In any business, time is the most important resource. Time equals money and wasted time equals wasted money. If you’ve seen Avengers Endgame, there’s one line in the movie that pretty much sums this up: “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.”
An organization where employees don’t track how they’re spending their time at work is, therefore, an organization that is wasting money, particularly when 89% of workers have admitted to wasting time while they’re on the clock.
However, not all time tracking practices are created equal. There’s more to time tracking than just the mundane act of employees clocking in at the beginning of their workday and clocking out at the end of their shift.
In short, time tracking that delivers real and positive business results —better productivity, highly engaged employees, cost-efficient projects, etc. —needs to go beyond mere tracking of work shifts.
What follows is a seven-point checklist to help steer your workplace time tracking in the right direction. It’s also easy to remember. Just keep in mind the age-old mantra: T.I.M.E. I.S. GOLD. It’s a mnemonic which stands for the following checklist:
T ime Categories Identification
I nvestment in Time Tracking Technology
M anagement Support and Adoption
E mployee Appreciation of Time Tracking Benefits
I ssues of Privacy and Transparency Resolution
S mart Goals Setting
GOLD-Standard Evaluation and Evolution
Here’s how it works:
Time Categories Identification
Bad time tracking practices result in dirty, unusable data. One of the worst mistakes that you can make is not thinking about the structure of the reports that you want to get from your time tracking system.
One way to avoid this is to clearly and specifically determine time categories. For example, one best practice is to track activities based on projects. This will allow you to identify both project efficiencies and inefficiencies. General day-to-day tasks can be grouped together under an “Administrative” category and skills development activities can be classified under “Training.”
Whatever you decide, make sure that everyone is using these time categories consistently. You can achieve this by doing the following:
- Having a required field for time category.
- An employee handbook or manual that clearly defines each category.
- Face-to-face training on how to use time categories.
Having these time categories will give you insightful and usable productivity, project management, and time management reports, enabling you to make smarter business decisions.
Investment in Time Tracking Technology
In an age when digital transformation is making life easier for businesses, it’s quite strange how several offices are still tracking time using manual and outdated processes such as spreadsheets and punch cards.
These manual processes consume a significant amount of time, not to mention that they’re highly inaccurate. According to a whitepaper by Accelo: “[One] reason why timesheets are so painful to use is that keeping track of time is manual. Since most timesheet applications don’t allow users to enter time easily as they go, people end up having to use their own manual way of keeping track of what they’re doing — like a notepad on their desk, or a text document open in the background on their computer — and they have to remember to be disciplined about tracking when they start and finish working on tasks, only to then have to transcribe it all later. Only the most disciplined of people are able to be relied upon to get this right.”
Enter automated time tracking technology.
While the time tracking technology you choose is not the be-all and end-all, it is a crucial ingredient of every successful time tracking system. It allows you to automate the process and record employee activities with accuracy and convenience. Added features such as payroll integration, PTO monitoring and project reporting are cherries on top of the cake.
Management Support and Adoption
A top-down approach is best if you want your employees to comply with your time tracking policy. This means that your fellow managers, members of the upper management and some C-executives should track their time using the same systems, processes and applications that your rank and file employees are using.
Employee Appreciation of Time Tracking Benefits
“I am so thrilled to track my work hours.” Said no employee ever, and for several reasons.
Some employees may feel that time monitoring is a form of micromanagement or an invasion of their workplace privacy. Many may think that logging their hours could be cumbersome and add to their already heavy workload. Scepticism toward time tracking is more of a norm than an exception. This could manifest as low compliance to your time tracking policy or a high level of resistance to a new time tracking implementation.
Managers and HR leaders can turn these negative sentiments around by making sure that their team understands the value and benefits of having time tracking in place.
Here are just some of the benefits you could highlight:
- Better project planning by having benchmark data. This prevents scope creep, reduces overtime work and keeps projects on track, which contributes to overall employee wellness.
- More accurate payroll for hourly employees, with minimal, if not zero errors on timesheets.
- More opportunities for remote work with web-based office time clock software.
- Accurate recording/crediting of accrued paid time-offs.
- Productivity incentives for deserving employees.
It’s normal for employees to be wary of new systems, especially if they don’t know what’s in it for them. Explaining the benefits of time tracking to their overall work performance and experience is an important ingredient in every successful time tracking initiative.
Issues of Privacy Resolution
One of the friction points managers and HR leaders observe when implementing time tracking is workplace privacy invasion. You don’t want to create mistrust among your employees by making them feel that Big Brother is watching their every move.
The reality is, almost all forms of employee monitoring is legal as long as they’re done with consent. The operative word above is consent.
According to research by Dtex Systems: “77% of employed Americans would be less concerned with their employer monitoring their digital activity on personal or work-issued devices they use to conduct work, as long as they are transparent about it and let them know up front.”
Avoid being shady, vague or hazy when explaining how time tracking works to your employees. Don’t withhold information and make sure that you’re clear on the following three points:
The time tracking technology you’re using and how it works; especially how it collects and stores data.
What activities you’re going to monitor and on which devices.
How you’re going to use employee activity data outside of timekeeping purposes.
Smart Goals Setting and Monitoring
Just like any aspect of your business operations, time tracking should be associated with objectives that are specific, measurable, assignable, relevant and time-based; commonly known as S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
Some of the common time tracking goals include:
- Productivity improvement
- Overtime hours and cost reduction
- Increase billable hours
- Improve project scheduling and forecasting
Having SMART Goals attached to time tracking enables you to ask the right questions and arrive at the right insights to improve your staff’s performance.
GOLD-Standard Evaluation and Evolution
Setting SMART Goals as mentioned above also allows you to set a benchmark on how time tracking is contributing to your workplace’s overall productivity, efficiency, and profitability—a gold standard so-to-speak.
As your business grows and as you implement changes, you need to constantly evaluate this benchmark so it remains applicable and ensures that you are aiming for the right targets. You might need to evolve your processes, systems, and even your technologies from time to time.
As you can see, even in time tracking the only constant is change.
It may not be written in your job description in black and white, but as a manager or HR leader, you are one of the primary protectors of your organization’s most precious asset: time. Great managers are effective resource managers and this includes making sure that in the workplace, every second counts.