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7 Simple Keys to Get Employees to Track Their Time

Posted by Kit Dickinson on Oct 4, 2019 9:00:00 AM
Kit Dickinson
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employee time tracking

Whenever you start a new project, your profitability depends on a nearly impossible task: estimating your costs beforehand. No project of any significant length goes entirely according to plan, and there are nearly always unexpected snags that add costs you didn't plan for.

But some costs are more costly than others, and it's critical to get them under control before you begin your project. The profitability of your business depends on it.

For most project-based companies, the greatest cost—and the one that's most difficult to estimate—is employee time. That's because employees are notoriously bad at tracking their billable hours. Without accurate historical time data, you can't accurately estimate your project budget.

Handpicked related content: Payroll Best Practices for Project-Based Companies

Companies that create a culture of time tracking are more successful at accurately estimating project hours. As a result, they increase their profits and enjoy greater business growth.

Here are seven ways growing project-based companies create a culture of time tracking.

Communicate the Benefits 

Your employees are more likely to track their time when they realize what's in it for them. While your payroll personnel and finance officers need accurate time data, tracking time comes back to benefit your employees as well.

Having accurate time records gives your account managers better data to accurately estimate project budgets. That means your people are less likely to be constantly under the gun to get work done within budgeted project hours. That creates more freedom to work as needed, less pressure, and more enjoyment at work.

Better project estimating means greater profitability for the company, which comes back to your employees in several ways:

  • Less chance of layoffs
  • Opportunities for profit-sharing
  • More revenue for raises

Communicate What Time

Tracking is NOT For

There's often a suspicion that employers nag about time tracking because they don't trust their people. Workers believe that managers just want to keep tabs on them and make sure employees aren't getting paid for a few extra minutes here and there.

You can defuse this suspicion by addressing the elephant in the room. Explain that the reason you're tracking exempt employees' time is for their benefit—not to catch them in the act.

Related video: Allocate Incentive Pay and Employee Time

Make Your Guidelines Clear

If your time tracking process isn't straightforward and clear, people will put it off. Strip down your guidelines and time tracking process to the minimum viable procedure. If you need a flowchart to follow the process, your system is too complicated. 

Make It Simple

If your time tracking process isn't straightforward and clear, people will put it off. Strip down your guidelines and time tracking process to the minimum viable procedure. If you need a flowchart to follow the process, your system is too complicated. 

Similarly, entering time should be simple, easy and convenient. It shouldn't take more than a couple minutes each day to record your time.

  • Limit the number of time tracking items. For example, you probably don't need multiple non-billable buckets.
  • Track to the quarter hour, not the minute. 
  • Implement easy-to-use-software, with automation.
  • Make it mobile so your employees can report time from remote sites.

Get Employee Feedback 

The best way to build a culture of time tracking is to understand the current culture. You can't do that without understanding your employees. Talk with your staff about their experience with time tracking at your organization. Ask: 

  • What's working, and what isn't?
  • How can we improve time tracking for you?
  • What makes it difficult to be consistent with reporting your time?

Lead By Example 

When your company's leaders track their own time, it sends a powerful message to your employees that time tracking really is valuable to the organization. Everyone is on the same page, as a single team. It's a simple action that builds trust throughout your business, because it shows that your leaders are walking their talk.

When your leaders lead by example, your employees will follow. 

Make Someone Accountable

It's one thing to establish a policy. It's another thing to follow through on it. Assign someone to keep employees accountable for reporting time. Each employee should be accountable to their manager, and each manager should be accountable to a single person at the leadership level. 

Collecting hard data on your company's billable hours and non-billable hours puts you in position to build out realistic project estimates that help boost profits. Not only will you see a better financial gain, you'll estimate more realistic project deadlines that create a better work experience.

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Topics: Professional Services Industry Solutions