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How to Track Employee Time Without Hindering Performance

Is tracking employee time in your business handled with an iron fist?

It doesn’t have to be. If done correctly, it can improve company culture and weed out low performers, and rather than hindering your talented employees, it can actually empower them to be even more productive.

employee time tracking success

One-half of tracking time correctly is making sure you’re not doing it incorrectly. Here’s what to avoid:

3 Ways to Make Time Tracking a Hindrance

1. Choose a solution that isn’t suited for your business
2. Use a large HRIS or accounting system in which time tracking was included as an afterthought
3. Plan time-tracking around the worst-case employee behavior

Scenario #1: The time tracker isn’t suited for your business
In this scenario, a company has 20 employees — five billable and 15 that use some form of time card. Management decides they need a more automated solution for invoicing clients and decide to throw a time tracker in there to help expedite payroll.

They choose the first Web-based time tracker that looks decent and it turns out to be nothing more than a timer that doesn’t work for their mobile employees, and doesn’t have any managerial functions. And the icing on the cake? It’s slow.

The end result is an insufficient solution that might have worked for the five employees, yet doesn’t work for the fifteen. And what started as a simple invoicing problem in the accounting department turned into a problem that a majority of the company is forced to deal with on a daily basis.

Scenario #2: The most commonly-used feature (tracking time) is the worst feature in your big software package
In this scenario, the company decides to implement a huge accounting or HRIS system that includes a time tracking component. Sounds fine initially, maybe even ideal. However, as expected, the time tracking component wasn’t the focus of the system and was just incorporated as a half-baked afterthought.

Is it that big of a deal?

Well, consider this: The huge system that was implemented for only 5 percent of the company (the accounting or HR department) delivers a terrible user experience to the other 95 percent of the company that is forced to use it multiple times per day to track time. Tracking time suddenly becomes cumbersome and inefficient, and the employees end up noncompliant. Unfortunately, this company ends up with a software utilization rate of less than 60 percent, and timesheets that are inaccurate and unusable for project costing, estimating, real-time invoicing, and more.

Scenario #3: Your entire system is planned around trying to catch an extreme behavior
In this final scenario, management identifies a handful of employees they think are abusing the current (usually manual) system and fudging their timesheets. To address the issue, management responds to the extreme and implements a time tracking system with geofencing and constant GPS tracking. Since smartphones aren’t yet optimized for these types of features, the time tracking becomes slow and cumbersome, and ultimately drains employee phone batteries in a mere three to four hours.

What started as a problem with only a few employees again resulted in a scenario that, instead of improving productivity and performance, created dissonance within the company as a whole.

How to Track Employees and Improve Productivity

Turning employee timesheets into a badge of honor

Sounds impossible, right? You’re probably thinking, “Timesheets as a badge of honor? No way.”

Yet, here are just a few examples of how you can actually empower your business and your employees by using the right time tracker:

From the very beginning, implement time tracking as a part of the daily habit — utilizing a fast, accountable, flexible (mobile) solution that can accommodate growth.

Present it in a very positive light: Time tracking is to track projects, determine job costing, and to simplify your bookkeeper’s life. And present the case to your entire company.

Implement a time tracker that empowers your managers to make informed decisions (e.g., using overtime alerts to mitigate overtime expenses and use a “who’s working” feature to quickly know who’s working and where), and effectively manage their teams while away from the office (using mobile apps and a Web-dashboard).

These are all just a start to making time tracking a positive experience that in turn results in efficient payroll and invoicing and powerful profit-driven job costing data.

And how does it transform an employee timesheet into a badge of honor? Simple. Noticing and recognizing your employees for the amount of time and diligence they are putting into their work can do that. And sometimes the only thing that consistently reflects that for every employee is their timesheet.

The end result? An increase in productivity and employee morale, without the iron fist.

Now it’s up to you. Is your current time tracker hindering performance or empowering your employees?


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