How productive is your workforce? From the rudimentary punch clock systems that dominated factory floors in the early 1900s to time cards and modern employee time tracking solutions, for decades, organizations have attempted to answer this question.
- Fredrick Taylor’s scientific management theories seemed straightforward.
- Investigate employees’ routine workday duties,
- train them in the most efficient way to complete them,
and then set benchmarks for each one. If workers take longer than average, they’re unproductive. If they’re faster than average, they’re productive.
As workplaces evolve, management theory has progressed right alongside. Today, we understand that there’s much more to measuring productivity than identifying who gets to the finish line the fastest. Amongst other things, you need to be able to account for creativity, innovation, and the employee’s ability to function as part of a department.
While Taylor’s theories aren’t wholly debunked, it’s clear that modern organizations need to be able to track each worker’s output based on quality and overall value alongside simple efficiency to get an accurate picture of their productivity.
Enter employee time tracking software.
What is Time Tracking
At the most basic level, time tracking involves measuring time worked against the activities performed during that period.
However, the best time tracking apps offer much more than basic timesheet calculations. They essentially provide a dynamic dashboard showing a range of insights on each employee's working behavior, including the projects and processes they spend the majority of their time on and the tools and platforms they utilize to best perform that work.
Taken in aggregate over weeks and months, this information reveals critical intelligence on an individual’s or team’s working capacity, style of work, and by extension, their real productivity.
Types of Time Tracking Software
Roughly speaking, we can break down the time tracking software into four different categories:
- Timesheet Software - These are used to keep track of employee workdays. While it can take workers hours to fill out and submit manual timesheets, their digital alternatives provide an easier, more accurate way to record hours worked across different projects. These software are also fully customizable, so you can add new fields for specific groups of employees, facilitating more in-depth reporting.
- Time Recording Software - These applications provide users with many automated features to log and track their workday hours. Standard functionalities include easy time entry, submission/approval workflows, and adjustable benchmarks for employees.
- Time Clock Software - As the name implies, these tools automatically track metrics related to employee workdays. From hours worked, to idle hours, absentee days, and shifts worked. The statistics provide an in-depth view of each employee’s working behavior.
- Automatic Time Tracking Software - These tools act as complete productivity monitoring platforms that encompass automated functionalities similar to time clock software with additional project management and accounting/billing integrations. You can leverage real-time time tracking capabilities to drive project planning, budgeting, and pricing. Meanwhile, payroll-related functions help drive accurate employee remuneration and invoicing.
What to Look for in Automatic Time Tracking Software
So, I touched on what features you can expect from this software. But the truth is that the market is constantly expanding, and there are many options available, from free time tracking tools to much pricier enterprise solutions. However, if we want to categorize these products broadly, then we can do so based on a couple of critical criteria:
- What do they measure?
- What kind of reporting is provided?
So, let’s tackle the first point, to begin with. One of the biggest concerns regarding time tracking software is employee privacy. After all, nobody likes to be spied on. You have a range of choices in terms of invasiveness.
What Do They Measure?
Looking at some of the more established names in the industry. They advertise real-time monitoring features, including GPS tracking, remote screenshot capabilities, and mouse and keyboard tracking.
Meanwhile, some apps position themselves more in the project management space. These solutions provide relatively more limited time tracking features. Apart from simple time-in and time-out functions for users, the software allows employees to manually log hours for tasks or a project.
Finally, you have tools like timegram, which split the difference between these two approaches. This time tracking tool automatically records and groups tasks in Highlights, allowing users to focus on work instead of manually logging activities and time worked. At the end of a given work period, employees just have to filter out these Highlights into their relevant work and simply submit this as a log. In this way, the product puts the control in the hands of users while still providing managers the visibility they need on employee productivity.
What Kind of Reporting Do They Provide?
Most tools on the market today provide a centralized management system for managers to view metrics for each employee, but the way information is presented can vary quite significantly.
Going back to our market assessment, many employee time tracking software enable users to submit their timesheets directly to managers, who can then approve these and send them back with additional feedback. Managers can also view overall project completion timelines in self-generated Gantt charts. However, one of the significant drawbacks of these tools is that they don’t offer integrated invoice tracking, so hours billed and worked need to be manually calculated.
At the same time, more mobile-driven competitors provide additional functionalities, such as attendance tracking to monitor employee absentee rates, holidays taken, sick days, and other related metrics. They also allow you to track hours billed against each project to calculate overall profitability.
timegram’s bird’s eye view reporting dashboard offers good flexibility for managers looking to maintain a realistic view of their employee productivity. It offers the aforementioned invoice and project tracking features, but it also provides additional details on the status of different projects and the daily/weekly working capacity of each team member. In addition, reports can be immediately shared using prebuilt templates, so stakeholders across the organization can get a good sense of what different teams are working on and their overall effectiveness.
3 Ways Employees Benefit from Time Tracking Tools
It’s important to note that time tracking and employee satisfaction are not at odds. Consider this. The average employee is productive for only about 31% of their workday. But, of course, that’s not by design. In fact, a large part of the problem is down to a lack of proper time management.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You come into work with a prioritized list of tasks that you want to get accomplished. But as soon as you get into your seat, you’re met with a completely unrelated issue that you have to fix. Before you know it, you’re 5 hours into your workday and still haven’t made a dent in your to-do list.
So, how does time tracking help? Well, first of all, understanding how you work and where you spend the bulk of your effort is the first step toward improving your productivity. Then, analyze reports from a time tracking app over a week or month, and you will start to see some common patterns emerge, and they might point towards issues you might not expect.
For example, if software shows you’re spending a solid hour on your work messaging app every day, and you know this time is spent providing feedback to the same employee, you’ve immediately identified a roadblock to your productivity. Now, you can think about shifting the individual to another team or changing their designated duties to reduce the burden of mentorship off your shoulders.
Implement a System of Feedback
You can also think of time tracking reports as a system of real-time feedback on your performance. Whether your manager is chiming in with their thoughts on your metrics or not, you can take a look at your task completion rates and overall project completion times and measure them against hours worked to identify where you’re underperforming and even uncover where your greatest strengths lie. This type of self-awareness can only benefit your effectiveness over time.
Set Standards and Work Towards Them
Continuous improvement requires clear and achievable goals. With time tracking software, you have all the metrics at hand to achieve those benchmarks. If you’re a salesperson that wants to spend more time prospecting, taking a look at the reporting will show you how long you’re currently spending on the task. Let’s say your time tracking software reveals you spend 20% of the time on this activity on a good workday. Now you have a goal to achieve and better.
3 Ways Managers and Business Owners Benefit from Time Tracking
When we’re examining the benefits of employee tracking software for managers, business owners, and C-suite executives, the advantages are clear.
Make Payroll More Efficient
To start with, automation takes away all the guesswork from payroll calculations. For example, instead of documenting when employees timed in and timed out, you can simply trust the software to provide an accurate picture of billable hours for each worker.
Improve Project Management
This information can be further drilled down into the work performed per project. So, you can start to look into the numbers and see how much time is spent on different phases of a project, including revisions, client communications, and production itself. These insights can help you understand how to improve project delivery, which individuals are performing, and underperforming based on their roles, and ultimately how successful a team is in their given duties. Then, moving forward, you can adjust things like pricing and working policies based on the outcomes from your assessments.
Optimize for Employee Performance
Performance management is another crucial area where time tracking software can reap big dividends. As a manager, it can be easy to give feedback to your employees based on intuition and experience but adding accurate data to the picture adds real weight to these communications.
Think about it. If you have analytics showing how your employee works and what they contribute to overall project timelines, then you can tailor your advice and possible incentives to match the data. That means you’re far more likely to find alignment with your employees.
Ready to Get Started with Remote Employee Time Tracking?
At timegram, we offer a comprehensive time tracking tool that can be leveraged by individuals, small businesses, and enterprises alike. So whether you’re a freelancer looking to automate invoicing for your clients or a manager who wants to improve productivity across their team, our in-depth functionalities, and user-friendly UI will help you achieve the results you need. Sign up for free, now!