Knowing where your employees spent their time is important. With this information, you can get a better idea whether your people have been spending too much time in some areas or too little in others. Time tracking is also one of the key activities for professional services companies. They rely on this data to invoice their clients. Even with a fixed price contract (that means the total dollar amount is predetermined), knowing how time was spent on the various project tasks will provide insights to the productivity of your project teams. Not having accurate data can be risky for the business. Furthermore, management needs accurate data to continuously improve on its project efficiency.
The one challenge that many companies face is how to get their people to log their time. There seems to be resistance to log the hours worked in a timely manner. Many will try to “catch up” after several reminders from their managers or supervisors. Obviously, companies can reprimand or even dismiss those who consistently not track their time. However, finding “good” people can be difficult and letting someone go might impact the revenue of a professional services business. Fortunately, there are better ways to deal with this issue.
I am going to offer six steps for you to encourage and motivate your people to track their time regularly.
1. Choose a process that is easy to use
The first step is to come up with a simple and easy to use method for time tracking. If the approach is too complicated or confusing, it will be difficult to get everyone on board. Although, there are many software products available in the market to track time, many of them are not very user friendly. Therefore, when it comes to selecting a product, you must take into account of your company’s overall workflow. The ideal product must not be disruptive and integrates well with the existing processes. Everyone in the company must be trained on how to log their time. There might be a number of categories (based on the nature of business) to log time against.
2. Include it into the HR policy
To ensure that everyone takes this seriously, there should be something written on it in the HR policy. It should clearly state the requirement for everyone to log his/her time. The purpose is not to use it for dismissal but rather as an additional input during performance review. For the best result, it is important that everyone in the company is adhered to this policy – from the CEO down to the most junior positions.
3. Communicate the purpose behind it
The third step is to communicate the purpose and process behind time tracking to everyone. Management must be transparent and send out a clear message about it. The goal is to get everyone to buy into it. From time to time, reminders should be sent out, especially for those who just joined the company.
4. Enforcement from the department heads
For this to be a successful initiative, each department must help to enforce it. As performance review is conducted by each of the functional managers, they will be the best persons to ensure their subordinates are following through in tracking their times. Everyone is encouraged to log their time within a day or two. No one should leave it for more than a week. Otherwise, the data may no longer be accurate.
5. Generate weekly compliance reports
To assist the department heads in ensuring compliance, a weekly report should be generated. Monday mornings might be the best time for managers to review compliance for the past week.
6. Provide incentives
Sometimes having incentives can help motivate people to getting things done on a timely manner. A simple chart that shows weekly compliance level among the departments or teams will put peer pressure on those who failed to log their times. The department or team that has the most consist compliance will be given additional prizes or treats.
If a company is able to Implement these six steps, I am confident that there will be a significant improvement in time tracking compliance. If you have come across other successful approaches, I am interested to hear about them.