Make Clocking In More than Just Punching Time Cards

by Claire Parker, Staples® Contributing Writer

The days of clocking in and out on an old punch-card system are dated. With a slew of new tech products on the market, retailers can toss out yellowed time sheets and trade archaic employee time clock systems for new systems that track employee hours and keep tabs on scheduling, payroll and even taxes.

Where to begin? We asked business owners and accounting experts to share what you need to know before you buy a system for your retail business.

Shop the Shelves

There are many ways to track employee hours: swiping an ID badge upon entry, logging into a cloud-based system at a laptop, using facial recognition system loaded on a smartphone or scanning fingerprints by the employee entrance, to name a few. Regardless of the time-recording technology you choose, look for solutions that are easy to use and provide more than just a log of hours. Look for multifunction reporting and data storage so payroll is calculated without human error and scheduling issues can be reviewed for future planning (like staffing for your busy season). Choose a time clock option that meets your specific needs.

Consider Your Setup

To pick the best product for your team, consider how your employees work and what would make the most sense. At Southern Season, a specialty food store in Chapel Hill, NC, employees log in to computer terminals conveniently located around the 60,000-square-foot store. The system tracks everyone as they flood into work without creating bottlenecks, plus it doubles as a reporting system for management to evaluate the broader business. “We use cloud-based software for payroll, scheduling, paid time off and onboarding,” says chief financial officer Brian Fauver.

Consider Cost

Before you decide that the cost of updating your simple (and inexpensive) time-card system is too much for your budget to bear, be sure to factor in all the costs. “Independent retailers operating on small budgets should look for cost-efficient time clock solutions,” says Marc Aptakin, president of the app-based facial recognition time clock Timesly. He suggests looking for products that easily integrate into existing payroll systems so a large-scale software overhaul isn’t needed. Plus, automated systems could save plenty of man hours that would otherwise be paid to a number-cruncher.

Think Long Term

Leah Messenger, payroll manager for Aztec Shops Ltd. in San Diego, points to the value in having a self-service, cloud-based system in the bookstore and retail shops her company runs at San Diego State University. “Our employees can take care of most of their personnel options via the self-service module, and we can have open enrollment for our medical, dental and FSA plans using it,” she says. The system gives employees direct access to W2 tax forms, direct deposits and earning statements so they are constantly connected. And that saves businesses a lot of wasted time sifting through time cards or answering questions about withholdings and similar issues.

Lock Down the Data

Since new time clock systems store more than just employee names and work hours, secure data storage is a priority. “Personal data needs to be protected in accordance with state and regulatory requirements,” says Bruce Sussman, CPA, CITP, director of information, security and compliance for Wyndham Worldwide in Parsippany, NJ. He suggests looking for products that have the ability to overwrite, redact, encrypt, archive or purge data depending on what information needs to be kept for tax and regulatory purposes. If this sounds too complex, Sussman suggests hiring a CPA to perform a vendor or product review for you.

Whether your company is a team of three, 300 or more, there’s a modern and more efficient way to track employee time and gather important intel on your daily business operations, regardless of budget. Then you can recycle those old time sheets into something more useful, like scrap paper.

Claire Parker has covered the business beat for award-winning national and local publications for more than a decade. She is also a venerable profile writer, interviewing subjects from emerging artists to notable physicians. Claire lives in Wilmington, NC, and relishes Southern gardens, outdoor parties and anything to do with saltwater and sand. Follow her on Google+.

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