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8 ways to turn timesheets into a friend, not foe!

Completing and submitting a timesheet seems like such a simple request. Yet whether employee timesheets are due daily, weekly or monthly, timesheet management poses a perennial challenge for businesses offering professional consulting and technical services.

Let’s face it – nobody likes timesheets! However, the knock-on effects of poor timesheet management are numerous, including:

  • Late or inaccurate client invoices that then impact cash flow and credibility with clients and customers.
  • Late or inaccurate payments to your contractors (if you have contractors in your workforce).
  • Missed opportunities to invoice customers because your people haven’t recorded their billable time.

To avoid these problems, timesheet compliance is imperative. Want to learn how to turn the humble timesheet into a friend, not a foe? Read on for 8 great ways.

1. Establish the ground rules


Step one in driving improved timesheet compliance is establishing the ground rules that everyone must follow. Although it sounds simple, most often it’s not.

Without a framework that removes ambiguity and sets out timesheet requirements clearly, it’s difficult to set the expectations for your team. Make the rules simple, make them fair and make them clear.

Key things to include:

  • The cut-off time for timesheet submission
  • What to do if you can’t submit a timesheet
  • The level of detail required in the timesheet
  • Project-specific requirements (such as cost centre allocations)

Once you’ve developed the framework, socialise it. Make sure that everyone is aware of the expectations, and encourage questions and feedback.

Most importantly, demonstrate the benefits of good timesheet management so team members can understand why they’re critical to your business. Explain the individual consequences of late timesheet submission such as delayed pay.

2. Build a culture of commercial awareness


Although the benefits of good timesheet management may seem obvious to you and I (because if we can’t bill, we can’t pay. And if we can’t bill or pay, we don’t have a business), it’s not always obvious to each individual.

After all, they’re often caught up in the important details of their own role.

Raising awareness of the commercial importance of timesheets starts in the induction phase (more on that later), but requires ongoing reinforcement from you and your leadership team. In every aspect, your people will perform better if they understand ‘why’ they need to do something (such as complete their timesheet), and if they understand the context. This is a great opportunity to educate team members on how the business functions.

Draw a link to help them understand how their commitment to the timesheet process plays an important part in the greater good of the organization, in terms of hitting financial targets and building trust with clients.

3. Automate, automate, automate


Did I mention, "automate"?

Remove any manual barriers that inhibit your people from completing their timesheet. In fact, automate the heck out of it! The timesheet process is an excellent candidate for workflow automation.

Many of WorkflowMax's clients have found the automation of time-sheeting to be vital to their growth. Angela Alfrey, from Cymon Alfrey Architects, explains that she used to spend 2-3 hours every morning just to sort out timesheets. "It was very time consuming. Systems were in place -- but they were extremely inefficient and took a lot of time. Designers used to have this spreadsheet where they'd write how much time they have spent on each job. I used to get an email from each staff member and then I would to take the time and allocate it to each job. So there are so many projects and each staff would write time against it. We’ve got 100 different jobs open right now. So you can imagine how complex, confusing and time consuming this would be. Each technician was working on each job and had to add all that up, it was quite horrible actually.

"With WorkflowMax, the staff time is going directly from bum on the seat and straight into the system. The invoicing day, I just go into workflowmax and do a bulk progress invoice."

Automating this workflow will also enable improved visibility into the timesheet process, allowing you to:

  • see where the delays are occurring
  • identify repeat offenders, and
  • reward positive behaviours.

Read more about how WorkflowMax timesheets can help your business.

4. Lead by example


There's nothing like telling your staff to do something and not following through yourself! If you're in a leadership position, adopting good timesheet behaviours is imperative. Some tips you can try:

  • Make it a part of your schedule (Fill in 5 mins every day)
  • Get into the habit of recording as you go (a mobile app comes in handy here)
  • Hold yourself accountable (weekly debrief with your team for example).

5. Get rid of paper-based timesheets


The days of paper timesheets are long gone. An online timesheet is a far more efficient approach to timesheet management. Make the timesheet available to people on their mobile devices through the smart use of apps and workflows.

The benefits are endless…timesheets will no longer go missing, automated reminders can be scheduled, the payroll and billing team no longer need to "interpret" handwritten entries and the audit trail is a whole lot better.

WorkflowMax aims to take the pain out of timesheeting, by enabling employees to complete their timesheets online using a range of different methods (so you can choose the method that works best). The timesheet hours are automatically collated against the job, allowing you to see exactly how much time each team member spent on a job.

Running timesheets through WorkflowMax saves time, reduces errors, and increases visibility. Go online for timesheets. Today!

6. Build good timesheet practices into your team induction program


You can save yourself a whole lot of pain if the expectations around completing timesheets are set early in a person’s time with your company. Set these expectations from the get-go.

If the requirements are made clear from the outset, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be challenged, and pretty quickly, on-time submission of accurate timesheets will be something “that’s just done around here”.

7. Beware the hidden cause of bad practice!


Whilst a person not completing their timesheet is major pain, most aren’t setting out to cause problems. We’ve already addressed some of the reasons why poor practice may have slipped in.

But there is another reason. Poor time management.

Sure, your people are busy. I get it. They’re managing client requirements, coding new software releases, and in delivery mode on client sites. Striking the balance between prioritising client deliverables and internal requirements – such as timesheets – can be tricky.

But good time management skills can play a huge part in not only getting a completed timesheet in on time, but encouraging greater productivity. 

8. Make it easy for everyone

Emphasising the ease with which timesheets can be completed is a sure way to win your team over. With an online time tracking system like WorkflowMax, all the hassle is taken out of completing timesheets. You can record time from wherever you are, especially with the mobile app or if you’re pressed for time while on the go, simply save time as a draft and pick up where you left off (for example when you’re back at your computer). Before you commit to a timesheet system, make sure you review the pros and cons of the systems. Third party review sites are a good place to start.

So how can you improve your timesheeting practices? Is it time you considered moving to a more automated, online solution? Sign up for a WorkflowMax free trial!

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Steff Green
Steff Green is one of WorkflowMax's resident wordsmiths, writing everything from website pages to blog posts, ebooks, emails and everything in between. Steff is also an award-winning author, with several fantasy novels available on Amazon. When she’s not writing up a storm, Steff lives on a lifestyle block with her musician husband, two cantankerous cats, several sheep and chickens and her medieval sword collection.

Steff Green