For many businesses, time tracking is a major speed bump in an already complicated data-management process.
But you can avoid the obstacles associated with recording and reporting your team’s work hours by creating a simple, streamlined system that doesn’t interrupt the workflow of those involved.
In this article, we discuss tips to help you improve time tracking in your company regardless of the type of business you run, the size of the operation, or the number of employees on staff.
Table of Contents
What Is Time Tracking?
Time tracking is the business practice of recording and collating information about when each member of your team works and doesn’t work.
For businesses that pay their employees by the hour, time tracking is essential for calculating the paychecks and benefits they receive.
Team members clock in when they arrive at the workplace — or when they start work if they’re part of a remote team — and clock out when they leave or stop work for the day. Some businesses also require their employees to clock in and out during breaks so management can get a more accurate understanding of the actual time they spend on a particular task or job.
For businesses that pay their employees a salary, many HR departments use time tracking and the data it provides as a means to observe and control project costs.
Team members record the amount of time they work on a specific task throughout the day, and that data is then incorporated into calculating the true cost of the job (and even estimating expenses for future jobs).
At its most basic, the theory of time tracking is fairly simple and straightforward. But when your business takes into account the total number of employees, tax laws, payroll, and many other factors, managing the data becomes a full-time job itself.
That’s why it’s essential to do everything you can to make the system in your business as effective and efficient as possible.
Tips To Improve Time Tracking
1) Check Local, State, And Federal Laws
One of the very first things you should do when setting up a time tracking system is to check local, state, and federal laws.
These regulations give you a basic framework for how your system should and shouldn’t operate. With those mandates in mind, you can then build a process that is effective and productive for your business.
To make sure your business is in full compliance with local, state, and federal laws (such as scheduling, overtime, wages, or recordkeeping), consult an attorney who is familiar with labor laws in your industry.
2) Keep It Simple
However you choose to run your business’s time tracking system, keep the process as simple as possible.
For example, the clock-in/clock-out operation should only take a few seconds from start to finish. That way, the process won’t feel like a major speed bump in the workflow and productivity of the team members who have to use it every day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s punching a paper sheet, swiping an ID card, typing a PIN, having their fingerprint scanned, or, best of all, clocking in and out using the Inch app, anything more than 10 or 15 seconds is too long to be productive.
3) Make Use Of Modern Tools
Modern tools, such as Inch, give both managers and employees powerful features that make the entire data-gathering process seamless and easy from start to finish.
On the employee’s side of things, modern tools give your team the power to clock in and out of shifts, tasks, and projects from any phone, tablet, laptop, or designated terminal whether it’s on their person, mounted in a vehicle, or in the office.
You can even set up geofences around your place of business or a remote worksite so that, if an employee is outside those limits, they won’t be allowed to clock in until they cross into the defined space.
That’s powerful control over when and where your team works!
On the manager’s side of things, modern tools open up a new world of control — not just as a time clock app, but also as a communication method, a distribution channel, and a payroll processing tool.
With the data that digital apps provide, you’ll gain insight into how your team works and how you can improve the workflow so that they perform even better.
4) Automate The Time Tracking Process
Most businesses find that automating their time tracking process with workforce management software is the best way to maintain compliance in an ever-changing industry.
Regardless of what your business does and where it’s located, team management software is the best solution for streamlining the number-gathering process.
Automation of this type makes it easy to:
- Set wages by employee or position
- See how much each shift will cost
- Forecast and optimize labor costs while you schedule
- Stay on budget
- Avoid potential overtime
- View labor as a percentage of sales
- Create payroll reports that give you insight into how your business is running
For more information on the best way to automate the processes in your business, check out these articles from the Inch blog:
5) Create Documentation And Instructions
Perfecting your time tracking system starts with creating documentation and instructions for all the processes involved.
Make the instructions as clear and as comprehensive as possible. That way there’s little or no confusion as to what you’re asking your team members to do when they start work in the morning and leave work in the evening.
Once you’re satisfied with your documentation, make it available to all your employees. The best place to publish this information is in your employee handbook. And the best place to store your employee handbook is online.
Then, regardless of where your distributed team or field service employees work every day, they’ll be able to access the information whenever they need it.
When all the procedures are collected in a place that your team can access at all times, it cuts down on — or all but eliminates — the need for managers and supervisors to take time out of their day to address problems.
6) Train Your Team
Another important thing to consider when implementing or upgrading a time tracking system is how you’re going to train your team. They’ll need hands-on instruction and guidance to operate the equipment and have at least a basic understanding of how and why it all works.
Give them as much information as possible — in both your documentation and in-person training — so that they can see how keeping track of their time spent on a job or task will benefit both them and the business.
Training your team in this way will help make everything more productive and reduce confusion and errors later on.
7) Include Time Tracking In Your Onboarding Process
Introducing your team to a new time tracking program — or tweaking an existing process — is one thing, but getting a new hire up to speed is an entirely different animal.
Your current employees are already familiar with the way your time tracking works, so making changes, both large and small, isn’t a life-altering event.
New employees, on the other hand, are coming into your business with no experience in the way you track time. That can make for a rather steep learning curve.
To make their transition into your business easier, include time tracking training in your onboarding process.
8) Prevent Time Theft
Time theft occurs when an employee deliberately, accidentally, or negligently accepts wages for work they didn’t do. However the theft happens, it can have a negative impact on the way your business operates.
Instead of accepting the loss, create a comprehensive time tracking system that prevents theft from occurring in the first place.
You can do this by including the following tips in your standard operating procedures:
- Discourage long breaks
- Write the rules for time tracking in your employee handbook
- Define time theft so that your team knows what it is and what it isn’t
- Incorporate biometrics into the process
It’s also a good idea to put in print the various penalties (e.g., a written warning, docking pay, suspension, termination) your business will levy should an employee engage in time theft.
9) Collect The Right Information
Another way to improve time tracking in your business is to collect the right information and leave the rest behind.
At the very least, you’ll need the start and end time for the days your employees work. Depending on how your business is set up, you may also need team members to record their breaks, lunches, and even their time on task for various jobs.
But, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If your business doesn’t require that level of detail, there’s no need to include it in the process — it just makes things more complicated for everyone involved.
Keep things as simple as possible while still ensuring that your business has the data it needs to succeed.
10) Make Your Time Tracking Mobile
In today’s hyper-mobile business climate, one of the best things you can do to improve time tracking in your business is to prioritize mobility and accessibility.
Modern apps and software are typically available to use wherever there’s an internet, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection.
With the Inch app, for example, all your team needs is internet access and a Windows, Android, or iOS/macOS device. Everything is based in the cloud so they can access all of the necessary time tracking features on whatever device they happen to be using at the time.
This is the perfect solution for teams of all types — be they in-office, distributed, remote, or field service — because it allows your employees to clock in and out of work and track their time on task wherever the work takes them.
11) Simplify Time Tracking For Managers
Earlier in this article, we discussed how important it is to keep the time tracking process as simple as possible for your team members.
On the other side of the coin, it’s equally important to keep the time tracking process as simple as possible for your managers (and those who have to deal with the numbers).
Modern time tracking software gives you access to a lot of data. In some ways, that’s a good thing. In other ways, it’s a bad thing.
The sheer depth and scope of information you can get from your time tracking program can give you insight into the inner workings of your team and your business.
That same depth and scope, though, can easily overwhelm you to the point that the usefulness of the data you’re looking at gets completely lost.
The most advanced time tracking apps, such as Inch, have found a way to give you all the benefits of complete data access with none of the drawbacks that usually accompany it.
With the simplicity and customization these apps provide, your managers will spend less time crunching numbers and more time driving your team and your business toward success.
12) Backup All Of Your Time Tracking Data
Few things cause more panic, stress, and dread than accidentally deleting some or all of the time tracking data you need to finish a particular task (e.g., payroll, billing, performance review prep).
Avoid this situation completely by backing up your information at least once a week.
The most straightforward solution is to copy everything and store it offline (e.g., hard copy or digital copy) just in case your business computer system crashes.
Even if you’re secure in your online time tracking solution, it’s a good idea to download, export, and save the time tracking data somewhere outside the tool itself (again, it could be hard copy or digital copy).
Do this at least once every quarter to ensure that you can rebuild from the backups you made if there is a problem.
13) Save All Of Your Time Tracking Data
Through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal government and the IRS require that all businesses keep time tracking data for a minimum of two years.
This applies to any records on which your business based wage computations, including:
The federal government also requires businesses to keep any payroll records that result from said time tracking data — typically for more than two years.
Visit the Department of Labor’s website for more details.
14) Integrate Time Tracking With Other Systems
What do payroll, workers’ compensation, benefits administration, overtime calculations, work distribution, and employee performance all have in common? They all depend on time tracking.
Because those systems are so intertwined, integration is the key to their success.
In the past, your business may have attempted to do this by jury-rigging four, five, or even six separate apps together to get the job done. That, however, is not the best solution.
Modern time tracking software brings all of your workforce management activities into one user-friendly solution that allows for seamless data transfer from the very beginning of the process to the very end.
Apps like Inch give you the power to complete some of the most complicated processes (many of which we mentioned at the start of this section) in just a few clicks or taps.
Such integration saves time and money and ensures that your business maintains the most accurate records possible.
15) Ask For Feedback
Need more insight into the time tracking process and how to improve it? Ask your employees for feedback. They use the system every day and likely have some creative ideas to make it better.
Some of these ideas may be impractical to implement, but others may be just what you’ve been looking for to clear up a speed bump that was causing problems for everyone involved.
Sit down with your team — both as a group and individually — to brainstorm ways your business can make the time tracking process even better.
16) Offer Incentives For Accurate Time Tracking
If your team struggles to keep accurate records of their time at work, offer incentives to motivate them to be more precise.
For example, if everyone’s time card is complete and on time during the next pay period, you’ll spring for a catered lunch the following Wednesday.
Get creative with your incentives and do it consistently, and the accuracy of your team’s time tracking will improve by leaps and bounds.
17) Follow Up With Timesheet Reminders
Timesheet reminders are a great way to improve the final phase of your team’s time tracking responsibilities (i.e., turning in the completed timesheet before the deadline).
Depending on the technology you have available, you may choose to distribute your timesheet reminders by:
- Handing out a hard copy memo
- Talking to each employee one at a time
- Sending an email
- Texting a reminder
- Setting up a push notification
Regardless of how your business chooses to deliver timesheet reminders, they’re a convenient and easy way to improve and conclude the employee-facing part of the time tracking process.
18) Set Minimums For Time On Task
We talked about collecting the right time tracking data (not too much and not too little) earlier in this article. If your business records time on task, set minimums for this activity so you’re not inundated with one- and two-minute entries.
Such small numbers make your employees’ time cards both difficult to decipher and difficult to calculate when it comes time to write payroll checks or bill clients.
Instead, set your minimum at 10 or 15 minutes and take advantage of the federal law that allows employees to round up or down, depending on where their time worked falls within a specific range.
If your business tracks time in 10-minute increments, for example, 5:01, 5:02, 5:03, and 5:04 would round down to 5:00 for payroll purposes, while 5:05, 5:06, 5:07, 5:08, and 5:09 would round up to 5:10.
Similarly, if your business tracks time in 15-minute increments, any time between 5:01 and 5:07.59 rounds down to 5:00, while any time between 5:08 and 5:14.59 rounds up to 5:15.
This concept also applies to tracking time on task for the purposes of billing clients and customers.
The Key To Easy And Accurate Time Tracking
The key to easy and accurate time tracking is choosing the right software for the job. Look no further than the Inch app and suite of tools.
As a time clock tool, Inch is the best. But that’s not the only thing our app does. Inch actually takes time tracking to the next level.
In fact, we designed Inch to make it easier for managers and team members — be they remote or on-site — to get aligned on their to-dos, communicate with one another, and ensure that all tasks get completed on time.
Regardless of where they’re working, those with the Inch app can perform a wide variety of tasks right from their phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, including:
- Working from a shared task list
- Getting clarity on work that needs to get done
- Receiving voice-assisted reminder notifications
- Clocking in and out of tasks at different locations
- Completing work assigned to them
- Communicating with managers and each other
All of that and more without having to touch a mobile screen or report back to the office.
For managers, Inch makes it easy to distribute tasks manually across their teams or populate tasks automatically based on preset conditions.
This unique feature ensures that all work is covered and keeps employees accountable and clear on their specific responsibilities, expected outcomes, and deadlines.
Managers can assign work to the employees that are closest to the jobsite or generate tasks automatically as the need arises and follow work progress and task completion in real time.
Inch helps eliminate frustration for employees, headaches for managers, and inefficiencies for the business.
Whether you need time tracking solutions for your team or help keeping your employees on task and focused, Inch gives you unprecedented control over an inherently complicated process and makes it easier than ever to create the best workflow for your business.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.