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7 Key Features to Look for in Employee Time Tracking Software for K-12

June 22, 2023   •   Insights

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A school district’s most significant investment is in its employees: the numerous individuals— from teachers to custodial staff to technology directors—who work together as a team to keep school operations functioning smoothly and contribute to successful student outcomes. In fact, “salaries and benefits make up a combined 80 percent of school spending,” reports Education Week.

With the bulk of their budgets going toward maintaining a pool of talented employees, it’s essential that school districts have efficient, reliable time-tracking systems in place. Unlike many traditional businesses, districts have unique needs when it comes to tracking the ebb and flow of staff, time, and money. For example:

  • School staff members’ schedules don’t always follow a standard 9-to-5 protocol; e.g., a guidance counselor might hold extra office hours in a busy period when seniors are making college decisions, staff members might split shifts, or a teacher might work after school as an athletic coach. 
  • Unexpected absences can arise, leading to a need for substitute teachers or regular classroom teachers to step in and cover classrooms.
  • Some staff members, such as bus drivers, may work in multiple locations and be on the move throughout the day.
  • Contractual agreements between the school board and the teachers’ association may guarantee specific rights regarding hours, pay, and time off.

Is it Time to Upgrade Your System?

Are you currently manually tracking employee hours using paper timesheets, or using an outdated or cumbersome system that doesn’t allow for on-the-go flexibility and customization?

Paper timesheets come with a host of problems. They are time-consuming and inefficient; first, employees have to expend valuable time to jot down their hours. Accuracy often goes out the window: People can make mistakes, poorly estimate hours, and even falsify their time. Next, someone has to decipher all that handwriting and manually enter data into other systems, such as payroll—leading to the potential for more errors.

Entering hours digitally, such as into Excel spreadsheets, isn’t much better. When do hours get entered, and where? Who is responsible for collating the data? Can one go back and adjust to allow for a shift in schedules? Is there a formula to account for overtime? Does a spreadsheet interact seamlessly with your payroll system?

Or perhaps you have time tracking software in place, but it wasn’t designed for the unique needs of school districts or is missing capabilities that would make your job easier. If the system that you currently use isn’t working, it’s time to look for a new solution! Here are seven features to keep in mind.

1. Accurate and Easy Time Tracking

You’ll need a solution that goes beyond antiquated punch cards and allows employees to “check in” quickly and easily when they enter and exit the school or—via a mobile device—when they commence work offsite. Look for a system that uses secure ID cards or biometrics (which uses unique physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition) to identify employees. It should also have the capability to track breaks and any overtime worked, including time and a half, double time, and holiday pay.

2. User-Friendly Interface

The software should be easy to navigate, with intuitive features that are easy to understand. Basic elements such as a legible font, easy-to-spot icons, and accessible color contrast can make a big difference. And it shouldn’t require excessive training or weeks to get up to speed. Also ask if the software gets updated regularly in response to customer feedback. If you do encounter any issues, how quickly can you reach customer service and when can you expect a response?

3. Compatibility with Existing Systems

It’s essential to choose employee time tracking software that is compatible with the district's existing systems, such as payroll, human resources, and accounting systems. Don’t ask office staff to expend more hours porting data from one system to another when this could be done automatically! Compatibility will make it easier to integrate the time tracking software into the district's existing infrastructure and with other applications, reducing the risk of errors and improving efficiency.

4. Mobile Capability

Mobile capability allows employees to clock in and out using their mobile devices, making it easier to track time when they are not onsite. This is particularly important for school districts that have employees who work in multiple locations, such as maintenance staff and bus drivers. A mobile app should have text messaging capabilities for quick and easy communication. Ideally, it should also allow employees to request time off from home, and then enable administrators to find and assign a substitute teacher from within the same interface.

5. Reporting and Analytics

The software should be able to generate reports that show employee attendance and time worked, overtime, and time off. These reports can be used to monitor employee productivity, assess budgets, and identify areas where improvements can be made. Does the search functionality deliver fast answers? Are you able to categorize the data based on job roles, school facilities, and other factors? Can you generate reports in a format that’s easy to read and includes visualizations?

6. Customization

Every school district is different, and their needs for time tracking software may vary. Customization allows administrators to tailor the software to their specific needs, including setting up rules for time off, overtime, and other parameters. The software should allow users to go back in and adjust to account for unexpected schedule shifts or staff changes. It should also allow administrators to categorize employees based on employee demographics for their district, such as regular teachers, substitute teachers, school nurses, paraprofessionals, and so on.

7. Security and Privacy

The software should have robust security features to ensure that employee data is kept safe and secure. Are there measures in place to prevent data breaches that could result in the exposure of personally identifiable information? How are user passwords stored and transmitted? Where is the data housed?

Keeping these factors in mind can help you focus your search for a K–12 time-tracking system that’s accurate, intuitive, and meets the needs of all stakeholders in your district—staff and administrators alike.

Get a Demo

Red Rover combines modern employee absence management and modern employee time tracking, helping you save time and work cohesively to increase substitute fill rates, manage employee absences, and accurately handle employee time. Click here to schedule a demo!

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