How to Get Employees to Track Time
Timesheets. The mere word can strike fear into the heart of even the most-seasoned executive. Time tracking is often misunderstood by employees, misused by management, and implemented only out of necessity. Yet timesheets — and the performance, budget, and billing data they contain — are some of the most powerful tools a business has to reduce costs, improve operations, and increase profits.
The key is to figure out how to get employees to use them.
Make It Easy
This should be fairly straightforward: The easier it is to complete a timesheet, the more likely employees are to do so. That's why it's critical timesheets have mobile apps for iPhone and Android, easy-to-use reporting, and pre-populated fields that make entering time simple. The best timesheets simultaneously benefit employees and managers — they remove all barriers from entering time (single sign on, mobile access, custom fields, etc.) and surface key insights that drive improved business outcomes.
Tracking time — even with complex cost structures and role-based restrictions — should be as simple as possible. When looking for a time tracking platform, make sure it can automatically capture time in your calendar, allow you to automatically fill in data from the previous day or week, and pre-populate your timesheet with only the projects or tasks you should be working on. The more you can automate repetitive tasks, the more likely it is that your team will enter their time.
Automation includes the management of employees who track time. No one should have to manually email their team to remind them to complete their timesheets. Automatic email reminders are a simple way to reach out to an employee (or group of employees) and make sure they have completed their time sheets.
Simplify the Approval Process
It's not just entering time that should be easy. Approving timesheets should be simple. It should take seconds — not minutes or hours — to confirm your team's work.
Clear drop down menus, smart filters, and approval notifications should allow managers to approve or deny timesheets as quickly as possible.
Explain the Benefits
Many employees don't understand the benefits of entering their time. They see it as nothing more than a chore. Organizations that successfully use time tracking platforms are able to clearly explain to their team the importance of time sheets — and the data behind them.
Time tracking enables managers to understand employee utilization and capacity. This data is critical to reducing over servicing, planning for new business, and staffing projects in real time (easier said than done).
Another key benefit is improved forecasting and benchmarking. Without tracking time, there's no way to know how long a project takes. Time tracking data allows digital agencies, consultants, integrated marketing firms, and other businesses to measure the true costs of any project, and use this data to set benchmarks for key tasks. This same data allows organizations to predict how long it will take to complete new projects. Historical time tracking information — when coupled with cost and budget data — takes the guesswork out of forecasting, and enables managers and executives to create accurate forecasts for current and future customers.
Make It Part of Your Culture
Businesses define their culture in various ways. Some organizations are casual. Some are formal. Some focus on innovation and risk taking, while others are more cautious. But nearly all organizations aim to improve, to be transparent, and to use data to better understand their operations. When used properly, timesheets serve as a catalyst for these lofty endeavors. In order for a business to improve, it must first measure where it's at. (That's a quote from business management icon Peter Drucker. OK, that's not an exact quote, but it's pretty close.) There's no better indicator of business performance than the data available from timesheets: employee cost, project cost, project profitability, employee availability, etc.
Link Timesheet Completion with Performance Reviews
Employees are often measured by how well they perform against their personal goals, team goals, and company goals. One way to ensure employees track their time is to include timesheet completion as one of their goals. If an employee neglects to fill out his or her timesheets on a regular basis, that would be reflected negatively on a performance review. This is not a draconian or particularly harsh measure — it's simply another way to motivate employees to provide critical cost, budget, capacity, and utilization data back to the business.