How Time Tracking is Different from Time Policing
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Ever been asked the question, "What were you doing all day long? List out the things that you did?" It is a humiliating question for most and in general no one enjoys responding to it, especially when they have done all the grunt work.
Through various interactions with clients and friends we realized that the toughest challenge faced for a manager is to get his employees to track their work and time spent.
Time As a Business Metric
According to a Harvard Business Review report, untracked work hours could be costing the US economy $7.4 billion per day.
This is indicative of the massive losses that businesses incur on a daily basis across the world. Time is a business metric and is as important as any other. But getting your team to see time tracking as a productive activity rather than a chore can be difficult.
A manager is naturally concerned about lost time as it directly impacts the revenue. Employees, in turn, don't like to be questioned but would like to be empowered.
Hence, What is the Middle Ground?
To help you tackle this common problem, we are sharing our experiences with clients from disparate domains on how to convince your employees to track their work/time appropriately. Some of the experiences shared are influenced by our own teams and their daily routines.
Communicate - People don't understand the link between revenue and work/time. Communicate the same
Trust is crucial for successful cooperation. More often than not, time tracking when introduced without proper explanation/communication fails as employees view it with suspicion. They do not acknowledge it as a productivity measure. In my personal experiences, working with large corporate companies, I have seen people routinely cheat with their time logs.
Solution? Make everyone in your team understand why and what you need time tracking data for and how it benefits them -- the company and the clients in turn. Honest and clear communication goes a long way in establishing trust and if you do it right, you might not even need the following tips.
Employee productivity often boils down to good management practices, so keep communication open and free always.
Establish Clear guidelines
Anything that needs to work seamlessly needs a system in place. So is time and work monitoring. Reports will be rendered useless if people don't track their time under the correct work codes, or if they use the wrong tasks or labels. Before your team starts tracking, explain to all involved as to what is the proper way to track their time. Or ensure that the forms they fill have necessary provisions to choose appropriate tasks and related codes from.
Communicate why something has to be done in a specific way and that will make adoption much easier.
Extend Requisite Help during the Teething Period
With EFFORT+, the basic set-up is extremely simple and requires hardly any guidance. But keep in mind that if you want your employees to use tracking and form-filling, it's important that they feel that the system is there to help them and not hinder.
Understanding is half the job done. If people don't understand something, they are not going to use it. So setup programs in place for people to know the system, resolve their queries, take input from them and make the system configured in a way that they feel it belongs to them and not to their manager!
Share Reports of Employee Productivity Publicly on Intranets or Emails
One of the interesting experiments our CEO did when employees were turning in late to work, was to put up a list of login and logout times. Identifying the black sheep is not a productive measure. However with transparency and by displaying how others were turning into work on time sent a positive vibe. Within weeks employees started logging in on time and the days got more productive than before.
This measure ensured that the employees did not feel that they were being policed but turned it into a positive push for everyone to compete on start times at work.
If you have a TV screen at office, use it to display the team's tracking data on a live mode. This way people can see the impact of their work in real time, and they even might even think about new and more efficient ways of doing things.
While I used to work with an American major specializing in HVAC systems, the HR department used to publish a list of print offenders, meaning people who used to print in excess wastefully. Every week saw a list of contenders who would have printed max for the week. This public shaming though reduced the number of prints, also ended up demotivating people since they were being watched.
A better way to do that could have been to just name teams that printed the most instead of individuals, or any other method without mentioning an individual. The only thing to keep in mind while doing this is to NOT use the data for public shaming. Remember that trust is difficult to build, and easy to break!
Follow-up and Feedback
Your employees are the best experts you may ever find, to seek feedback on your business. Couple of weeks back an intern in one of our teams suggested that she was demoralised. When I inquired on why she felt so, she said the work is exciting but there is no validation. There is no closure and no one asks for feedback. It struck me hard and how! Made me realize that our employees are the best in giving suggestions and when they do, the closure on what happens to their suggestion (eitherways) is necessary. It is important to keep the feedback loop alive and the employees motivated as a result.
Keep checking with the team on their comfort levels in adopting time tracking. If they see challenges act on it immediately and make them feel validated. The easier it is for them, the more likely it is that they'll stick with the habit. It can become a 'Pavlovian' conditioning to them eventually.
Finally it is a great opportunity to show your teams that their opinions and input matter and is always valued by the leadership team. When you begin analysing the time/work tracking data, include your employees in the process. Together you'll have a better chance of discovering things that could be done differently.
Loyalty Systems Work!
People are more likely to adopt a new habit when they feel their progress is tied to specific rewards. In short this is called "positive reinforcement". At work, rewarding loyal employees based on their commitment to use the tracking system as well as their input in making it better will make the program a huge success on the whole. The idea of rewarding someone for showing desired behaviour, makes them more likely to repeat that behaviour in the future.
If instituting gifts is a financial strain, you may resort to other intangible benefits like days off, movie tickets for couples, dine in vouchers and such small gifts that don't dent the coffers.
Rewards also institute a sense of competition. Like I had mentioned before, the publishing of login times enthused employees on competing with who comes in first to work. This is a healthy measure and will work positively for the organization
In all, work/time tracking is a productive measure for a company. The challenge of making employees understand it though is not really a herculean task. Adopt simple methods such as Communication, Validation, Helping, Sharing, Seeking Opinions and Rewarding good behaviour as a part of the adoption and implementation process.