What Makes a Good Time and Attendance System?

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 09/01/2023
time and attendance system features

In this article, we want to help business owners and managers to navigate the software market with ease. We tend to believe that more is better, and it’s a money trap many companies fall into. Our aim is to outline what is the foundation of a good time and attendance system, to ensure you choose the right solution. 

Every market is saturated, and therefore the buyers are always looking for deals. Software is just one of them. Naturally, every user wants to pay less for a tool that offers wider functionality and helps them with more tasks. However, the vendors are not oblivious to that. Very often, they even use this to their advantage. Between two solutions of the same price, users are likely to choose the one with more features. This is exactly what the developers bank on.

The truth is, most digital tools only have a handful of core features. But, using deal psychology and pursuing profit, vendors will try to impress you with a much wider array than that. It can sometimes be used to hide huge flaws in the system too. In today’s article, we want to address this issue in regard to a particular tool - time and attendance software. We will be discussing what the core functionality of a good solution is and how to avoid paying more but getting less.

What are the Key Features of a Good Time and Attendance System?

Most time and attendance systems come with vastly different offer packages. But these are 7 features you should look out for:

  1. Real-time employee management

  2. Attendance and absence management platform

  3. Time tracking

  4. Pay and bill assistance

  5. Customised reporting

  6. Flexibility-supporting modules

      7.   Employee self-service features

Naturally, every software vendor is trying to stand out and therefore most will pack their tools with countless features. It may sound great in theory, but as long as the above-listed basics are not covered, your needs will not be met. Most of the additional functionality is built using the key 7 as their core. Naturally, unless the foundation is rock solid, you can’t expect the additions to meet the standard. So let’s discuss them in greater detail.

Covering the Basics

As the name would suggest, the time and attendance system should be addressing the two areas. However, both are rather broad terms that can carry different meanings in different contexts. To avoid confusion, we will define the expectations you should have of both. After all, you want a tool that fulfils its core duties flawlessly. 

Identifying and Preventing Absenteeism

If your business is losing money and you can’t quite put your finger on where it’s going - we have a hunch. Companies bleed billions every year to absenteeism, a term used to describe work absence without a legitimate reason. It’s an umbrella term for things like false sick days, chronic lateness, no-shows and other absence-related issues. An odd ‘sickie’ won’t cost your business thousands, but the problem with absenteeism is that it’s systematic. This is how it accumulates huge costs. And the reason it often goes unnoticed is that while it comes in patterns, they are often almost impossible to spot. 

Don’t feel overjoyed if you were able to identify an absenteeism behaviour in your staff from merely reading our explanation. This means their behaviour has been ongoing for a long time and has already cost you a lot. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to spot a pattern. That’s where time and attendance systems come to your aid. They keep a record of your employee attendance and present it in a visual format every time you access them. This way, the patterns emerge almost right away, helping you address them before they’ve caused harm. Identifying absenteeism is the first step towards investigating the causes. And, trust us when we say, it is never blatant tardiness. 

Where Did the Time Go?

Time is money. Ultimately, companies and employees are being paid for the time it takes for them to carry out their duties rather than the deliverables. This is why it’s incredibly important to remain in the loop of where your teams allocate their time and the exact amount of it. Not being smart with work time can lead to all kinds of issues, from missed deadlines to burning over the budget. No business wants to deal with that. 

That’s why the core functionality of a time and attendance system is all about the recording of time. What’s more, not only it keeps tabs on how much time certain tasks take, but it can also add the relevant price tag to each hour. This is especially convenient when you offer different rates depending on the task, pay separately for overtime or the charge depends based on location/time/day of the week. In other words, best of the time and attendance tools can be easily customised to meet your unique needs. No business is the same, therefore there is ultimately no one-for-all solution. It is, therefore, in the platform’s developer’s best interest to offer as much flexibility and customisation as possible. This way the software becomes available and needed by a wider clientele. And as for you, it signals the vendor is not an amateur, therefore trustworthy. 

It’s More Than the Name Entails

Don’t be fooled by the name. While a good time and attendance system must offer a high level of its primary purpose’s execution, it shouldn’t be limited by it. Very often companies make the mistake of not thinking outside the box when it comes to software. Ideally, you want a tool that can be utilised across different parts of the business. We promise - they exist and don’t cost a limb.

Assistance to Payroll and HR

While you would normally associate time and attendance tracking to project management, it’s more versatile. And no, we don’t mean the obvious of shift workers using the tool as well. The reality is that a good time and attendance system will become a valuable asset to areas of your business you wouldn’t think could utilise it at all. In the previous section, we had a quick mention of a certain feature when it comes to time recording. Namely being able to allocate different prices to time values based on a plethora of factors. This in particular would be a huge time saver for the payroll. Not to mention, if integrating with your accounting software, it’d take a lot of admin work off their hands too. 

As for human resources, they would certainly get a lot of value out of having visibility of the team’s attendance. Not to mention, attendance platforms are usually inclusive of holiday management features. If your HR is responsible for the annual, sick or parental leave, they will appreciate the system. Forget all about checking the team’s availability, calculating carryovers and going back and forth via emails. All they have to do is a couple of mouse clicks to either accept or reject the leave request. And, to review whether it can be granted, a quick look at the employee availability status is all that’s needed. 

Responsible Approach to Employee Wellbeing 

Next, let’s talk of a slightly different aspect you can expect a good tool to aid in. As a society, we have long since normalised working ourselves to the bone. Long hours, overtime, going the extra mile - this is all expected of workers. But it shouldn’t be. Those unspoken and often unrealistic expectations are the prime reason behind burnout. And that condition can later lead to more severe consequences: absenteeism, declining performance, hostility towards colleagues, etc. All in all, the workaholism approach often bears the opposite of what’s expected.

While burnout workaholics will continue pushing themselves past the limits, they will be getting less done. And the quality of their deliverables will be suffering as well. It is a matter of time till they snap and quit entirely - quite often with an expensive (to you)  bang. The best way to address the issue is to prevent it at the early stages. Similar to absenteeism, it can only be recognised via patterns before the signature behaviour begins manifesting. Without repeating our whole pitch, having a centralised attendance system helps you spot it as soon as possible. As previously described, those come with a holiday management module, making it easy to find workers who haven’t been off in a while. Although you can always force them to take time off work, we suggest trying to have a conversation first. There is something bothering them and you may be able to help. 

Build a System, Not Siloes

There is little use in having a plethora of tools that don’t communicate with one another. Ultimately, you will be wasting time navigating through them and transferring the information manually. In other words, they wouldn’t be living up to their full purpose. That’s why it’s important you centralise your solutions instead of using them independently. 

An Integrated Toolbox

The key to team alignment lies in connecting them with one another as opposed to having them work independently. Your digital tools should be treated the same. In fact, when you centralise your software, you will find it a whole lot easier to align your teams. Mostly because suddenly they will have access to each other’s data and progress, building thorough visibility across all departments. Naturally, this will lead to smoother workflows, quicker handovers and overall better communication. 

This all sounds great in theory. But you may be asking yourself how realistic is this to achieve? Well, let us reassure you - not just realistic, but very easy. Most modern technology is cloud-based. Not only does it make it easily accessible for users from anywhere in the world, but also linkable to other solutions. The very SaaS model is built on the idea of users creating diversified digital toolboxes via integrations of tools from different vendors, in order to reach their goals. Since no business is the same, there is no one-for-all solution. That’s why the SaaS technology is thriving. It gives every business an opportunity to have a unique tech stack, fully customised to their needs. From each tool individually to the set of tools integrated, this approach doesn’t expect you to make do with what you’re given. It gives you the opportunity to choose what you need to succeed. 


When chasing software deals, time and attendance systems are already in the lead. Simply put, it’s one product that offers several functions. And, when chosen wisely, its capability to improve your overall business performance grows inexplicably. The trick is to look past lengthy feature lists and instead focus on the core functionality. Simply put, often huge benefit packages are built with the purpose of hiding gaps in the foundation. Unfortunately, this often emerges only after you commit to the tool. 

This is not to say that the additional features different vendors offer are bad. Often they extend the base functionality and, depending on your needs, can be incredibly beneficial. However, this should come as a secondary consideration if you want to choose the right tool. Even with just the basics covered, the software will be beneficial across different areas of the business. And if you want to expand its capacities, it can always be done through integrations. That approach will also help you centralise and align your team efforts. 

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