Should you get timetracking software?

by Evil HR Lady on December 16, 2015

This post brought to you by Advance Systems. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Evil HR Lady.

Do you need time tracking software? Well, in theory only for your non-exempt employees (which, if the proposed DOL rules go into effect, you may have a lot more of in 2016). But, what about your exempt employees? Do you need to track their every move?

Of course not. You should be looking at end results. If the end result is awesome, the employee is awesome, and you don’t have to fret about what they are doing when they are out of your site.

But, what if the results aren’t awesome? Or what if the results are awesome, but you think they could be even better? What if you just like data?

I love data. In fact, I spent many, many years doing data based HR jobs. Data, properly used can tell you things you never imagined. Like, did you know that it’s taking your employees 20 hours a week to create reports in Excel? That doesn’t mean they are slacking off. That’s how long it takes. Could time be used more wisely by paying a programmer to come in and automate the reporting process? Maybe.  It depends on the reports and your business, but I’m of the mindset that anything that can be automated should be.

I love learning things like this with data. Where can I improve? Where can we improve? How are we wasting our time? Do we really need to spend that much time on emails? Maybe you do. Each business and each business’s mission varies, but we can, at least, think about how to make things better than they are now.

Timetracking software should never be used as a micro-managing tool. “Hey, Bob, I noticed you checked Facebook 26 times today.” Now, if Bob has performance issues, this is a good thing to bring up, “Hey, Bob, you might be able to get those reports done on time if you only checked Facebook at lunch.” But, it can be used to help Bob manage his own time. Bob may truly have no idea that he’s spending so much time on social media. (Which is okay, as long as he’s just following me.) Employees actually like knowing what they are doing and how to make their performance better.

Should you install time tracking software? Maybe. If you’re a data driven organization, it’s a great start. If you just want to harass your employees about every second of the day, no. If you want to give your employees a chance to see how they can improve, yes. If you want to prompt discussions about improvement and make efforts to make changes that the data suggest, then, yes.

Now, if you have remote workers who are currently exempt, but will be changing to non-exempt when (if) the new rules go into effect, raising hte minimum salary for exemption to over $50k, then this type of software may be a boon. You’ll be able to easily track their hours (provided they are computer-based workers!), including when they hop on the computer after the kids are in bed, or work through lunch. You’re going to have be careful about their hours for payroll purposes anyway–might as well gather a bit more data while you’re at it. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should deduct all the time they spend on a non-work related website. Remember, the most important thing is the end result, but knowing that you know what they are doing, might just cut that down.

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara December 16, 2015 at 6:55 pm

I work for architectural consultants, so time tracking is ESSENTIAL. But we’ve had problems with surfing FB, etc. Our employees have to bill a certain amount of time, which we’ve always considered generous, considering law firms make their people bill over 100%. We found an awesome, affordable program called TimeSolv. Don’t worry, I don’t get any money by recommending them, and I’m sure there are lots of other programs out there that are just as good. My boss and other staff now have on demand reports (before I was the only one who could give them that information) on how much they have billed so far that month, how much income that adds up to for the firm, etc. I can’t tell you how great it is to have that power in the hands of the employees. It gives them the responsibility to work the “right” amount. If they don’t, then we have a problem (although at my last firm, they never could discipline them). If they bill enough, then we let them create their own schedules. Win-win.

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Bunny December 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Really? You’ve succumbed to advertising? And with a time-tracking company no less. Yes, I like every minute of every day tracked said no human employee ever. Shame on you HR lady. You truly are now evil. Welcome to the dark side.

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LiteralGirl December 16, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Um, this is her blog, that we get to read for free. There are no auto-play videos, no big banners. You can choose to not read the post or decline to click on the one-word link. Let’s keep this all in perspective, Bunny.

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Slippy December 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm

The following trackers are being served by this website collecting data to sell:
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Yup perspective. Tracking software is a nasty little road to walk down. I like how evilhrlady mentions how not to use it.
But I know people and the temptation will be too great to resist for many managers. Plus it can be sticky situation when you have a BYOD policy.

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Evil HR Lady December 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm

You know what I love? Eating. Also paying rent. Yay advertisers!

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HappyWoman December 17, 2015 at 6:06 pm

I agree Bunny. No manager has every used time-tracking software for anything else other than spying on employees and for using it against them after the fact. The road to hell is paved with good intentions….

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charles December 16, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Time-tracking software should be used (assuming that your company is large enough that it is worth the investment) for BOTH non-exempt and exempt employees.

As you say, Evil, not to micro-manage them; but, to see how long things take to get done. Also, to see who is doing what; but, that depends on how detailed you want things too.

Here’s another reason why you should track exempt and non-exempt staff, along with consultants:

Even if everything seems to be going well, and you’re happy with the results; people do leave positions/companies and it will be necessary to know (not just “nice to know”; but honest-to-goodness “need to know”) so that you can let the new employee know what is expected.

This way you can tell interviewees what to expect. You will also know that the new hire isn’t a slacker because it took the former employee just as long to create those reports.

I have a disclaimer also; I train on various softwares and sometimes on time/expense tracking software and feel that everyone should be using it to better themselves. (both the individual and the organization)

Also, as a trainer, I have observed over the years management that tries to use tracking systems to micromanage staff will have staff finding ways to subvert the system to avoid being beaten up. That is just a part of human nature – avoid being beaten up. So, if you use any system to brow-beat employees then your data in that system will eventually be less-than-accurate. And, that helps no one.

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Evil HR Lady December 16, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Yeah, it has its purpose and that purpose should not be to micro manage. I like data. I even had a time tracker installed on my computer for a while so I could see where I was spending my time, but there are too many people who use my computer so it was kind of worthless.

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שעון נוכחות January 5, 2016 at 11:40 pm

I think time tracking is essential to every organization (3-4 employees and up).
However, many HR managers I meet tend to be concerned with this, so they initially start with less validations and rules.
Later on, after they see the employees are OK with the system, they add rules and processes.

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