Employee Time Tracking 101: Best Practices from an HR Expert [Watch Webinar]

Employee time tracking 101, explained by HR expert Suzanne Lucas.

Table of Contents

[What’s in this post: HR expert Suzanne Lucas is well-known for her blog the Evil HR Lady, and she’s an expert when it comes to matters of the people. That’s precisely why we asked her to lead this webinar on Employee Time Tracking and Analytics—be sure to watch it entirely, with plenty of tried and tested tips.]

Employee time tracking & why it matters

I returned from an HR conference and dumped my swag bag on the table. My husband, who is a consultant and has absolutely nothing to do with HR, said, “Oh, I hate—” and then he named one of the companies on my swag collection.

“Why on earth do you hate them?” I asked. After all, their swag was particularly lovely.

As a consultant, he has to track his hours for billing. Which means he uses time tracking software. He hates it. He’s not the only one.

Here’s why. If you create one product, you can see what happens quickly. When everyone worked on a farm or in a factory, there was a tangible product at the end of the day. You could count the widgets or weigh the corn. Productivity monitoring was easy.

Knowledge workers are different. Take that strategy meeting for a client—was it productive or unproductive? You may know when the project finishes, six months down the line, or even longer. But you’d like to know sooner. That’s where project time tracking comes in.

Time tracking allows you to know:

  • Where your time sucks are
  • What people are doing
  • How long the process really takes (as compared to how long it “should” take)
  • Where you can cut unnecessary things
  • How to maximize productivity

These are all great things, but there are downsides to time tracking. First, if you’re tracking time for exempt employees who don’t have billable hours, they will resent it. It feels like micromanagement—and since the employee has to do the work in time tracking, it’s like they are micromanaging themselves.

Professional employees want to be treated like independent adults, and if you make someone record their day in 15-minute increments, they feel that they aren’t. But you, as a business leader, know there’s value within this time tracking data.

The importance of justifying employee time tracking

Data is king. You need to understand this, and your employees need to understand this. They need to see the benefits of time tracking. If you hide the data from them, they won’t support you, and their time tracking efforts will be haphazard at best and out and out rebellion at worst.

Remember, businesses speak two languages: Data and dollars. You need to speak both to be effective in your leadership role. To justify time tracking, you’ll need to present data, and you’ll need to use best practices for best results.

Employee time tracking best practices

Don’t data mine.

What is data mining? This is where you take your data and look through it, trying to find things. Why is this bad? Because it often results in you finding correlations that are supported by causations. You can find all sorts of things by happenstance this way—like a correlation between ice cream and murder that makes it seem like the more ice cream people consume, the more murders there are. To avoid this, set goals before you collect the data.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Figure this out as well. Knowing your problem helps you collect and look at the correct data in the right light. Time tracking data can’t solve everything, but it can give you insights into whether your staff is overworked or ineffective. It can help you see how you distribute resources among your team.

Pick the least intrusive way to gather your data.

Do you need to know the data in 15-minute increments, or is it enough to ask for a weekly report on the number of hours spent in meetings versus working on projects? Can you skip the time tracking and ask your employees if they are overwhelmed and where they think they waste time?

Asking, of course, can lead to falsified data. Not that people lie—it’s just that humans aren’t always the best judge of how they use their time.

Time management solutions such as Beebole can show how employees use time. If you go the software route, ensure you have one with robust reporting capabilities—otherwise, you won’t get the information you need.

Do something with the data.

If you have the data, don’t just sit on it! First of all, what a waste of time and money. And secondly, if you thought your employees didn’t like time tracking before, they will really hate it if they can’t see results. But, if you can share results, and make improvements that track with the data, then people will be happier to track time. Remember, if you’ve set out to solve a problem, found the data, figured out a solution, and implemented the answer, it’s time to move on. You don’t have to collect data forever.

Final thoughts on employee time tracking

Overall, time tracking can lead to answers, but implementing the solutions is up to you. Making everyone’s day better is a great benefit of using data to solve your problems. A proper implementation and a clear goal in tracking the information are critical for success. The more people are on board, the better your data will be and you can make real changes for the better with good data. Time tracking doesn’t just have to be about what time people arrive and leave; it can be about creating an effective and efficient company.

Watch the employee time tracking webinar

Employee Time Tracking and Analytics: A Management Webinar from Beebole

Check out Beebole’s video resource page for webinars, tutorials, and more.

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Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

An American in Switzerland, which means I'm late and I overshare. HR Writing, Speaking, Workshops, and Webinars. Snark at no extra charge.


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