Does the thought of managing your employee schedules induce a cold sweat? Does an approaching “busy season” feel more like a freight train than an opportunity, you need help managing employee hours.

Part art and part science, skillfully balancing the needs of your business with the needs of your team doesn’t have to be a headache. Here are a few tips to get you started.

How Do I Keep Track of Employee Hours?

Chances are that at least some of your staff is a part of the more than 59% of American workers that are considered “hourly” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means that keeping track of their hours isn’t just an important task, it’s crucial to the foundation of your business.

The first step is to toss anything “analog” methods out the window- pen-and-paper style employee records are a huge liability when it comes to accuracy. They can be lost, damaged, and even falsified, and that means a ton of problems for management over time. Ironically, paper hour-keeping methods often have less of a paper trail than digital means, which means they’re harder to investigate if there’s an issue.

Standardizing your time-tracking method is much easier than it was years ago. Today, small business owners have the option of using a time clock that’s integrated into their point-of-sale (POS) system, rather than opting for written or punch-clock systems. There are several benefits to using time clock POS software, including:

  • Better security. By using individual passwords, biometric (fingerprint) scans, or magnetic keycards to clock in and out, you minimize the chances of one employee clocking in for another, either accidentally or on purpose.


  • More accuracy. With most POS-powered timekeeping systems, reports are automatically generated to help you spot inaccuracies. Some systems also allow you to manually add work shifts for employees who forget to clock in or out of their shift.


  • Fewer missed punches. When clocking in and out is directly tied to an employee’s ability to use the POS system or close down at the end of the day, they’re far less likely to miss a clock punch.


  • Easier compliance. Proof of compliance can be a labor-intensive job for business owners. When you need to prove that your employees are taking mandated breaks, are being paid fairly for overtime work, or are under the cumulative hour threshold for certain mandated benefits, producing evidence is as simple as printing a report with a POS timekeeping system.


  • Simplified scheduling. A POS-based timekeeping system does more than calculate employee work hours; either by itself or in tandem with another program, it can enhance productivity by streamlining your scheduling systems. Some systems help you schedule adequate coverage on the backend, or retrieve data for a specific date range so that you can quickly make schedule adjustments based on an employee’s clock punches or hours worked.


ShopKeep time clock POS software

How Do I Manage Employee Hours?

Once you’ve determined how to keep track of your employees’ hours, how do you set them up for success? You may have mastered employee management techniques on the proverbial floor, but your backend needs to be as proficient, if not more, for efficient schedule management. While technology can certainly help streamline efforts, managing employee schedules requires personal accountability on the part of management.

While most small employers frequently produce or change employee work schedules based on day-to-day store traffic or business performance, too much irregularity in employee work schedules can put a strain on your staff’s personal lives and your business.

Here are a few tips for establishing a scheduling process that supports both your business and your team:

1.) Don’t wait until the last minute to create your schedules. Waiting until the last minute puts a lot of pressure on your employees to do things like arrange childcare at the zero hour, and arrange transportation if they don’t drive or are from a one-car household. The more notice you can give, the better: this will also help reduce the number of employee callouts and late arrivals.

2.) Give ample notice for changes whenever possible. For the same reasons outlined above, your employees need time to plan. Notifying them of a shift change with less than a few hours notice makes the work environment more stressful for hourly workers, and that added pressure could increase staff turnover if it happens too often. Erratic scheduling can also have a “ripple effect” that disrupts complementary business systems, such as payroll or human resources. Again, while it may seem like a “no-brainer,” you’ll want to avoid rolling out a new hourly reporting system during particularly busy periods, such as holiday weekends.

3.) Use a centralized time and attendance tracker whenever possible. Cloud-based solutions work best for modern workers: they’re able to see, plan, schedule, and request time off from their computers or mobile devices. This streamlines the process of scheduling and requesting time off, which also helps minimize miscommunications. Email tracking tools like Mailtrack even give you the ability to track email activity and get real-time notifications. This way, you can send out important notices and confirm when employees have read them unlike a piece of paper tacked to an office wall.

4.) Use software that works not only for your particular business but your industry as well. Choosing a targeted, cloud-based program for effective time management is easier when your solution is designed for your business type. 7Shifts, for example, is a program built for the needs of restaurant and food-service workers. For call center environments, an option like Shiftboard, with its focus on day-to-day operations, might be a better pick. When in doubt, look to industry resources and recommendations from your supply chain providers.


How Do I Achieve Success With Hours Management?

Few managers like to “take a hard line” when it comes to keeping their staff moving in the right direction, but when it comes to hours, it’s absolutely crucial. If you’re concerned that your team will have a negative reaction to a new scheduling system, follow these steps to get them on the same page:

  • Give them time to adjust to the idea of a new system, and have a “crossover” period if at all possible. Dealing with hourly inputs from two different sources is an operational headache, so you want to avoid making this transition period too long. That said, the upside of allowing for crossover period is that if there’s an issue logging into the new system, you have a fallback system that you can lean on for a short period, while staff gets comfortable with the new system.


  • Set boundaries and communicate consequences. Obviously, you’ll want to stay within legal limits – e.g., no docking time for missed punches, and so on – but you can use a hierarchy to your favor. Establish a reward system for employees who follow procedure. For example, you can reward staff members with a good punch history with a catered lunch, more favorable shifts, or an extra break period.


  • Keep an eye on compliance. If you have complete trust in your staff, that’s great! However, sometimes innocent problems can arise because of a misunderstood policy or system error. It’s important to catch these problems before they become endemic and start trickling down into other areas of the business.


  • Stay open to suggestions. Being open to others suggestions is an essential part of any management skill set. Taking into account your employees likes or dislikes of your time tracking or scheduling system is vital. If an employee distrusts or hates a system, they’re less likely to use it. While not every employee wish can or should be granted, a little flexibility can go a very long way.


  • Keep scalability in mind. If something isn’t working right and you discover a “workaround,” excellent job – but it shouldn’t stay that way forever. Every workaround is a drift away from your core set of best practices. The larger your business grows, the more cumbersome those workaround will become, so make sure you’re thinking of them as temporary fixes.


  • Empower staff with the tools to fix issues. If the time management system malfunctions and you aren’t present, does your management team feel empowered to remedy the situation before payday?  Make sure all employees are clear on the process for filling out timesheets, recording attendance and reporting issues in the event of a system failure.


Managing hourly workers is a natural part of running a small business, but that doesn’t mean the systems that drive the process are always intuitive or easy. Adopting tools and methods are essential for laying the groundwork for effective time management, freeing business owners and management teams up to focus on more critical tasks.

If you’ve been struggling with time cards, employee responsibilities, or even no-shows, adopting a time management system is essential. The end result is a better business, more reliable and trustworthy reporting, and increased employee satisfaction.

SEE ALSO: Hiring an Employee Checklist: Everything You Need to Know

Yamarie Grullon

Yamarie Grullon has years of experience creating helpful & engaging content for small business owners. As Director of Content Strategy at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.