It comes as no surprise to anyone in the business world that there is one cardinal rule when it comes to employee time tracking: employees hate to fill out timesheets.
It's this fact - and this fact alone - that makes supervisors and managers constantly struggle to collect everyone's completed - and accurate - timesheets. Here are 10 tips that will help get employees to fill in their timesheets on time:
Timesheets should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete each day. When an employee is using a system that takes 30 minutes or more just to track their hours, the employee gets frustrated and the company loses considerable time that would be better spent on other activities.
Many companies employ complicated or tedious time tracking processes. Simplify or automate part of the process and people will submit their timesheets without delay or complaint.
Make your reasons clear. Communicate how the timesheet data is going to be used (and how it's _not _going to be used). Explain the value of time entry to all staff members. If the data helps to reduce the amount of multi-tasking or firefighting, communicate that. By clarifying the process and explaining how timesheets help speed up the billing cycle and increase cash flow - thus gaining the ability to take on more projects (which can mean more money for everybody) - you make them understand and want to help.
If you don't want employees watching the clock and getting creative with 15 minute excuses here and there, do not demand timesheets that are precise to the minute.
If you do not want your reports to become nightmares, limit the number of buckets you're tracking. Group items such as internal meetings, product training and conference calls into a single "Internal" category. It will simplify your reports and make it easier for employees to log their time.
Eliminate as many manual processes as possible. It will save countless hours of timesheet-related administrative work for the employee, and will help reduce the potential for human error in each submission - saving the approver's time, as well. Automating the process also makes the timesheet more accessible to employees, no matter where they are located - especially if you use a system that is available online via SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).
A system that automatically reminds the employee when the timesheet is due will help you collect those timesheets on time, and reduce the number of tardy submissions.
It is relatively easy to get staff to report on project time, but quite difficult to get staff to report (consistently and without fear) on non-project time. Rather than penalizing employees for spending time on other activities, use the information as an opportunity - identify the source of the issue and fix it. You may discover a legitimate internal item that requires tracking - such as morning meets or training.
Some projects require extra time entered for project management. Some projects can be easily managed with obvious results. If your team is achieving results on time and within budget, do not nitpick on timesheets.
Some companies use penalties to ensure timesheets are submitted on time (such as withholding pay until timesheets are submitted/approved). While this may solve the problem in the short term, it is unwise. Using a penalty/reward system can undermine team unity and create an atmosphere of distrust between managers and employees - things you want to avoid if you're creating a "built to last" company.
If you make your timesheet submission process simple, communicate the reasons and benefits behind it, and still are unable to collect timesheets on time, step back and think about whether the tardy employees are really the right people for your company. Don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.
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