While most well-run professional organizations are using employee timesheet software data to help them run more efficiently, it’s not always a path to greater productivity. If you’re asking your staff to track too much, then you might lose more than you gain. There’s a pretty steep diminishing return once you ask your staff to track more than 2-3 pieces of information for any given time entry. That descending returns takes a nose-dive if the information you are asking them to fill out involves data they don’t have at their fingertips (e.g. – you want them to track time “per task,” but tasks for the project they’re working on haven’t been entered into your system yet). As a manager, striking the right balance between the information you ask for and the information you “could use” is often the difference successful timesheet implementations and failures. Too much, and staffers are less likely to stay on top of their daily entry. Too little, and you won’t be able to leverage that data to help your business improve its bottom line. After watching thousands of managers try to walk this little tightrope, I’ve developed a fairly strong opinion on how best to approach it.
My favorite story on that topic came from a customer in Dallas. He implemented a timesheet system for a 20 person firm in them middle of his busy season, and he asked me what he could do to make sure it was successful (he’s not the type of manager to beat folks over the head… neither am I, I suppose).
“Just make sure they know you care about what they’re putting in there,” I told him. “Don’t make it black hole.”
After a month, he called to tell me that he had 100% compliance without ever telling a single staff member “don’t forget to submit your timesheet.”
How? His approach was drop-dead simple.
“I just stopped asking questions that were already answered in the data.”
Morning status meetings quickly focused on missing data, and the more data users added to their daily recap, the less “managing up” they had to do throughout the day. Staffers jumped at the chance to kill two admin birds with a single stone.