How Do Small Businesses Track Attendance?

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 23/01/2023
small business attendance tracking

Small businesses track attendance in several ways. Methods include employees filling physical paper timesheets, keeping tabs via Excel spreadsheets and utilising attendance software. In this article, we will discuss the options small business owners have and guide them towards choosing the one that suits them the most.

Running a small business is a journey filled with challenges, where every single resource matters. And there is no resource more valuable than people. Given the headcount is naturally lesser in small businesses, often every worker gets to wear different hats. With this in mind, it’s easy to deduce that just one team member exhibiting gaps in attendance can seriously affect the entirety of the business. 

Before we start, it’s important to point out that it’s rare for attendance-related issues to emerge from mere tardiness. The issue often lies deeper. However, before you can address it, you need to identify it and given its negative implications, small businesses must do so as quickly as possible. This leads us to today’s topic - how can small businesses track attendance more efficiently? Given there are several approaches, we will be focusing on the best one. 

What is the Best Way to Track Employee Attendance?

Out of possible approaches to employee attendance tracking, the best option available is utilising specialist software. Time and attendance systems are proven to be more effective than physical timesheets or Excel spreadsheets. 

To keep it short, a digitised approach is more intuitive and provides you valuable insights the very moment you sign into a platform. It gives a holistic overview of your team, making it easy to spot potential absence patterns before they begin causing issues. But here comes the next challenge: there are literally thousands of digital solutions to choose from.

Navigating the Software Market

Making the decision of adopting a tool to track attendance is the starting point of your journey. The market is filled with all types of software fit for this purpose, yet not every one of them will fit your company. In this next part, we will talk about two redeeming qualities for you to look out for. They are at the core of choosing any business tool, so make sure to remember them. 

Software to Enhance Your Processes

The common mistake we see happening is that when companies seek new software, they are prepared to scrap their existing processes. Most vendors know that. This is why they often promise to fully transform your business, help you build new procedures and generally turn the way your company runs upside down. Don’t fall for this. Stop for a second and ask yourself - is it really easier to start from scratch? If you scrap your legacy operations, you will be disposing of the progress you’ve made up to this point, along with discovered opportunities and ways you know are certainly working. Starting from zero will set you back massively, and given small businesses have fewer resources, this may even be the death sentence. 

This is why you should rather aim for the tools that enhance your existing processes. This way you preserve your progress and former knowledge, optimising them for further success. The right software will adapt to your legacy methods and take them to a new level by making them smoother and more efficient instead of replacing them. As the saying goes - don’t fix what isn’t broken. Of course, sometimes the processes ARE broken, but even then they shouldn’t be discarded. Instead, deconstruct them to the very foundation first. The right tool will help you build up from there on. It won’t, however, produce a new cornerstone. This is something you need to keep in mind before you get sold on the idea of ‘full transformation’

Customise the Tool, Not Your Business

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to change your processes to accommodate the tool? Unfortunately, this means this was not a suitable tool. The very purpose of business software is to have it seamlessly blend into your company. In other words, it’s the tool that should be adapting to your processes, not the other way around. For this reason, it’s always encouraged to have not just a free trial, but also a demo where you can talk to the specialist. It’s usually at this stage you will be able to determine whether the tool can be moulded for your specific needs. 

The best software to track attendance is highly customisable. This is exactly what small businesses need. Since most enterprise-level companies normally have similar systems in place, the solutions aimed at them are more rigid and quicker to set up with less customisation. They also tend to cost more. Small businesses, on the other hand, are often very unique in their individual requirements. Customisable solutions are more budget-friendly too, mainly because you will be needing to do a lot of footwork to make it truly yours. But that isn’t always the case. At Timesheet Portal, we have a designated implementation team that builds your dream platform for you. This way, you can start using your fully customised tool from the get-go.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Tools

The reason we are guiding you towards making an educated decision isn’t just for the show. There are legitimate threats to choosing a tool that is not suitable for your business. In fact, a wrong decision like that can seriously hinder your progress, giving your competitors an upper hand. Let’s expand on that. 

Limiting Features and Growing Costs

As we have already highlighted, you don’t want your tool to either abolish or over-modify your processes. There is another threat that lies within making the wrong software choice. Sometimes, it can obstruct your processes. While we strongly believe there is no such thing as ‘bad’ software, the case of a wrong match can stunt your growth instead of driving it. For example, if you adopt software that tracks attendance exclusively for work days and your business also operates on weekends, your normal process will be interrupted. 

Sure enough, most of those limitations can be lifted. Alas usually for an additional cost. If we take the previous example, the hypothetical vendor might have the option to track attendance on weekends as well. However, the module has an additional recurring fee. So, you will be paying for the software subscription and then the extra that comes with its extended functionality. The truth is, if you would initially go for the suitable software the basic package of which was more expensive but inclusive of the features you need, you would save money. Don’t forget that often companies will charge you extra for implementations of additional features. At Timesheet Portal, we don’t do pre-made software packages for this exact reason. Instead, we allow our users to build their platform with only the features they need. 

The Opposite of Desired Results

Naturally, when you’re employing a new piece of software, you have a set of goals in mind. In fact, you most likely have them outlined before you even start looking. And if you don’t… Well, you should. The said goals should be one of your key pointers for what you are looking for in a tool. Or, specifically, what job you need it to do. Unless you have that defined, or the goals are vague, you will be more susceptible to making a wrong choice. The bad software fit, naturally, won’t help you progress in the direction you want. In fact, it might even set you back and ruin what you have achieved so far. 

As stated before, no digital tool is created to break your processes or harm your business. But that’s exactly what can happen if you introduce and start utilising one that isn’t the right fit. Even if you go the difficult routes of building new processes, adjusting the existing ones or learning to work around the tool - it won’t bring you the desired results. And, at this point, it would sponge a lot of time and resources for no return. For small businesses, this isn’t just counter-effective but a downright disaster. So, to conclude, if you want to achieve your desired results, your tool needs to align with your key needs. Such should be goals, cost effectivity and compatibility with your existing strategy.

How Do You Introduce a Time and Attendance System?

Introduce a time and attendance system by ensuring everyone understands what they gain from it. Often employees will not welcome the change of procedures they are used to as they don’t think their interests are taken on board. Changes in time and attendance tracking can also make them think you distrust them. Communication is key to dismissing these worries. 

Highlight the Benefits for Employees

First of all, remember that changes always bring controversy. Some people are simply not fond of them. And others will view the introduction of time and attendance tracking as an additional chore to their already busy days. And then there is a group that is likely to come to the conclusion you’re going to track attendance because you doubt their integrity. All in all, there is likely to be an opposition. Simply forcing the new approach on everyone is the worst thing you can do. It will damage relationships and, ultimately, the workers who aren’t accepting the change will find a way to work around it. So, how do you handle a situation that’s practically impossible to avoid?

The solution is simpler than it sounds. Instead of capitalising on how useful the change is for the company, approach it from the angle from which it benefits the workers. Depending on the size of your team and the roles, you may need to have a couple of different narratives. For example, to your employees who fill the timesheets, you can pitch the idea of being able to submit their timesheets on their way home instead of spending extra time on-site filling them in on paper. The finances would be delighted to hear the timesheets will be calculated and exported to the accounting software, saving them the work of doing that manually. For the most stubborn opposers, consider a 1-on-1 conversation. It’s important to have everyone on the same page. 


To small businesses, tracking time and attendance is crucial. However, it should not be approached mindlessly either. Out of all methods available, the most beneficial way is adopting a designated software. Here comes another challenge - not every piece of software will be suitable for your business. And adopting a tool that isn’t the right match poses more dangers than a simple waste of money.

Navigating the wide market of solutions may be daunting, but it is easier when you know what to look out for. The rule of thumb is to aim for solutions that help you better your processes instead of abolishing them. Don’t trust a tool that promises to change your business entirely. Trust the one that promises to help you optimise and drive progress. Most importantly, don’t make decisions of adopting a tool on a whim. It’s important you ensure your workers, the ones who will ultimately be using the software, are on board with it. With these points in mind, you’re ready to begin your search.

Why not start with Timesheet Portal? Get in touch.

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