How to Get Employees to Track Time

how to get employees to track time

Correctly tracking hours worked is core to smart business management, efficiency, and profitability. It’s necessary for many reasons — legal compliance, protecting the interests of your company, and making sure your employees are getting paid for the work they do and taking the breaks they’re entitled to.

Accurate time tracking is essential for businesses.

Harvard Business Review’s research on time tracking shows that the U.S. economy loses $7.4 billion a day in productivity from workers who haven’t recorded their hours. Employees commonly forget to track time they have spent in work-related communication, like emails, calls and meetings.

The repercussions for businesses of all sizes are serious, but they can be easily fixed with a solid strategy for proper time tracking.

Time tracking isn’t necessarily a favorite activity for most employees. Without the right process and platform, it can feel tedious and unnecessary. It’s part of your job as a manager to make it easy to do and clear on why accurate time tracking benefits your team members just as much as it benefits you.

This process starts with delving into the specific needs of your employees and addressing them head-on.

The difficulty with time tracking

The difficulty with time tracking

Employee time tracking can be a tough nut to crack for many businesses. The positive sides are obvious, but the negatives need to be looked at as well.
The benefits of accurate time tracking include increased productivity, fostering transparency and accountability, saving time, and decreasing costs.
On the downside, without clear rules, it can stress your team members out. The major cons of time tracking include lowered employee morale and unnecessary micromanagement. For managers, it can also mean extra costs and lost efficiency.
Here are the main reasons why employees might resist time tracking.

Logging hours is a drag

For most employees, filling out timesheets feels like a waste of time. It can be seen as a burden that’s keeping them from getting to their “real” job. The worst part is that usually, people have to do it after their tasks are done, which makes it feel like an extra piece of work at the end of a long day.
The underlying reason for these attitudes is the lack of understanding of why time tracking is necessary. The right communication and onboarding are crucial to help employees understand why time tracking isn’t separate from their job, but a key part of it. Your people need to feel the benefit it brings to them and to the business so that they can commit to it.

Time tracking can feel obtrusive

Logging hours can feel like an intrusion, and create a feeling of being micromanaged and judged. At the heart of their concerns is the simple reality that nobody works 8 hours straight per day, and that they might actually be punished for that.
The main reason for this reaction is that employees don’t know how the data will be used. They might fear it will be secretly used against them and in the favor of the employer.
People might imagine that time tracking data could be used to push unrealistic expectations and a faster working pace, causing extra stress and anxiety. When you’re not transparent about why and how certain processes are used, it’s understandable why you’d get these reactions. Allowing this kind of attitude towards time tracking to flourish hurts the company culture and alienates team members.

Timesheets are prone to error

Another systematic problem with time tracking that affects both employers and team members is that often people have to fill their timesheets at the end of the week or month. They’ve long forgotten exactly what they did, but still have to account for it. Logging hours ends up being a guessing game.
Manual or paper time tracking leads to errors, inaccuracies, and even misuse. While most employees might try to remember the exact tasks and times they’ve worked and record them to their best knowledge, some team members may use this opportunity to fill in more hours than they’ve actually worked. This can lead to cases of time theft.
How to motivate employees to track time

How to motivate employees to track time

While time tracking might not feel totally natural to everyone at first, with the right explanations and clear practices you can get your team’s buy-in.

1. Explain to employees what’s in for them

First and foremost, people have to know why logging hours accurately is necessary. They have to see the point of doing it, and the information should be presented in a logical and reasonable way. This means that you need to explain (and usually more than once) the purpose of time tracking.
Be transparent about the real reasons for doing it. This is also the time to address potential emotional issues about how you’ll use the collected data. You should clearly state what you will do with it (pay them accurately), and what you won’t do with it (spy on them).
Outline why time tracking is also useful for employees. One of the key points here is that with solid time tracking, companies and individuals can better tackle issues like burnout and unnecessary overworking. Accurate logging of hours also has an impact on fair payment practices.
You shouldn’t shy away from noting the benefits of time tracking for your business as well. Most employees genuinely want the company to prosper, and if you make them feel included want to contribute to your communal success.
Detail why it’s necessary for adequate accounting of billable time of external projects and for improvement of productivity. For many companies, time tracking is essential for billing clients, or may even be a legal requirement for certain projects. You can also mention the ability to create stronger estimates with good data.

2. Make time tracking as easy as possible

Once you’ve clarified why you’re time tracking, you have to properly onboard people to take part in the process. It’s important to set clear rules around when and how they have to track time. This includes how often it should be done, as well as how to categorize their different activities when logging them. Hold a training session and show people exactly how to log their hours and the devices they can use. The best approach is to create a time tracking system that fluently fits in your company’s workflows instead of disrupting them.
You need to make tracking as easy as possible. It shouldn’t take a lot of time and shouldn’t be complex. This means automating it as much as you can, which you can easily do with an employee time tracking app.
Using a solid time tracking software like Hubstaff can make logging hours a breeze. Employees just have to turn their timer on when they start work, and switch it off when they stop. Easy as that.
They can also manually add hours to their timesheets, if necessary. Teams can access the app from desktop, web, or mobile apps on their own devices — making it perfect for people who are on the go.

3. Transform time tracking into a rewarding experience

The key approach to getting your staff to track time is to make it pleasant (or as pleasant as it can get). Some companies incentivize people by offering rewards for properly logging their hours on time.
The important thing is to make time tracking enjoyable and simple. You should never use it as a tool to punish or shame people, as they’ll hate it — and won’t do it.

4. Be open for two-way communication

It’s a good idea to invite employees to give feedback on the time tracking process so you know about potential problems before they arise. When you let people have an input, they’ll feel more connected and willing to participate.
That’s how you can help them see time tracking as something they want to proactively be a part of, rather than a command that’s handed down to them.
Your employees’ input opens the way for improving time tracking in your company. Staff members are the ones who are using the system, so they know best what’s working and what’s not. They’re your first-hand source for improvements. Collect their suggestions and concerns through meetings, or online surveys, and regularly schedule a time to discuss your time tracking policy in group meetings.

5. Celebrate time tracking wins

Managers understand the importance of positive reinforcement when it comes to implementing new policies.
Tracking time is no different. If you can, create opportunities to show your appreciation for your team’s hard work. If it’s tied to time tracking, that’s even better.
Some time tracking tools offer achievement badges that are automatically sent when your team members log a certain number of hours or if they maintain or increase productivity levels. They’re customizable to your team and goals while still providing ongoing recognition.
Hubstaff achievement badge
Important Notice: The information in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on Hubstaff’s interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. Hubstaff is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article. Hubstaff disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

Start tracking time as a team

Now that you know how to motivate teams to track hours, it’s time to get started. Follow the steps outlined here and be open to adjusting if needed.
When hours are accurate, it’s a win for everyone.
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