As a leader or project manager, you already know that time tracking software is essential to streamlining your workflow, making your deadlines, and setting a realistic budget. But to some employees, a time tracker is more like an instrument of the devil. Most people don’t like to pause what they’re doing to record their time, or working under the stress of a ticking clock. And, to be fair, some project managers make a bad bed for themselves by using the time tracker in a way it’s not meant to be used. If all of this is sounding familiar, keep reading for tips on motivating your employees to track time consistently, honestly, and accurately.
Do Not Use the Time Tracker to Micromanage or Punish
The minute you call an employee into your office and lecture him or her about taking too long on a project, you have essentially sealed your fate to receiving slightly-fudged time sheets. Employees who know they are being judged and graded according to their time entries will almost always obscure some of the details—because no one likes being in trouble with the boss, especially with a family at home needing food on the table.
The trouble with fudging the numbers, though, is that it will eventually catch up to them—and you. If an employee claims that a project took much longer than it was projected, your clients will be hit with a huge bill—and possibly jump ship. And if an employee claims that a project didn’t take as long as projected, you might fill up their schedule with more than they can chew. Long story short? Never use the time tracker to discipline or chastise an employee. In accounting, it’s more important to be accurate than to be timely. Trust your employees, and you’ll be rewarded with sustainable, long-term wins.
Do Use the Time Tracker to Maintain an Open, Ongoing Discussion
Let us be clear: We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use time tracking tools to assess how well your employees are doing. We included an employee performance reporting feature in our software for a reason: because if you want to plan an accurate budget estimate and a realistic schedule, you need to know who needs help and where. The key is how it’s done. Be transparent with your employees about the fact that you need to know how to plan out your month, and you need to bill your clients in such a way that neither they nor you suffer a loss.
Set regular, recurring meetings wherein you ask the entire team where they need help, why certain projects were over- or under- projected, and how you can estimate more accurately the next time. Putting the onus on yourself to set a more reasonable schedule going forward takes your employees’ guard down. Instead of putting up a defense and thinking about how they can protect their individual selves from you, they start thinking of you as a partner, and the business as a ship everyone needs to row together if it’s going to sail. The time tracking software is a tool that can assist with this conversation. For example, imagine this meeting at a graphic design company:
Leader: I was looking through the [time and billing software of your choice] and noticed that the brochure project took quite a few more hours than we thought it would. Does anyone know why we underestimated this one?
Employee A: Yes…the client did not like the initial design as much as we hoped he would. We were asked to revise it several times. We had time set aside for a single revision, but not several.
Employee B: Another issue is that when picked up the brochures from the printer’s, they had printed out the wrong color—pink instead of red. We have used this printer many times, and we did not anticipate that they would allow that to happen. Getting it re-printed pushed the project back.
Leader: I see. Do you think we should look for another vendor, or not be so quick to jump ship after one mistake?
…And the conversation progresses from there. Notice that it’s a conversation between multiple partners working towards the same common goal. (We don’t mean “partners” in the accountant sense; we mean it in the traditional sense.)
Your team should be, well, a team. That means, unfortunately, that there are no clear, easy, or fast answers. It also means that no one is ever going to walk away from the table 100% happy. But we are firm in our belief that this type of leadership is what leads to true success. If employees feel involved and listened to, they have a stake in your success. It’s not them vs. you; it’s your team vs. the world. You may be able to control your employees’ schedule, but no time tracking tool in the world can make them genuinely care about your success. Only you can do that. (Believe us, we’ve tried.)
ImagineTime is a simple, intuitive time and billing software designed by accountants, for accountants. To see our products in action, request a free, no-commitment demo by filling out our easy contact form.