Hi, I’m Muhammad, a mechanical engineer, consultant, project manager and academic. I’ve spent the past decade working in consulting and construction. I’m passionate about developments in the construction industry, and eager to help businesses within the sector grow through smart time management practices. In this article, I’d like to help you learn all about time and attendance tracking in the US construction industry.
The US construction industry is a dynamic landscape, ranging from handy-man contractors working on small projects, to global corporations pushing boundaries on some of the most ambitious megaprojects in history. Effective time and attendance tracking systems will stand you in good stead — whether you’re a small contractor working on plumbing jobs in Philadelphia; or the project manager in charge of a mega project with multiple crews and bustling activity, such as the JFK Airport Expansion (a job I’d be glad to decline).
This guide delves into time management within the US construction sector, exploring modern solutions and providing you with tips and strategies to incorporate time and attendance tracking in your company.
This Article Covers:
- What is Time and Attendance Tracking?
- Is Tracking Employee Time and Attendance Really Necessary in US Construction?
- What are Some Modern Time and Attendance Tracking Systems?
- What are the Current Trends in Time and Attendance Tracking?
- How is Time and Attendance Tracking Managed in Construction?
- What are Some Benefits of Time and Attendance Tracking for US Construction Companies?
- What are Barriers in Implementing Time and Attendance Systems in the Construction Industry?
- What is the Best Way to Implement a Time and Attendance Tracking System for your US Construction Business?
- What are Some Considerations to Keep in Mind when Adopting a new Time and Attendance Tracking System?
- Final Thoughts
What is Time and Attendance Tracking?
The concept of time and attendance tracking is fairly simple – you’re essentially monitoring when and where your employees are working. There are many ways to track employee time and attendance in the construction industry. Implementing a system that best suits your company and work processes is a crucial step in developing an effective workforce management system. But before we do that, let’s take a step back and consider the following question…
Is Tracking Employee Time and Attendance Really Necessary in US Construction?
Yes, I believe that it is. Without some form of time and attendance tracking in place, how will you know what’s going on at your construction sites?
According to statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2022, between 3.2 and 3.6 % of the construction workforce was absent on average each day. Research by SHRM estimated the average productivity loss associated with unplanned absences to be 36.6%, while the average productivity loss related to planned absences comes to 22.6%. This translates to significant lost time and productivity, emphasizing the necessity for effective time and attendance tracking systems.
Other interesting information I’ve come across is a survey from Workforce; which states that 1 in 10 companies rely on manual time tracking systems like printed timesheets or offline spreadsheets. Manual errors in time and attendance data and integrating data with other HR systems were the biggest problems identified by more than half of the companies.
Many companies have moved on from manual time tracking systems to automated solutions over the past decades. Nevertheless, I’ve seen many examples of poorly designed and implemented employee time and attendance tracking systems being a frustration and administrative burden to construction companies.
Next, let’s look at some modern systems used for workforce time and attendance tracking.
What are Some Modern Time and Attendance Tracking Systems?
Time and attendance tracking systems have evolved significantly, from the bygone days of manual time clocks and punch cards, paper timesheets and stand-alone spreadsheets. Modern systems leverage the advanced yet somewhat ubiquitous technologies of today, to streamline workforce management.
Modern time and attendance tracking systems include:
- Biometric Systems:
Biometric attendance systems utilize advanced technology to authenticate users through unique physiological or behavioral characteristics, which may include fingerprints, facial features, iris patterns or voice recognition. Biometric systems can be used to control physical access to a site, building or room; to control access to equipment such as employee work stations; or for identity verification purposes.
- RFID Systems:
RFID attendance systems utilize RFID cards or tags with embedded microchips and antennas as unique identifiers for individuals. Users carry these cards, and when they approach RFID readers at entry points, the readers capture and transmit the unique identification data to a central database. This process creates real-time attendance records, including date, time, and location, providing a straightforward and user-friendly method for attendance tracking within an organization.
- Online Attendance Systems:
Online attendance systems, operating in the cloud, transform time-keeping and attendance tracking by allowing users to log in from anywhere with internet access via web browsers or mobile apps. The cloud-based flexibility allows easy access to attendance data, clock-in and clock-out records. It provides a user-friendly solution that is especially beneficial for organizations with remote workers, workers at construction sites, employees at client sites, or those in outbound sales roles.
- GPS Based Attendance Systems:
A GPS-based attendance system enables efficient management of a mobile or remote workforce by allowing employees to mark their presence from any location using their mobile devices. This system accurately records attendance based on GPS location, providing managers with a real-time overview of employee movements and facilitating efficient coordination and decision-making based on current locations and workloads.This solution is suited to field workers, client physical support roles and workers at remote sites.
- Hybrid Attendance Systems:
Hybrid attendance systems are suited to the modern, hybrid work environment. Such systems allow you to track employee attendance across wherever they are, be it the office, on-site or at home. Combinations of online attendance, location tracking and biometric systems may be used to suit a range of industries, employee roles and the ever-changing workscape.
What are the Current Trends in Time and Attendance Tracking?
Technological advancements have revolutionized workforce management. We cannot discount the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the accelerated development and adoption of modern time and attendance tracking systems.
Current time and attendance tracking trends include the use of mobile applications and GPS tracking, allowing for real-time time tracking and remote workforce management. Among the popular products in the market are Jibble, Hubstaff, OnTheClock and QuickBooks Time, each offering unique features to benefit their users. Check out this article for a comparison of The Best Time and Attendance Software for US Companies.
The best products should incorporate trending technologies like:
- Biometrics: Biometrics such as facial recognition, fingerprint or eye scanning adds a robust security measure to your time and attendance management system
- Artificial Intelligence: AI is capable of automating time tracking and timesheet creation, categorizing tasks and activities, generating reports and analytics to name a few — all allowing for improved precision and efficiency.
- Location Tracking: Particularly suited to teams working on-site, in the field, or remotely, you can easily get an overview of employee locations, ensuring they are precisely where they should be.
How is Time and Attendance Tracking Managed in Construction?
Time and attendance tracking in the construction sector is generally more complex than your typical corporate setting. This is due to the decentralized nature of construction work, with teams working on multiple projects spanning state or country lines.
Construction-centric systems can help manage this complexity. Workers can clock in and out of a construction site using mobile applications, biometric devices, or RFID tags. The data is then compiled to produce a comprehensive picture of workforce attendance. GPS location tracking and geo-fencing tools may provide an additional layer of information, informing productivity and labor costs. This facilitates better project and labor management, and aids in making informed business decisions.
Large construction sites often use biometric systems to manage access to site and record attendance, while GPS and location based time-tracking systems may be used to track crews on large sites, remote and field workers.
Small contractors or specialist subcontractors may prefer online timesheet systems or simple clock-in and out devices due to their cost-effectiveness and simplicity.
What are Some Benefits of Time and Attendance Tracking for US Construction Companies?
Here’s a list of benefits brought about by effective time and attendance tracking:
- Improved Accuracy in Tracking Work Hours
A significant benefit of time and attendance tracking is the enhanced accuracy in monitoring work hours. Traditional manual time tracking methods are prone to errors and often result in work hours or overtime miscalculations. On the other hand, digital tracking systems accurately capture, record, and store every second an employee spends on a job, eliminating errors and disputes over work hours and overtime pay.
- Enhanced Employee Accountability and Reduced Time Theft
Another notable advantage is increased employee accountability. Time and attendance systems reduce time theft by accurately capturing when employees clock in and out. Features such as facial recognition, location tracking or photo capture can be used to verify employee location and identity when clocking in and out.
- Streamlined Payroll Processes
Automated time tracking translates into a streamlined payroll process. By accurately tracking the hours an employee has worked and preparing digital timesheets on the fly, the payroll team can seamlessly calculate salaries, overtime, and other entitlements without the hassles of paper timesheets. This process greatly reduces the chance of inaccurate payments, and decreases the administrative time spent on payroll.
- Better Resource Allocation and Project Planning
With real-time insights into labor usage, a construction firm can plan its resources and projects effectively. It can ensure that staff is not overbooked or underutilized, and can remedy such issues if they occur. Employee tracking data can help in determining which tasks are taking longer than expected, allowing project managers to make adjustments as required to keep the project on schedule.
- Increased Transparency and Compliance with Labor Laws
Finally, time and attendance tracking systems enhance transparency and help construction firms comply with labor laws. They provide evidence of breaks, overtime, and regular hours worked, which can be crucial during labor audits or disputes.
With an automated time and attendance tracking system in place, construction teams can focus on the job at hand, without getting bogged down in paperwork and compliance issues.
What are Barriers in Implementing Time and Attendance Systems in the Construction Industry?
There are some disadvantages in implementing time and attendance systems, such as:
- The cost of investment may be high for a new, modern time and attendance tracking system. Here’s the good news, some time and attendance trackers are 100% free, no strings attached.
- Technological glitches may disrupt operations. Some systems allow for offline time and attendance tracking records to be kept, and sync results when the system is back online.
- Proper training is required to use such systems effectively, however a user-friendly interface and intuitive user experience make learning how to use time and attendance tracking systems a breeze.
So, you’ve seen that the adoption of time and attendance tracking systems in the US construction industry can work wonders in enhancing productivity and workforce management. In order for such a system to be successful, you’ve got to stick the landing with implementation. This brings us to our next topic.
What is the Best Way to Implement a Time and Attendance Tracking System for your US Construction Business?
I’m glad you asked! The following steps represent the best way to implement a time and attendance tracking system for a construction company.
- Conduct a Needs Assessment
I’d advise you to begin with a comprehensive needs assessment. Identify precisely what your construction business needs from a time and attendance tracking system. Does it need to integrate with other systems, such as your payroll, project management or construction management software? Will it support mobile punch-ins or GPS location tracking for on-site workers? Understanding and specifying your requirements will help ensure that the selected system meets your unique needs.
- Select the Right Time and Attendance Tracking System
With extensive time and attendance tracking systems in the market, investing in the right one is pivotal. Look for a system that can cater to the specific needs of the construction industry and your company. Consider factors like ease of use, integration capabilities, real-time data processing and the system’s scalability to grow with your business.
Free trials and demos are a great way to evaluate a product’s capabilities, as well as the customer support provided by the vendor.
- Involve Key Stakeholders in the Implementation Process
Ensure the active participation of key stakeholders during the entire implementation process. From site-based supervisors and team leaders to finance, HR, IT and upper management, everyone’s inputs and buy-in are crucial. This not only helps ensure everyone understands and verifies the system’s adequacy but also boosts engagement, promoting smooth adoption once the system rolls out company-wide.
- Provide Adequate Training and Support
A system is only as effective as its users. You should invest in thorough and continuous training to ensure all employees understand how to use the time and attendance tracking system to its fullest potential. Promote a supportive environment where asking questions or seeking help is encouraged. Specialized training may be required for system administrators, or those using the system for project management, payroll and PTO integrations.
- Continuously Monitor and Evaluate the System
Regularly monitor and evaluate the system’s performance, and how well it’s meeting the company’s time tracking needs. A successful implementation doesn’t mean you should be complacent. Updates and improvements based on workforce feedback will ensure the system continuously remains effective and relevant.
What are Some Considerations to Keep in Mind when Adopting a new Time and Attendance Tracking System?
So, you’re raring to go with your new time and attendance tracking system. Before clicking that launch button, note that there are challenges which can prove overwhelming, if not planned for and managed effectively. Here are some significant considerations:
- Resistance from Employees and Management
Resistance to change is a common phenomenon in most organizations, and the construction industry is no different. The introduction of time and attendance tracking systems often sparks concerns about surveillance, invasion of privacy, and increased complexity in usage. This can generate resistance amongst both workers and management teams that can hamper a smooth transition. Clear communication about the benefits of these systems should be facilitated to address such concerns.
- Integration with Existing Software and Systems
There is a myriad of software and systems already in place in many construction companies. Integrating a new time and attendance tracking system with existing software, systems and established processes and workflows is not easy. It requires careful planning, testing, and expertise to ensure a seamless transition and prevent any operational disruptions.
- Cost Considerations and Return on Investment
Implementing a new time tracking system comes with upfront costs, ongoing expenses, and possible hidden charges, gearing towards a significant monetary commitment (this is not always true, some products like Jibble are 100% free).
It’s crucial for a construction company to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) before implementing a new project. Key aspects to consider are:
- Reduction in time theft and overpaying overtime
- Increased workforce productivity
- Enhanced labor planning and management
- Improvement in overall administrative and operational efficiency
Look, I’ve worked on construction sites where paper registers and timesheets are the only form of attendance and time tracking. And trust me, the step-up to an automated, seamless time and attendance tracking experience is a game changer on so many levels. The best systems are worth the investment, and can put you ahead in the highly competitive US construction market. So, gear up, make the switch, and witness the transformation in your company.
Take a look at the following articles for some additional reading: