Carrots, Sticks and Timesheets

Carrots, Sticks and Timesheets

Our CEO recently forwarded an article titled, “How agencies get employees to fill in their timesheets”, which mentioned how several agencies reward their employees who have completed their timesheets and punish those who have not. Whether it be locking the beer fridge or restricting access to popular social media sites, the message was clear — a carrot and stick system was necessary to get the employees to complete their timesheets. Many of the agencies reported that the completion rate had improved dramatically, but there was no mention that the punishment/reward system solved the timesheet dilemma entirely.

Last month, I had the pleasure of listening to Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, speak at the Qualtrics Insight Summit. If you’ve had the chance to read Freakonomics or Think Like a Freak, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Dubner believes in incentives. Dubner believes that not only do you need people to understand why they should be doing something, but you also need to incentivize them —  and you need to incentivize them correctly.

About a year ago we started a monthly drawing for a $25 Amazon.com Gift Card. All employees whose timesheets were submitted on time were entered into the drawing. While we did see a slight increase in the completion rate, there was no dramatic  change. Fast forward to the present, and we still spend an unnecessary amount of time chasing employees down and begging them to complete their timesheets.

Why? We incentivize the employees, but clearly it’s just not getting the job done. Maybe we are not incentivizing correctly … or maybe it’s because most employees do not understand the importance of completing timesheets. Timesheets are used by nearly every organization and have been around since, well, the beginning of time. But do employees know why?

As a Financial Administrator, timesheets are directly related to what I do. I refer to them every day and appreciate when I can open a project and know just how many hours have been spent working on it. Timesheets allow me to do my job. But why should my creative counterparts enter timesheets? They’re just the company’s way of keeping tabs on employees, right? Wrong.

Time entry is essential because it allows account managers to properly plan and budget projects and prevents employees from working 12+ hour days. The excuse I hear most often is “I don’t have time to work on timesheets.”  But this is exactly why they should want to complete their timesheets. Because accurate, complete time records allow the company to recognize when it is short-staffed and overworking its employees. Timesheets back up the employees who say they are drowning in work. They also provide insight for any inefficiency that may be affecting a project or client.

On the flip side, it’s important to realize that employees might be nervous if they have less work than normal. It’s important to promote honest, accurate time tracking in order to avoid false information. Without accurate time tracking, the ability to determine profitability is impossible.

Many would argue that agencies should do away with time tracking altogether, but it’s not going to happen. Without timesheets, you lose the vital information that is crucial to the success of a company. So whether it is spending more time educating employees on why they should take time tracking seriously or increasing the incentive, a company has to rely on its employees to support them with the greatest measurement used to determine a company’s worth or value: Time.

As UMarketing’s Financial Administrator, Bridget handles the day-to-day financial and human resource responsibilities that keep UMarketing running smoothly.