I had an interesting discussion with a client recently about time sheets. The business quotes jobs, makes/installs product and then invoices. Larger jobs are progress invoiced. The staff work on and off site and keep timesheets. Manual timesheets.

And there is the problem – manual time sheets are cumbersome to complete, hard to keep accurate, and the captured data must be manually entered into the job management/invoicing system, often weeks later if staff are working off site for prolonged periods of time. Manual time sheets are time consuming, slow, and frustrating for all concerned and certainly not best practice.

Which is partly why my client’s staff were not completing their timesheets accurately, or in some cases at all.

Time to ditch timesheets?
So, should my client ditch the time sheets? After all, the jobs are already quoted and completing time sheets is just more unnecessary admin work for production staff – right?

Not necessarily.

Technology can automate time recording so it is fast, real time, accurate and ideally cloud based. There are many cost effective time recording systems that operate on mobile devices, and integrate beautifully with job management, accounting, and payroll software. I suggested my client automate their time sheets. What you can measure you can manage.

Timesheets should be part of the business culture
For businesses introducing timesheets for the first time care is needed so they become part of the culture and are not seen as an unnecessary administrative burden. Ideally timesheets will integrate with job management tools to improve processes and productivity, be intuitive and quick to complete accurately.

Getting staff buy in will require careful planning and introduction, with possibly also a change to existing reward systems. For example, achievable bonus payments linking KPIs that are measured using timesheet data should assist initial acceptance.

Here’s why accurate time recording is important:

Costing / Pricing
Pricing/quoting jobs is an inaccurate science and there will usually be some jobs that you lose money on. If you are not accurately recording time and materials against jobs you will never know which jobs/staff are losing money and which are profitable.

Accurate real-time recording will identify jobs going over budget before completion, allowing timely intervention and remedial action. Analysis will also determine whether loss making jobs were under quoted and/or mismanaged. Accumulated historical time data may indicate areas for improvement in quoting, production processes, quality controls, training and/or performance management.

Personal Effectiveness
The case for management and office workers timesheets is less clear. However, the office is an area where significant time waste can occur for the following reasons:

  1. Work fills the time available to do it (how much do you achieve/complete the day before you go on extended leave?)
  2. Visual supervision is often difficult with desk/computer work
  3. Avoidable crisis management
  4. Distractions and interruptions
  5. Time wasting activities and low priority work
  6. Duplication, inefficient systems and processes
  7. Inadequate training and preparation
  8. Lack of accountability
  9. Lack of focus on what’s important / highest value activities

The discipline of planning what needs to be achieved each day/week and then recording/reporting what was achieved is key. Accurate and detailed time recording will provide information about where time is spent by each person. Careful analysis of time sheet data may highlight ways to significantly improve productivity and effectiveness.

For example, is email cleared efficiently in 2-3 daily blocks or an ongoing distraction? Can data entry be offshored, automated or eliminated? Are all meetings necessary, start on time and efficiently run? Are phone calls interrupting productive time and if so can they be handled differently? Does the office need a daily “no interruptions” time zone/area? Is everyone clear on their job responsibilities and held accountable? How much time is wasted searching for documents, filing paper, or sitting in traffic? Can/should staff work remotely? Is technology up to date and fully utilized?

Time sheets are important for production job/staff analysis and can help identify wastage and inefficient work practices throughout the business.

Regardless of whether the business uses time sheets, all staff should have clearly defined output goals and KPIs. Successful business owners design efficient systems and processes, lead by example, and hold their teams accountable for agreed outcomes and results.

If you are a business owner challenged by time recording, or setting and negotiating goals/KPIs for your staff contact Q2 Ltd for a free consultation.

Ann Cooper-Smith is the CEO and founder of Q2 Ltd, a fresh thinking company that works with business owners in the areas of strategy execution, performance monitoring, compliance and tax. Q2 works with ambitious business owners who want greater mind freedom, time freedom and/or financial freedom.
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