Tracking how your team spends their time can have a wide range of positive impacts on the organization and its employees. But the idea of time tracking and providing estimates likely has many negative connotations for your workforce.
Some view time tracking as a way of micromanaging or holding team members firmly to their initial estimates. Some may consider this a lack of trust, where leadership needs to watch their every move. Or some might think tracking time is an effort to squeeze as much productivity out of them as possible.
If this is the first time you’re implementing time tracking software, you are likely to experience some pushback from the team. Workers may cite that estimating and tracking their time is a menial task, that it takes too much time, or that it’s an unnecessary step in managing projects effectively. Perhaps you already use time tracking software and employees think it’s too cumbersome to use.
To combat some of these issues you can communicate these main benefits to tracking time for employees:
- Creating a balanced workload
- Gaining insights quickly
- Financial benefits for your employees & company
These three main benefits are best explained with these 15 reasons. Let’s start with creating a balanced workload.
Creating a Balanced Workload
Creating a balanced workload may be considered the greatest benefit to tracking time for employees. Here are six ways tracking time creates a more balanced workload for team members:
1. Stop being overworked.
Oftentimes, the most valuable employees are assigned the most challenging work and the largest amount of tasks. Alternatively, the organization may have too many projects and not enough team members to fulfill the demand. Either way, this pile-up of tasks can make team members feel constantly behind which creates a stressful work environment. This constant stress can cause employees to churn more quickly or become less productive because they feel like they can never fully catch up. With time tracking tools, you can quickly see if one person is a bottleneck and offload that work onto someone else who has a lighter workload to prevent overwork from happening. Tracking time shows the reality of time team members are putting in and, when the load is high, it leads to great conversation points with management to achieve balance.
2. Manage scope creep.
In professional services positions, scope creep happens all too often. Leaders want to create a good relationship with the client so they say yes to small requests. After some time, all of those small requests may add up to a large amount of work. This puts a strain on the employee’s capacity which can cause them to fall behind on other project work or put in longer hours than usual. While you’re creating a good relationship with your client, you’re inadvertently hurting your most valuable assets, your employees. Time tracking software makes it easy to see how this scope creep adds up so leaders can have that difficult conversation with clients more easily. Protecting your employee’s valuable time and energy is essential.
3. Create realistic timelines.
In many industries, project managers and leadership estimate project timelines before talking to the people actually doing the work. Something you may think is a typical task may actually be more complicated. If you have already aligned on a timeline with a customer or client, you could have a problem. Leadership will either need to reset expectations with the customer, which can impact the long-term relationship. And more often, leadership pushes the team to work longer hours to accomplish the project within the timeline they provided. By allowing your team to input their estimates from the start, you can avoid overworking your employees and create a better relationship with your customer.
4. Manage your team better.
The best managers help coach their team on how to excel in their role and grow in the organization. If you don’t know how your team spends their time, then this makes developing your employees and justifying increased budgets much more difficult. Having a manager that can teach their team how to spend less time on busy work and more time on strategic initiatives is a win-win for the employee and the organization.
5. Start big projects more easily.
One of the most daunting tasks is starting a new big project. An easy way to make this seem less daunting is by breaking it down into smaller tasks. Creating small milestones makes taking on that big project a lot easier – plus it makes estimating how long it will take to complete much easier. Project management software that enables this level of time estimation and tracking make starting big projects seem much more manageable. Workers can more easily see how much of a project they can accomplish each week to reduce the stress of feeling overwhelmed with project work.
6. Align on the top priority.
Many times teams have multiple competing top priorities. Team members may not understand what the top priority is because they may not have visibility into all of the moving pieces for the entire organization. This is where time tracking can help ensure everyone is spending their time on the most important priorities. Knowing the #1 priority and focusing on that ensures your team won’t work overtime due to misaligned work assignments.
Gaining insights quickly
Next, let’s talk about the benefits of being able to gain insights quickly to make everyone’s job more efficient.
7. Know where time was spent.
Having details about where you spend your time can be really beneficial for employees. If your team’s time is taken up doing too many menial tasks, then they won’t have the bandwidth to work on more strategic initiatives that really move the business forward. Having data to back that up is powerful. Leadership may not understand how much of your time is spent on non-value-adding activities.
8. Have historical data ready.
for future project costing/estimation. We covered this briefly in the last section from the perspective of starting big projects more easily. But another benefit to this is being able to find these insights quickly to make your job easier. Instead of re-creating the wheel, you can simply make a template from a past project and make those minor adjustments which will make estimating the timeline and costs more accurately and easy.
9. Build reports with ease.
Pulling together insights on past project performance can be a huge undertaking. Without project management software, you will likely need to pull data together from disparate sources. And if you don’t have this historical record, you will need to rely on people’s memory. Recounting project details such as time spent on each task and project can easily be misrepresented. We all know that memory isn’t always a reliable indicator of actual metrics. A quick recount of time spend and costs with a project planning tool like LiquidPlanner will make it easy to create this habit and report on results more efficiently.
10. Improve on-time delivery.
One major benefit of time-tracking and estimating software is the ability to see the project progress in real-time. So leadership will know right away if a deadline is likely to be missed. Project management tools should show you if there is a bottleneck causing the project to be delivered late, other priorities are taking precedence, or if scope has increased so much that it puts the project deadline at risk. These intelligent insights give project leaders the ability to make quick decisions to prevent missed deadlines.
Financial benefits of time tracking
And finally let’s discuss the financial benefits of tracking time.
11. Billing & payroll tracking.
Professional services teams need to be able to easily track how much time (billable and non-billable) was spent on each client in order to bill clients accurately. Without simple and easy time-tracking software, tracking how much of your day was spent on each client makes this process a lot more difficult and time-consuming.
12. Clarity into actual project costs & profitability.
It’s important to be able to see in real-time if the project is going to come in over budget by looking at progress logged and the estimated time remaining at any point during the project life cycle. Tracking the actual amount of time spent working on projects and reviewing remaining estimates will show this insight to leadership to make quick decisions about resource allocation. And this helps ensure team members don’t need to work overtime to finish projects on time.
13. Allocate resources more efficiently.
It can be frustrating for team members to share resources with multiple teams. Aligning on a schedule for how and when each team will utilize a resource based on company priororities helps to make everyone’s job more efficient. This also significantly reduces office politics around fighting for shared resources and makes the resource use the most financially efficient. When you focus your team and non-labor resources on the most impactful work, it only benefits the bottom line.
14. Make a case for promotion.
When the time comes to ask for a promotion, it can be a difficult conversation to prepare for and initiate. But with time tracking software, leadership can quickly see a historical view of your impact to the organization and how this compares to others on the team.
15. Increase headcount.
Time tracking software can quickly show how much capacity a team and individuals have available. This level of insight can give teams the ability to quickly show how much more efficient they will be with an additional headcount, especially if their team consists of specialists. If your team is constantly a bottleneck that can’t be fulfilled by other resources, time-tracking and estimation software can show the impact of increasing headcount quickly and easily.
Time tracking can make a radical difference in the overall health and happiness of the team. It’s the difference between an overworked, stressed-out team and a well-oiled and productive team. Time tracking will help leadership plan appropriately for the available capacity of the team, and give everyone enough time to complete quality projects in a timely manner.
As you’re explaining these benefits to your team, it’s also important to address any of their concerns separately. Part of creating a happy and healthy team is through open and honest leadership by curating a positive company culture. If you’re not sure if you’re on the right track ask yourself:
- Are you giving your employees room to be human?
- Do you have fields to track the administrative tasks, ongoing learning, meetings, and more that aren’t necessarily billable hours?
- Are you implementing time tracking for the health of your employees or the bottom line?
It’s usually difficult to change people’s routines and habits in any setting quickly. So it’s important to communicate with employees the goal of the change and how it will positively impact them. This makes it more likely that they will actually follow through with the habit change and align everyone to the same goal.
About the Author
Missy Day has over ten years of experience developing and executing marketing strategies for various industries. She runs and operates her marketing consulting firm and various other small business ventures. She also specializes in burnout management and prevention for other corporate professionals.