Gina Ora on May 22, 2016.

7 deadly sins of time tracking

We’ve previously explained why it’s so important to track time, collect data and use the results for improvement. Simply buying  software might be a good start, but it’s no guarantee that at the end you will make a positive change. Yes, many small and medium companies may have bought the same software and many of them implement it successfully; yet, some have failed. In this post, we will try to figure out why – so that instead of becoming one of the „some,“ you be one of the „many.“

Many data-centric companies make common mistakes which lead to situations where at best, you are collecting data that is hard to analyze and at worst, is a total waste of the organization’s time. Likely, you could face at least one of these issues in your own company:

1. Not having a clear vision

Your business is advancing, you hired more people in order to get the job done and now you need a tool to organize it all. Great, but why would you need time tracking? Do you have a distinct concept of how an employee’s working day should look like? Do you know what results would be “satisfying” or “dissatisfying“? Or do you just want to know what they’re doing?

Like any other innovation, this too must have a detailed strategy behind it, so make sure you don’t just leave the whole thing to chance.

2. Not being transparent.

Now this is a big no-no. If you want to make a change, you need your people to change; if you want to get your people to change, you must let them know if they are wrong. Furtively “spying” on your employees’ time consumption would aid you for a while, but it wouldn’t make a positive change – it won’t make your “implementation strategy” come true. Even worse – it could deteriorate your company’s working culture and cause more damage than good.

3. Not explaining the purpose to everyone.

So you know what you want to accomplish and you’ve announced it to everyone – great. But it won’t work out that easily unless your employees understand why they are being tracked. Explaining that you need to understand their working habits, catch a sight of potential problems, use the data for metrics – any of these would be better than simply saying “it’s got to be done.” After you get the first results and have deduced what you need from it, make sure you gather your employees for a brief review of how your new software has helped and caused a positive change that benefits everyone. Try to show a single daily report – it’s even possible that most of them aren’t quite aware themselves of how much time they throw away every day.

4. Not making it obligatory to everyone.

It is the productivity of people who get the real work done that you want to maximize, but in order to succeed as an organization, everyone must work as one. Employee, manager, or CEO – they all need to track their time. It’s not just because of  effectiveness; it’s also for the sake of morale. If t superiors share the results with their employees, it will feel like they are all part of the team.

5. Not making a single person responsible for the project.

It could be the CEO, it could be the HR manager, or it could be anyone else; but the practice has shown that when everybody is responsible – nobody is responsible. Name a person in charge of creating a strategy, setting the clear objectives, communicating them to employees, collecting and analyzing the results – it is much more likely that the whole process will be a success.

6. Not using the data for analysis.

The whole point of time tracking is making a positive change in your business. Keep in mind that the main goal is creating an insight of how the things are getting done; compared to how they should be getting done – not catching which of your employees plays solitaire and how much time they spend e-mailing.

7. Not sharing the best practices./Not showing appreciation

Ok, this one may not be a “deadly sin”, but it’s still a thing. Many time tracking software solutions have an option where websites and applications can be labelled as “productive” or “unproductive”. They also generate detailed reports, which you can use every once in a while to compliment your best employees and motivate others. It doesn’t have to mean much, but it would definitely create a positive atmosphere to award the “hardest working bee” that spent the most active time using “productive” sites and apps with a Friday morning muffin.

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