The merits of time tracking for productivity, transparency, and accountability in the workplace are well known. However, time tracking across all industries requires careful thought and implementation. For example, while it makes perfect sense to time track workers who are paid by the hour, such as those in the service or construction industry, it doesn’t seem as straightforward for those who work in the creative field.
For a lot of writers, designers, artists, and others who are in similar professions, it’s difficult to quantify knowledge-work and personal skill with numbers. Most have unique working styles and thought-processes that lead to creative output. And across the board, creative employees feel that the output they deliver should mean more than the time it takes for them to complete it.
Business owners and managers don’t disagree. However, being privy to the business-side of things mean they also understand the need for it. Agencies and consulting firms that offer creative services typically charge clients based on the amount of time they spend on a project. It’s necessary for their revenue to track billable hours, as well as ensure timely execution and submission of deliverables.
So, the question is how then can you track the time of creative teams without making them feel micromanaged? How can you implement a time tracking policy without making them feel like you’re adding more on their already full plates? And how can you leverage time tracking to boost productivity and morale in the workplace?
Here are some tips to make time tracking work for your creative teams:
1. Establish its relevance and purpose
When employees are told to track time, they end up doing it as an afterthought. Time tracking, quite simply, takes precious time away from actual creative work. And because of that, they tend to see the process of logging in hours and minutes as an unnecessary and tedious task. Creative employees who are required to track time will do it as a haphazard, last-minute chore–only so they can comply with HR or accounting policies.
The result? The data you gather becomes a rough estimate of the real-time worked for a project.
For time tracking to deliver meaningful insight and results, it has to be done consistently and accurately. For employees to agree to this, they have to recognize and acknowledge its purpose.
Make sure you communicate the importance of time tracking beyond just logging in hours. For example, you can explain that their input is critical to your company’s ability to bill clients accurately. The data that you can gather will justify the need to scale up for additional resources, which ultimately helps the creative teams handling the account.
2. Make sure they can track their time easily
Generally, creative employees aren’t against time tracking. It would help significantly, however, if the entire process was easier.
If your current time tracking system requires employees to remember hours and input time on spreadsheets manually, you’d be hard-pressed to get creative teams to do this regularly. The process is confusing and prone to error. It also requires them to use brain power on a tedious administrative task that they could otherwise dedicate to creative work.
By using a straightforward, user-friendly process and system, you guarantee both compliance and productivity among creative teams. This ensures that you’re not taking too much time away from actual creative work so they can attend to administrative tasks instead.
3. Involve the whole team in the entire process
Like any new policy or process that you want to implement across the whole company, you have to include everyone in the decision-making process. When managers or executive teams implement new rules and just expect everyone to follow, push-back will be inevitable.
You can easily prevent this by opening up communication channels with decision-makers and creative teams. After all, they’re the ones who will have to follow the new system.
- Gathering their input regarding time tracking and understanding their concerns and challenges about the process.
- Discussing what the best approach is, given all their input.
- Testing out the new procedures to see how it affects their working process.
- Listening objectively to their feedback.
Be sure to keep communication lines open and ask for both their positive and negative feedback so you can take the necessary next steps to improve it.
4. Choose the right tools
Today, businesses have a multitude of time tracking platforms to choose from. In fact, according to statistics, “The average person uses 13 different methods to control and manage their time.“
Online time tracking solutions are one of the best options a company can go for.
Consider, for example, the fact that creative teams today are typically not housed under a single roof. It’s not uncommon for an agency to have in-house creatives and remote team members working towards the completion of a project. To that end, an online time tracking tool can offer centralized tracking, improve transparency, as well as provide accurate and automated recording of hours for creative employees.
Dispersed teams can log their time while working from home or on their mobile devices when on the go. Businesses have access to additional features such as GPS tracking, which automatically logs the location of an employee when they log in and out. Some even have options for automated calculations that make invoicing and billing faster. Data is sent to a central dashboard in real-time, which managers can review to monitor project progress or to help accounting teams process payroll easier. The simplicity of the applications means creative employees aren’t bogged down by the tedium of time tracking–they can comply with time tracking policies and still maintain optimum productivity.
Time tracking is central to measuring efficiency and output. Why? Because regardless of what department you’re in, no matter what your profession is, you cannot improve what you cannot measure.
When you make an effort to thoughtfully implement new policies that are critical to your bottom line, you will inevitably reap its rewards. In this case, time tracking can help underscore the hard work that creative teams put into a project. It ensures that creative teams are compensated accurately for the time they invest in a project, and it helps other departments do their jobs faster and easier. Most of all, it gives a business the opportunity to gain valuable insight that will give creative teams the chance to work more efficiently, deliver high-quality output, and prove their value to an organization.
Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online employee time tracking app that helps over 8,000 companies all around the world track time.
Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better.
When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.