I guess UX design always starts with stating the goals of the user, and defining who the user is.
Who is looking at this dashboard? A manager? What does (s)he want to know? Did you ask him/her? A very good way of getting to know what people need is to actually talk to them.
Interactivity can be a lot of things, but perhaps (s)he just wants it like a slip of paper to look at when sipping the first coffee in the morning, checking if everone is in?
Or perhaps (s)he wants to know, if someone is late, that employers attendance history for the week? for the month?
Does (s)he want to know everyone, or just the late people? Does (s)he want to expand the list perhaps? Does (s)he want to search for a certain employee? "Mary was late yesterday, I told her not to be today, is she in already?"
Sometimes people are lazy and don't need interactivity, esp. on a dashboard, they just want to quickly scan through items.
Search can be done like how it's done in Adium, albeit thats affordance is low, but still... I don't really understand if it's a dashboard widget (hence the column restriction) or a full dashboard.
There can be a little loupe on the top, on which the user can click to open a search bar, which starts to filter employees.
There could be tabs, showing notoriously late people.
There could be people on watchlist, putting them into "favourites" or such.
There could be employee history, the user clicks on the employees name, and (I shouldn't tell you visuals, but since you're saying jQuery, perhaps that's what you need) an overlay panel / modal window shows a graph for the last 30 days of that employee, with a selection like Google Finance / Yahoo Finance / Google Analytics, and a list, showing "green" days and "red" days, perhaps with some grays as well (green: in time, red: late, gray: out of office/weekend/etc)
The easiest way to know what is needed is to ask: what is the end-goal with this dashboard? What information is to be known?
Also, make sure you're ethical and transparent to the employees as well. You know, someone could be a notorious late, but still a good person, and even a great workforce, and perhaps (s)he is compensating on the afternoon with overtimes...
- Get the goal.
- Define the user (the persona).
- Talk to representative user(s).
- Sort needs into pairs of problems and solutions
- Draw a flow diagram.
- Pair problems with interactions
- Find widgets that are able to provide the solutions
- Implement stuff with jQuery.
UX is not about technology. UX is about poeple with needs/problems. The word 'Application' means applying software solution to a human problem. You cannot have a solution without having a vague understanding of the problem first.
Leave the technology for the solution but make sure you're aware of its limits and possibilities.