Whether you’re a freelancer, small business, or giant mega-corp, time tracking is a core component of your work. After all, good time tracking software, and the data it provides, is one of the most powerful tools a company has to cut costs and grow profits.
But employees really seem to hate tracking their time, don’t they?
With a couple of easy steps though, we can right this ship before it turns into the time-tracking Titanic. To help get your team to track their time, here are four quick tips from our time tracking gurus:
Tip #1 – Talk About Why You Track Time
In order to make smart, data-based decisions, your business needs that sweet, sweet time tracking data. Looked at in that light, making time tracking mandatory company-wide is probably the right move. But your team may not understand why you need it and why they should want it too.
Here are a few reasons why time tracking is good for both the company and employees:
- Time tracking is good for the company because it helps management wisely allocate resources, create accurate invoices, and quickly generate payroll.
- Time tracking is good for employees because it leads to more manageable workloads, less micro-managing, and more location flexibility. Each of those benefits sounds great, but let’s unpack them more to see if they pass the sniff test:
- Employees get more manageable workloads when management understands how much work is ideal for each person. Time tracking data provides a rational basis for productivity expectations so everyone is clear how long it should take to complete each project.
- Employees get micro-managed less when management understands that the work is getting done on time so they can trust employees more. Time tracking data provides a historical context that can clearly show which employees need help and which don’t.
- Employees get more location flexibility when it’s easy to clock in and out from anywhere while getting the job done. You don’t have to live in a cubicle farm to get work done, you just need to prove you’re getting work done. Time tracking helps add that level of transparency, making everyone feel better about your poolside conference calls.
Tip #2 – Set Expectations for Time Tracking at Your Company
Now that everyone understands why you’re tracking time, it’s important to explain to employees what’s expected of them and why. To be as clear as possible, it’s a good idea to create a written time tracking policy (download a customizable time tracking policy here), hand it out to all current employees, and make it part of the onboarding process for new employees. Your policy should cover which activities employees are expected to track, what time increments activities should be tracked in (e.g., 15 minute blocks), and where time should be logged to (e.g., in Time IQ under Client Y, Project X).
Of course, regularly talk to employees face-to-face about your time tracking expectations too. By incorporating time tracking into project discussions or weekly 1-on-1 meetings, you can ease tensions between management and employees. When everyone knows what’s due when and why, there’s no questions or concerns around timelines. When discussing timelines, it’s important that everyone be open and honest about what’s going well and what isn’t.
One last thing, it’s important that managers track their time too. It can be pretty discouraging to employees when they hear their manager doesn’t follow their own rules. When managers walk the walk, the team can move forward as one (and it also helps managers understand the systems their employees use).
Tip #3 – Make Time Tracking Simple
Use simple, user-friendly time tracking software that helps you move forward now. There are a lot of great online time trackers out there, but many are too complex or are full of features most businesses won’t use. The easier an online timesheet is to complete, the more likely it is that your employees will adopt it. Whichever online time tracker you end up with should have:
- Automated reminders when employees don’t log enough hours (e.g., Required Time)
- mobile apps for iPhone and Android,
- insightful reporting that helps you understand productivity,
- easy data import/export so you can connect your workflow,
- and other features relevant for your business (e.g., user-level permissions, Entry Locking or Required Notes).
Get a free 30-day trial of Time IQ today and see if it works for you. If not, that’s fine as long as you don’t wind up with paper timesheets. No one wants to see that.
Tip #4 – Share Results and Ask for Feedback
After your team has been tracking time for a week or two, they’ll naturally be curious what kind of insights are coming out of the time tracking machine. So, don’t just stand there, lead from the front and share your findings.
Be proactive and bring up what you’ve learned so far at regular meetings. Always try to put the data into real world terms so your team can see how time tracking plays into the work they do. When your team understands how time tracking factors into their day-to-day efforts, they’ll be more engaged because they can clearly see how their work contributes to the success of the organization. One word of caution here: don’t use time tracking data to publicly chastise anyone. When you praise in public and admonish in private, no one’s feelings get hurt.
Information is (at least) a two-way street too, so remember to ask your team for feedback on the new time tracking system they’re using. After all, employees are your company’s resident experts, so make sure they feel included in the process. They might come up with new ways of using that time tracking data to make your team even more efficient. And even if they don’t have any amazing ideas right away, you’ve told them that their opinion matters which can go a long way toward improving morale.