Choosing a PTO Tracking System

By Brett Derricott

It’s now 2019 and for a lot of companies that means the beginning of a new PTO year. With the new year comes a desire to streamline processes and make life easier for employees, HR staff, managers, and accounting personnel.

One of the most obvious ways to streamline a company is to use a PTO tracking system software product to make it easier to request, approve, track, and accrue time off. Are you using any of these to do this currently?

  • Spreadsheets
  • Paper forms
  • Emails
  • Overly simplistic or clunky software

If you said yes to any of those, it’s high time to reconsider your approach and look for a product that will make your paid time off management a whole lot better! Let’s first highlight the major benefits from choosing a robust and intuitive time off tracking system.

Benefits of a PTO Tracking System

Time & money saved: You might not be counting the minutes and hours spent by employees, managers, and HR/accounting staff, but if you do you’ll probably be shocked to see how much time is wasted shuffling papers, updating spreadsheets, and manually dealing with the process. Errors reduced: When you’re relying on humans to handle each step you run the very real risk of mistakes being made. Numbers get transposed, requests don’t get recorded, accruals are missed, and so on. An automated system virtually eliminates all of these errors. Increased employee satisfaction: When reviewing customer feedback it’s very apparent that employees appreciate having real-time access to their account balances and the ability to request time off electronically. By simply having a modern, intuitive in place you send you do make a noticeable difference in employee satisfaction!

Choosing a Time Off Management Solution

Now that you know how you’ll benefit from putting a better PTO management solution in place, let’s talk about how to choose the right product for your company.

Step 1: Review your PTO Policies

This should be a quick step but it’s helpful to start by gathering up your PTO policy documentation so that you know things like how time off is earned (lump sum or accruals?), carry over (rollover) rules, etc.

Step 2: Make a List of Requirements

In addition to your time off policies, make a list of the things you’re hoping for in a PTO tracking system product. As you begin looking a various products you’ll find a lot of options for very simplistic needs. Those options also tend to be cheapest. But cheapest isn’t always best and it’s good to identify up front what you really need

Step 3: Make a Short List of Options

Ask around for referrals and do some online searching. A good place to start your search is a product review site called Capterra. This site lists a lot of options and allows you to see the time off tracking products that are most highly rated. Choose three products that appear to meet your needs and then move on to the next step.

Step 4: Do Demos and Trials

Schedule a demo with each of the three vendors you are interested in. Yes, a PTO tracking software demo takes a bit of time but good vendors will keep their demos brief and to the point. The 15 or 20 minutes you spend on a call with the vendor will help you quickly find out if the product can really meet your needs.

After the demo, do a free trial as well. Getting hands-on with the PTO tracking system is critical. How easy is it to use? Does the site load quickly or is it slow and sluggish? Does the site work fine in your mobile phone browser? Does the vendor offer a mobile app?

Step 5: Evaluate Customer Support

One of the biggest reasons to do a free trial is to try out the vendor’s customer support. The demo was most likely with a friendly sales person. But once you’re actually using the product, I’d suggest reaching out to their support team to ask a few questions. How quickly do they respond? How helpful is their response? Do they have a support site with helpful articles and videos? These will become critical factors once you choose a vendor so it’s best to find out now!


It’s a big job to find and choose the right software product for tracking vacation, sick, and other types of leave. Following the above steps will help you make a good choice that you can be happy with for years to come!