We live and breathe time-sheets at Allocate. We are obsessed with making time-keeping as pain free as possible for our customers, because, let’s be honest, at best, employees tolerate timesheets - at worst, they hate them.

We know that deploying time sheets is more than a technical challenge; you’ll need to win hearts and minds too if you expect to have accurate and timely timesheets. That’s why we’ve set out these 5 tips to help you get your team fired up about timesheets.

Remove Obstacles and Motivation Killers

Your employees really don’t need to have any excuse to avoid filling in timesheets, yet many employers put huge obstacles in their way, killing what little time keeping motivation they had to begin with.

Two of the biggest motivation killers are poor user interfaces and a lack of mobile timekeeping options.

Let’s face it; modern workers demand simple and intuitive interfaces, and are increasingly mobile. Modern professionals want and expect the same mobile-based access to workplace software as they experience in their day-to-day (facebook, instagram, banking, etc.) lives. If your teams can’t log their billable time on the go – and have to wait until they get back to the office – they’ll feel constrained by the timekeeping process, which is demotivating. Being able to log time on the go - on transit to or from work, or on the couch after a long day of work - is a necessary convenience. Ensure you choose or switch to a timekeeping system with web and mobile accessibility.

Another motivation killer is an awkward user interface that inevitably leads to frustrating and time-consuming time logging sessions, with associated cursing and fists banging on tables. Time keeping is hard enough, try and choose a solution with a pleasant interface that works as you would expect it to.

Explain WIIFM (What is in it for me? )

In his Fast Company article, Rodger Dean Duncan, a strategic change management specialist, advocates the use of WFIIM (What’s in it for me?) as one of the best ways to inspire.

Showing how the timekeeping system will benefit the individual – and not just the company as a whole – is perhaps one of the best ways to win the hearts and mind of your team.

For example, you could argue that properly completed time sheets will eliminate the systemic under-billing problems, leading to larger profits and larger individual profit-related bonuses.

You could also explain to your colleagues that properly completed timesheets allows your company to understand who is under and over-worked. Just like nobody likes to be overworked, it can be similarly frustrating if you have nothing to do at work and are constantly bored. Timesheets allow for projects to be properly staffed so both employees, clients, and the business are happy.

Another idea is explaining that timesheets aren’t used to spy on or make sure that people are working while they’re at work. Rather, they’re used because they help your business prevent over-servicing, scope creep, and allow for better forecasting for future projects. All of these make the business more efficient and profitable, leading to a happier team.

Perhaps the above WIIFM statements don’t resonate with you. That’s fine, but hopefully it gives you inspiration to find one that resonates with you and your team.

Automatic Time Tracking

There is a lot of frustration out there with the process of time keeping, much of which can be alleviated by introducing automated time tracking to your time logging process.

Take the creative industry for example, who are are one of the biggest users of timesheets and who are one of the most frustrated cohorts too. They’re frustrated because they work in a highly fragmented way; they regularly shift from client to client, which can make time logging laborious. Sara Larsen, a creative professional and industry influencer, illustrates this point in her Linked-In article titled, Why Creative People Hate Time Sheets. She says, “In an agency business you work with 20-45 tasks a week, for several different projects/clients”. In addition, current research suggests that typical workers can switch tasks every 11 minutes. Suffice to say, modern professionals are constantly switching tasks, and this only makes timekeeping harder.

It’s easy to see how diligently maintaining time sheets in this highly fragmented working environment can be tiresome and demotivating.

The good news is that automatic time tracking can remove much of this frustration and help your team feel more engaged with timekeeping processes.

This software should automatically record time spent editing documents, writing emails, or using applications on your computer. It should also be able to reference your calendar to understand time spent in client meetings. You’re probably already referencing your calendar to log your time, so it’s only logical that your time entry system should pull that data in for you.

Automatic time-tracking can remove the pain of recalling what you did and for how long, and can make timekeeping feel less laborious and frustrating. In an ideal world, it would be so easy that your company wouldn't actually mind doing it. At Allocate, our intelligent timekeeping system is so easy to use, people actually enjoy it. (They’re words, not ours.)

Try a Lighthearted "Naughty List"

So far, we’ve described positive ways of improving timesheet compliance through making it easier and explaining how each person at the company can benefit from it. If we’re comparing “carrot vs stick” approaches, these would align more with the carrot. However, research from management guru Peter Drucker suggests that theory X types in your workforce (i.e. those who are not self motivated) “have to be driven and need the stick too.”

One such “stick” based motivational approach is to place staff on a publicly available “naughty list” that showcases the worst culprits for timesheet tardiness.

Though you may not want to be in the business of publicly shaming your employees, a lighthearted “naughty list” can be an effective tool because of its roots in psychology.

Well known psychologist and author, Robert Cialdini, writes about a topic he calls “commitment and consistency” in his book Influence. Cialdini says, “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment”. Though employees may not explicitly be committing to filling their timesheet in everyday, the simple fact that a list will be circulated, showing those who haven’t completed their timesheets, is a sort of “soft commitment” to complete your time entries on time.

Also, who wants to be on a naughty list!? This approach should give people motivation to complete their time, on time. This tip is given with a big caveat, which is to make sure to keep it lighthearted! It will get the point across without making people actually fearful of coming to work. In fact, fear isn’t a powerful motivator.

To demonstrate this, Eli Broad, founder of two Fortune 500 companies, said the following about using fear as a motivator in the workplace.

“ Think about the last time fear motivated you to do something well, to exceed your limits, or to really contribute. I’m guessing you won’t recall a positive experience. Fear does not inspire loyalty, creativity, or genuine commitment. It’s a waste of time.”

We couldn’t agree with Eli more.

Reward your Team for Completing Timesheets on Time

Many of your team members will respond to incentives, so why not give rewards to those who finish their timesheets on time everyday for a week or for a month? You could follow the lead of UMarketing (an online marketing agency) who entered their most reliable timesheet users into a prize draw for a $25 Amazon voucher.

Or if you don’t think that approach will rock your work culture , why not copy the approach of J Walter Thompson (a global branding agency) who will only unlock the beer fridge once all timesheets are submitted. No-one wants to have the title of being the office beer blocker, preventing your employees from having a well deserved drink after a tough week.

*Changing the attitudes of your employees toward timesheet completion is not going to be an easy task. The approach that you adopt should take into account the make-up and culture of your business. Some employees may respond better to a stick based approach and other staff may be more motivated by a carrot. In some situations a combined approach may work. Generating compliance around time-keeping is no easy feat, but the 5 tips above should help get your business started! *