Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Time is money’ and nowhere is truer than in business. Time is a strategic asset that is extremely limited. Businesses that use their limited time productively are the ones that thrive. To use time productively, they must start with time tracking. Time tracking offers several benefits, such as real-time visibility into projects, improved productivity, greater efficiency, and, ultimately, increased profitability.
With all that time tracking does, many organizations find it surprising to come up against resistance from their employees when implementing systems to monitor time. Some employees find time tracking a cumbersome addition to their daily tasks, particularly if manual methods like ledgers are used. Administrators may find it annoying to track paper timesheets. Other employees may feel that time tracking is simply another way of being monitored.
All of these are genuine concerns. Moreover, time tracking cannot succeed without employee buy-in. With that aim in mind, we had a conversation with Brian Westfall to understand how organizations can go about humanizing the time tracking tool to encourage adoption. Brian Westfall is a principal HR analyst for Capterra, where he publishes research on trends and best practices with HR technology.
The Importance of Time Tracking
Time tracking began as a way to log employees’ working hours to ensure everyone was getting paid correctly. Then, employers began to realize that the data could also help in understanding how employees were spending their time or how much time it took to complete a given task. Nowadays, time tracking brings a host of benefits. It drives transparency into different work processes while increasing employee accountability. Time data can also help uncover opportunities for improvement in billing, costs, resource management, budget allocation, bidding, and estimation.
Time tracking is set to become even more important. As Westfall says, “We’re in the middle of a major evolution to how we work. Roles are becoming more complex, team structures are more intertwined, and employees don’t even work under the same roof anymore. As organizations take on these major changes, time tracking becomes not just an administrative need, but a strategic one. Understanding how responsibilities, dependencies, and inefficiencies change with these new structures and policies will be critical, and time tracking is a key component of that.”
Make Time Tracking More Inclusive
Time tracking is often viewed with suspicion by employees, but it does not have to be so. Organizations already realize the importance of time tracking, but they must help employees understand its benefits as well.
The way that organizations go about implementing a time tracking system can go a long way in encouraging employee adoption. They should start by clarifying the purpose of the system and demonstrating the benefits it can have not only for the organization but also for the employees. Humanizing the time tracking tool starts with showing them that time tracking is actually in the best interest of the workforce. Some common employee benefits include:
- Reduction in burnout
- Eliminating resource overallocation
- Greater visibility into overtime
- Increased accountability
- Tracking budget utilization
- Better billing accuracy
- Improved prioritization of tasks
Westfall adds that the way organizations use the time tracking data is pivotal to its adoption. “Remote employee performance, for example, is often reduced to what’s on their timesheet because managers can’t physically watch them work. That leads to their on-site counterparts — who are more visible in the organization — getting all the praise, all of the good projects, and all of the promotions. That’s a huge problem, especially with remote work on the rise.”
Transparency is key here and Westfall agrees. “Making the time tracking process highly visible, incorporating multiple sources of performance data into decision-making, and simply focusing on outcomes instead of the time spent on a project — these are all ways organizations can make time tracking more inclusive.”
Encourage Time Tracking Without Stifling Creativity
For creative professionals, time tracking is typically seen as a bane rather than a boon. Time tracking emphasizes productivity and a focus on productivity can sometimes stifle creativity.
Westfall believes that time tracking for creatives can be challenging. “As an organization, you have to pick your battles because you don’t want time tracking to get in the way of creativity or create a major bottleneck.”
Therefore, organizations must demonstrate time tracking will not hamper creative work. Westfall adds, “Nitpicking every task and process won’t produce real benefits, so focus on those areas where time tracking can produce valuable data that can improve processes or benefit workers. Open communication with time tracking happens naturally when workers can see the benefit.”
To start, organizations must focus on simplicity. A simpler time tracking system is more likely to be used by creatives. After all, creative professionals generally prefer putting their time and effort into creative work, not on filling up a timesheet. Organizations will also find that cloud-based time tracking solutions are better suited for creatives. These systems can be accessed anywhere and anytime, giving the freedom that creatives desire.
Automation is another aspect to look into. Cloud-based automated time tracking systems will minimize the input and effort needed, which creative professionals will love. Moreover, they come with a range of other features, such as configurability and flexibility, which organizations will find helpful.
Address Privacy Concerns Surrounding Time Tracking
Privacy concerns are likely to be the biggest hurdle to the implementation and humanizing of time tracking systems in any organization. Younger generations have already demonstrated how much they value privacy. They will likely be highly resistant to any changes that infringe on their privacy or that feel like surveillance and monitoring. With millennials making up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce, organizations must approach this challenge with care.
Westfall, however, thinks that organizations shouldn’t lose hope yet. “Younger generations have already shown that they’re willing to give up some privacy if it means they can receive some type of benefit or get rid of a persistent obstacle. Look at the way different apps use personal data to customize the experience for different users.”
This is where organizations need to showcase time tracking as a benefit for the employees, rather than their managers. As Westfall says, “Organizations have to align monitoring goals with worker priorities and pain points. If you’re tracking time to scrutinize low performers, for example, that’s not going to get you employee buy-in. On the other hand, if you’re using that data to optimize processes or identify burnout, workers will be more accepting.”
Choose a time tracking system that actively helps in uncovering inefficiencies and measuring progress. The data provided by the system should be used for improving resource scheduling and project management. In doing so, employees will be more welcoming of the system.
Choose Cloud-based Time Tracking vs. Legacy Systems
Modern time tracking solutions are more than just about jotting down times in a timesheet. They are now robust tools that can drive payroll, billing, and costing processes. A cloud-based time tracking system can also offer improved security and scalability to organizations. They also offer automation, which simplifies time tracking while improving accuracy. And their more user-friendly interfaces can help humanize the tool for employees, compared to older, more difficult systems.
Despite the clear benefits of cloud-based time tracking, the fact is it might not always be welcome. Westfall agrees that “getting buy-in on new technology is never easy, as there will undoubtedly be leadership members that will resist any kind of major change with legacy systems — especially if it disrupts business operations.”
However, Westfall believes that there are three things you can do to help win these people over:
- Focus on Existing Pain Points: “The first is to focus on current pain points. There are things about that legacy system that is driving a desire to upgrade — what are they? Hone in on those deficiencies that are hurting the business.”
- Assemble a Support Team: “The second is to gather a support team. If you can get members from different departments — be it IT, HR, or some other type of legacy system user — to back up your case that a new tool or upgrade is necessary, it will make your argument more compelling.”
- Show Proof of Success: “Lastly, you need good evidence that a new system will actually deliver as advertised. Case studies are great for this. If you can find a legitimate case study about a business similar to yours that reaped benefits from replacing a legacy system, it could be the final push leadership needs to sign off on a new purchase.”
Humanizing Time Tracking for Remote and Hybrid Workforces
A recent concern for many organizations is tracking time for remote and hybrid workforces. They believe that such systems can inadvertently put more focus on meeting productivity numbers than actually being productive. However, Westfall doesn’t consider this concern worthy of merit. He thinks, “…this fear that by becoming more dispersed or complex that you’re going to lose your culture or lose that human touch is kind of overblown. Your culture and the way workers interact will change — it has to in these cases — but that doesn’t mean it will disappear. As long as time tracking is paired with consistent follow-through, analysis, and discussion with those that are affected, that’s what matters.”
Of course, having a robust cloud-based time tracking solution that seamlessly works across geographies will help a great deal in keeping everyone on the same page.
We thank Brian Westfall for taking out the time to talk to us and giving us some incredible insights into humanizing time tracking.