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Employee Time Tracking: 10 Ways to Persuade Reluctant Staff

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Employee time tracking is extremely popular with service businesses, and it’s easy to see why. Time tracking can give you real-time visibility of your projects, improved staff efficiency and greater business profitability. What business owner doesn’t want those benefits?

But if your business is implementing employee time tracking for the first time you’ll probably encounter some resistance. Some people hate messing around with paper timesheets and annoying admin. Others dislike the idea of being monitored or having ‘big brother’ type surveillance.

So how do you get your staff on board with time tracking? Is it possible to get them enthusiastic, excited, or at least willing to record their time? Here are our top 10 tips for a smooth implementation of time tracking policies.

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1. Ditch the paper, join the cloud

Who wants to fill out tedious timesheets every day? No-one enjoys paper admin... Your crusty old bic pen is running out of ink, you can barely remember how to write by hand, and the information just ends up lost in a messy desk pile. It’s so long since the job was completed you can barely remember what you did anyway. And to top all that off, a year down the line you spend 3 hours sitting by a paper shredder to protect your business confidentiality!

Well here’s the good news - you can throw away your paper timesheets. These days employee time tracking can be done entirely online, and it’s more secure and convenient than ever before. With online project management software like WorkflowMax, you can manage all your employee timesheets in one secure system.

Your staff will love the fact that tracking time is possible with the touch of a button. They can enter time on their desktop or mobile app, and work from anywhere. And your important information will never get lost. It’s a win-win situation.

2. Make time tracking easy... Even fun!

By using a mobile job management app staff can input their time from literally anywhere. This gives them more freedom to work on the go. Imagine your designers working from their lounge, your copywriters from a cafe, or your contractors zipping all over the city.

When a job is completed they just tap the hours into their phone - instead of rushing back into the office to manually record it. By emphasising these benefits you’ll have a much better shot at getting staff to adopt time tracking.

With more flexible and remote working policies you can also save on desk space, office expenses, and costs. Read about the benefits of remote working or check out this big list of apps for working remotely.

“Our staff can input time on their iPads or smartphones, that forms their time sheets, which convert very quickly through to Xero Payroll. That has been a huge saver.”

- Marcus Wilson

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3. Explain the justification

It’s crucial to maintain a sense of trust between management and staff.  You don’t want employees to perceive time tracking as a disciplinary or ‘big brother’ type measure. This means you need to fully explain your justifications for implementing time tracking.

Agencies need to know how long a designer takes to complete a website. Construction firms need to measure how long contractors spend on specific tasks. IT businesses need to know how long their technicians take on call-outs.

This information is essential to calculate business profitability. And a profitable business is good for your employees; because they’ll have more secure employment, a better work environment and potentially higher wages in the future.

Having trouble convincing them? It may help to show them a few case studies, and interviews with companies who’ve successfully adopted time tracking. Check out the testimonials of architecture firm Georgina Wilson or construction firm SA Construct.

4. Have clear rules and guidelines

If employees don’t know what’s expected of them they’re bound to be apathetic. Make sure you have crystal clear rules and procedures to follow.

If staff arrive at a construction site and start the day with a casual meeting and coffee, when should they start tracking time? Does the time taken to change into work gear count as time spent on a project? Do they factor their commute into time spent on jobs? How much time are they allowed to spend on breaks? Does time need to be entered daily, weekly, or as each job is completed?

These questions - and many more - will be buzzing around in their minds. Encourage your employees to ask every question imaginable. Then draw up some clear processes so everyone is confident about how to track their time fairly and accurately.

5. Dedicate time to training

Another important step is teaching staff to use time tracking software. Don’t expect everyone to learn at the same speed. Some of your employees may be tech-phobic or reluctant to learn a new program. It’s your job to instil confidence in them - and this means setting aside time for training, education, and smoothing out teething problems.

It may be helpful to run a small test at the end of your training module to make sure everyone is proficient. Awarding a proficiency certificate is a great incentive - they can say on their CV or LinkedIn that they’re confident using the software.

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6. Avoid public shaming

A long time ago I worked at a copywriting agency where they tracked our words typed per minute. In order to “up our game”, managers wrote our names and numbers on a whiteboard in real-time. So if you were the slowest writer that day everyone in the office could see it. Needless to say, staff were constantly stressed and morale was abysmal.

And did this public shaming help the business? Not really. Creativity was low. Staff pushed out mediocre work to get their speed up, clients made a tonne of complaints about quality, and employee turnover was sky-high.

Once your staff are using time tracking software you’ll have access to a huge amount of valuable (and sometimes sensitive) data. But how will you use it? Your intentions when tracking time will vary depending on your industry and business model, but publishing sensitive results may be counter-productive.  

Above all make sure you’re transparent. Employees should know what to expect when they submit timesheets, and whether their performance is under analysis.

7. Ask for feedback

After implementing any new process it’s important to ask staff for feedback, and time tracking is no exception. Even if you’re convinced you’ve chosen the right time tracking software staff may have thoughts on better ways to utilise it, or suggestions for company rules and policy.

You should also make it as easy as possible for employees to give you feedback. Consider creating an email survey or online poll. Then hold a meeting to discuss this feedback and brainstorm solutions to problems.

Be open-minded and gracious when employees offer suggestions. It’s in your interest to have staff using the software happily, so consider their opinions carefully and weigh them up with business interests.

8. Use incentives

Depending on the type of business you run, you might want to offer staff incentives for tracking their time accurately. If you don’t want to pressure staff to do fast work (and risk quality) you could instead offer rewards for adhering to time tracking procedures consistently.

Your incentive program needs to have wide appeal and be suitable for all staff, but also budget friendly. Check out these 37 creative ideas for employee rewards. And if you want to know more great ways to motivate your employees, here's 10 secrets your staff would tell you if they could.

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9. Present it as a solution to their problems

Time tracking software actually has several benefits for staff. Make sure to emphasise these. By using an efficient piece of software they won’t have to waste time with paper timesheets or email reports. They can get to Friday night drinks quicker instead of staying late with tedious admin!

Time tracking software can also help your staff to avoid the dreaded scope creep. There’s a perfectionist in all of us… And even the most brilliant, talented, committed team members can spend too long on a project. Time tracking will help them to stay on task.

Having a full record of time spent on tasks also provides an element of protection to your employees. If a project ends up being too complicated, difficult and time-consuming, they have the numbers to prove it. And if a client is unexpectedly demanding you’ll know how much to charge them next time, and to allocate extra resources for the job.

10. Have team leaders try it first

If you’re introducing a big change sometimes it’s better to do it gradually. In a large company you might want to introduce team leaders to time tracking first. Once they’ve been trained up and are happy with the process, they can help to get the rest of the team on board with their influence.

And of course, with any new software it’s important to test the waters and see if it suits your business. WorkflowMax is offering a free trial for 2 weeks with no obligations and no credit required. This means you can really get a feel for the all-in-one project management system before you make a decision.

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Caitlin Sisley
Caitlin Sisley is a Marketing Content Writer at WorkflowMax, and has over six years of experience in digital content production. She has worked on creative copy for a large number of New Zealand businesses - from tiny startups to household names. With a Master of Professional Studies from the University of Auckland, she is passionate about small business and corporate responsibility.

Caitlin Sisley