post a complaint than a satisfied customer is to post a compliment. However, these sites will provide you with several options to start investigating and make you aware of some pitfalls to investigate further. Also note that each site is organized differently and may be sorted alphabetically, chronologically, or by the number of reviews instead of by quality, so it isn’t safe to assume the best options are found at the top. Most importantly, be sure the site you are looking at doesn’t have any affiliation with the products or companies they are presenting, since that can skew the ratings.
Check for compatibility with your payroll rules
Now that you have a several options to investigate, be sure the product is compatible with the payroll process you already have in place. Make sure it will support your type of pay period; weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. Ensure that the product can account for vacation, sick, or PTO accruals, and can handle your OT calculation methods. These are basic features, but they should be the first things you look at when making your decision.
Use a free trial
Any good software company will offer you a free trial of their product. This is a vital step before you make a purchase. While it may be a great fit for the customers on the review sites and it may accommodate all your payroll rules, the only way to know that the software will work in the manner you would like is to try it. Here are a few things to do while you are on your free trial:
- Be wary of any company which requires your credit card information for their “free” trial.
- Be sure they have allowed you to use a full version of their product with all the capabilities enabled. Sometimes companies will only let you try a lite or limited version of the product which really doesn’t give you a good feel for the program.
- Check the system requirements to ensure compatibility with the computer network you already have in place.
- Have your employees evaluate the software. They will be the ones using it every day to clock in and out, so it needs to be intuitive, and easy for them to use. Human Resource staff that run payroll should use the reporting and administrative functions to be sure it will make their job easier, not harder.
- Use the company’s customer support. These are the people you will be talking to when payroll is due in an hour and you are having an issue. Make sure their availability coincides with the hours you are conducting business. A local, U.S. based staff tends to have better hours of availability than an internationally based staff.
- Compare your list of “must have” features and be sure they are included with the software package you are looking at.
- Look into the company to find out how long they have been in business. If they have been in business for more than 10 years they must be doing something right.
- Find out how often they update their products. As computer operating systems change, you need a product that will continue to be compatible with them. You don’t want to be searching for a new program the next time you upgrade your computers.
- Hopefully, your business will continue to expand, meaning more employees and more computers. Ensure the product you choose has the flexibility to grow along with you.
Looking at the dollars makes cents
The last step is to check the prices. One advantage of a software program is its ability to operate on the computers you already have in place, meaning there are no additional hardware expenses like there are with a manual clock or time card system. Companies will use several different pricing models to sell their products. Be sure you have a full grasp on their pricing structure. Some charge monthly fees per employee which seem low at first, but can quickly add up over time. The best model for the consumer has a one-time cost associated with the product. Support and upgrades can be worthwhile add-ons and a significant benefit–especially to small companies without their own IT staff, but should never be required.Doing thorough research before you buy will ensure you get the right product for your needs.
TimeClick® has been helping small businesses track employee time for over 20 years. We have been reviewed on several websites and received a score of 10 out of 10 by Top 10 Reviews, making us their #1 rated timesheet software. Our 30 day free trial allows you to test all the features on your network. A friendly, U.S. based support staff is available via live chat, email, or phone, and can provide remote log in support and training, even during your trial. Check out our website to see if the dollars make sense for you with our affordable one-time price, and join over 5000 businesses, enjoying the benefits of using TimeClick®.