Time Tracking in the Workplace: Debunking the Myths
Time tracking…the sound of these words can be painful and evoke feelings of micro-management. The reality is, tracking time spent on projects is almost as significant as the ability to manage those tasks to begin with.
Knowing how long it takes to complete a task or a project allows for better resource planning and can be a huge determining factor in the ultimate success of said project. For a business like Power Digital, where multiple departments and team members work on the same projects across numerous accounts, time tracking gives us a real pulse on the profitability and bandwidth of our agency.
William Penn once said, “Time is what we want the most, but what we use worst”. While we can all appreciate the meaning of this phrase, implementing time tracking for your team is no easy endeavor. Here are some steps you can follow to get you started.
Get Your Team On Board and Show Benefits
This should be your very first step. There is no point to time tracking if only a few people in the company are using it. It’s crucial to really outline the benefits that time tracking can have on individual’s workload as well as the overall efficiency of the company, especially working cross-departmentally.
On the individual level, you can emphasize benefits like better scheduling, more accurate pay and more balanced workloads. Another good strategy is to encourage department leaders, managers and other key personnel to “lead by example” as this can serve as a good catalyst for adoption amongst the rest of the team.
Implement time tracking across all levels of the organization if possible. Another good practice is to consistently remind team members of the benefits of time tracking by showing results and sharing from your personal experiences.
Establish a Clear Process
What if I am writing a few emails for 10 minutes? What if I am helping others? What about multitasking? Before you actually start keeping track of your projects, take the time to map out a structured system of what that the perfect process would look like.
This process must have a clear owner who can devote enough time to the setup analysis and development of the process as data becomes available. Companies with multiple departments have a myriad of different situations and it can be confusing for employees to know what to track or not.
You might want to setup a training or a shared filed that accurately shows how to track different activities and what is expected of employees.
You’ll want to rely on a time tracking tool that is accurate, easy to use and cloud-based. There are multiple options out there that offer free versions and relatively inexpensive plans.
Their interface makes it extremely easy for employees to quickly and easily update their workflow throughout the day as well as create templates which make it a breeze to track recurring work. At Power Digital we use HourStack, as it provides workspaces for multiple teams. Microsoft Excel, although a very powerful tool, is not the best alternative for time tracking.
Related: Using HourStack for SEO Success
Timesheets can contain errors, inconsistencies and require you to re-enter data so it’s not the most scalable alternative. After all, you wouldn’t want 35 people emailing you their time sheets at the end of the month for you to compile would you? If you do adopt time tracking software, make sure its cloud-based as this enables employees to accurately track their work at home or on the road.
It’s going to be difficult for your team to get their work done and accurately time track if the system or process is too cumbersome. As mentioned earlier, organizations with multiple teams can have countless different situations and work structure. A solid time tracking foundation should aim to make input and reporting simple.
In an agency setting for example, it could be as easy as setting up clients as projects and tasks underneath these projects could be tagged as client work, ad hoc client work or internal operations. It’s very easy to get carried away with all the different ways you can report on and keep track of tasks so focus on metrics that are most valuable to your company.
Avoid creating overlapping projects as this will not give you an accurate representation of the true value of each client.
Evaluate, Pivot, and Set Up Goals
Review your workflow data consistently to make sure your team is logging time correctly. I like to setup a reminder to check my weekly workflow as well as the rest of my team members. This has allowed us to quickly identify issues and course correct to avoid inaccurate data.
It might take you months to get the process fully established so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right straight away. Time tracking can be a continual process and requires commitment! That being said, it’s also important to setup benchmarks along the way to help you stay on track, especially during the adoption process.
Sharing is Caring
Perhaps my biggest recommendation is to share results with employees. It’s important for them to know that their work is being evaluated in a meaningful way. Results should be discussed openly in order to provide feedback and find opportunities to improve workflow process.
I like to do this on an individual basis so we can take a closer look at things we can change to make their jobs easier and allow them to produce better work in less time. Make sure you are also sharing best practices for time tracking and how to register their time in the easiest way.
Time tracking can be the difference between an over-worked, stressed-out team and a well-oiled project machine. It will help you plan appropriately for the capacity of your company and give you the proper insight to deliver work on time and in a profitable way. I hope these suggestions will help you get on the right track to start tracking your team’s time!