A few years ago, Sweden was in the headlines for experimenting with a six-hour workday.
Timesheets are the centerpiece to keep a company operating efficiently. Tracking time helps you and your employee know what they are doing, what tasks are on their plate, how much work is left, and so on. However, it is no surprise that when it comes to employee time tracking, there is a common mindset: employees dislike filling timesheets.
Even though time tracking gives you real-time visibility about your employees and projects and improves overall efficiency, productivity, and profitability, managers continually find it challenging to collect everyone’s completed and accurate timesheets. So, how do you guarantee that your employees submit timesheets accurately and on time?
It may not be easy to persuade employees to fill in their timesheets on time, but these 10 tips should help you achieve the same.
1. Automate Timesheets
Manual time tracking has been a conventional method of tracking employee time for centuries now. However, manual work is prone to errors, and inaccurate data will not help you stay ahead of the curve. This also leads to ‘time theft’ resulting in considerable time losses and profits. Therefore, the first step is to eliminate manual processes. It will save a lot of administrative work and effort and eliminate the possibility of human error while filling and submitting the timesheet. At the same time, it will speed up the approval process as well.
Michael Eckstein, Owner, Eckstein Advisory and Eckstein Tax Services, says, “Invest in better timesheet management software. Everyone wants to cut corners here or there, and paying per employee just to track time isn’t fun. But, buying the cheapo $2/mo solution that no one wants to use doesn’t save you money at the end of the day because you constantly need to hound employees to use it, and you lose out on any forgotten billable hours.”
Automating the time tracking process will make the timesheet more manageable and accessible to employees, irrespective of location – primarily if you use enterprise time tracking software available online via SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).
2. Add Flexibility and Language Support
The employees might still delay or avoid filling the timesheet even after you have gone completely automated. We asked a few industry experts and found out that most employees will spend time on their pending deliverables rather than wasting those precious minutes filling complex timesheets.
John Elder, Director, The Business Bocks, says, “When implementing our timesheeting systems, we made sure the hardware and access systems were in place for the workers to actually use the systems. This included ensuring the platform could be accessed via android or iOS phones and there was sufficient Wi-Fi or mobile access.”
Timesheets should take as little time as possible each day to fill up and should be available anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Lengthy timesheets make employees frustrated, making your company lose time and money that could be better spent on tasks that are important for the company’s overall profitability. Also, anything complicated will make your employees lose interest and lead to non-submission of their timesheets before the due date. You should also choose a simple and easy-to-use Time tracking solution that supports multiple languages and currencies so that it is easy to adapt for any kind of user.
3. Explain the Benefits of Timesheets
The primary concern for any company is profitability. It’s essential to keep an eye on how and where time is spent and whether it is spent efficiently or not. Until your employees understand the benefit of filling timesheets, they will always be hesitant to do so. Therefore, educating the employees about the advantages of a timesheet will be a great way to make them fill timesheets on time. You can explain to them how timesheets will:
- Ensure transparency, and save their time so that they can focus on enhancing their skills
- Help them interpret the time and project records without the assistance of a supervisor
- Help them know the exact hours they have worked and keep track of their productivity
- Improve their skills by letting them know of areas they take more time in and enhance their workflow by knowing what they should be doing.
4. Train your Employees
It is vital to train your employees on how to fill up timesheets, what data to fill, and how frequently they must submit their timesheets. You need to establish clear policies and guidelines for your employees towards submitting timesheets regularly. Explain the importance of tracking time to your employees and ensure that they understand the consequences of late or no timesheet submission.
It is also helpful to conduct regular sessions to train your employees and show them how to log in their hours and track their work to avoid any delays. You can also run a test at the end of training to ensure all of your employees know the system and set up an employee help center to answer their questions in the future.
5. Request for feedback
It is crucial to ask for feedback from your employees after implementing any new software. You may have chosen the best time tracking software based on the industry standards, but your employees may not find it helpful or straightforward enough.
Elder feels companies should “Ensure that continued feedback is sought from the end-users to ensure and reinforce the good habits. If there is constructive feedback, ensure you implement and follow up with the user.”
The process of feedback should also be made easy for employees, consider – an email survey or just a simple online poll. Through this feedback, you can gather the problems employees face and later come up with solutions to those problems.
Remember – it is in your interest to have this feedback as it will help eliminate the problem, so be very welcoming about it so that employees tell you the truth. Hiding the truth can lead to unsatisfied employees, so believe in their opinions and evaluate them.
6. Don’t Punish Your Employees for Being Sincere
Once you receive the time data filled in by your employees, you may discover that they are spending their time on other activities apart from projects. It is easy to get your employee to record the project time, but it is difficult to get them to report (consistently and without fear) on non-project time.
Therefore, you should utilize that data to identify the source of the problem and fix it rather than punishing your employees. For example, if the employees are spending too much time in the meetings and are not finding enough time to focus on their tasks, it will lead to delayed project completion. Having a no-meeting day, in such cases, can help break this cycle.
7. Use Automatic Reminders and Validations
It is likely that your employees may forget to fill their timesheets. In that case, a simple reminder will help them achieve the task. Most time tracking solutions come with a notification feature that will prompt employees to complete timesheets within the due date and remove the pressure of last-minute timesheet submission.
An automatic reminder sent as an email, SMS, notification, etc., will help reduce the number of late submissions and reduce the burden on the managers to chase their employees for filling timesheets before due dates.
Also, errors in timesheets that employees might have accidentally made while entering time can often lead to incorrect payroll, bills, and rework for managers as they will have to ask and monitor employees to re-enter time and submit them. Therefore, predefined or configurable validation rules will make sure that the data entered in a timesheet is valid and compliant with the predefined rules. When the data entered will not match the predefined validation rules, a warning or error will be displayed to the user.
8. Reduce the Number of Tracking Items and Systems
If you do not want tracking data to become a nightmare for your employees, you may limit the number of items you’re tracking, such as internal meetings, training, calls, etc. This will simplify your generated reports and make it easier for employees to log their time.
It is also not desirable to use multiple systems to track employee time. Choose a single unified source of truth that will easily integrate with your existing software. Instead of making employees fill in their information on multiple systems, one can sync the data between them and make recording time quick.
9. Do Not Nitpick Project Time
It is a common fact that some projects take more time to complete, and some take less. Therefore, having limited information on the project work involved may cause you to nitpick on the timesheet data and, in turn, the progress of the tasks. This may result in loss of trust and create an illusion of control and micromanagement in your employees.
However, it is equally important that employees are not intentionally behindhand in their deliverables, thus impacting business success and profitability. Time tracking is a one-stop solution for identifying such indolent employees and taking further steps to complete the project within time.
10. Avoid the Reward / Penalty System
Some companies use penalties to make sure that timesheets are filled and submitted on time, like – holding pay until timesheets are submitted/approved. This may resolve the problem temporarily, but it is definitely not a good practice to follow.
Using a penalty/reward system can undermine employee unity in many ways and create an unhealthy atmosphere between managers and employees – things you want to avoid if you’re making a company that should last long.
If you make your timesheet submission process simple and automated, employees will not shy away from tracking time. Regular training sessions and employee help centers can assist employees in understanding the benefits of time tracking and consider it their routine work.
As an organization, you must find out the reason for delayed timesheet submissions – be it complex software or just tardy employees. Step back and think about the next steps that will enable you to collect regular time data from your employees, even those who are unwilling to do so.