10 steps for introducing time tracking to your employees

Introducing time tracking to your employees may seem like a daunting task if you’re a business owner who’s never tracked hours like this before. Where do you begin? How do you communicate the business need and benefits of a time tracking tool to your employees?

It’s important to start with your why when it comes to using time tracking for your business. Time tracking is useful for a number of reasons: understanding where your business’s money is going, how you’re billing clients, where and what your employees are working on, just to name a few. 

Once you’ve clarified your needs, you can move  to how your new tool is going to help the business grow, keep accurate records, and best of all, ensure your employees are getting paid accurately for the hours they work. 

Both the foundation and goals you build for how time tracking improves the business will help your employees understand and adopt the tool into their work routine. 

Let’s unpack what time tracking really is (and what it’s not), the valid concerns and questions your employees may have about time tracking, and the 10 key steps to help when you’re introducing time tracking to employees.

What is employee time tracking (and what is it not)? 

Time tracking is when businesses record the hours their employees have worked during a given, scheduled period, and accurately pay them for that time.

Time tracking often falls under the time and attendance part of a business that also includes the tracking of vacation or PTO, billable hours, and scheduling

Spanning from industries like retail, hospitality, construction, and more, time tracking is an important part of many different industries and used by many different types of workers

Ways time can be tracked include: 

  • Manual: Physical cards “punched in” on a time clock
  • Biometric: A biometric time clock is when a worker touches or scan a fingerprint or their entire palm on a device.
  • GPS: A location-based,GPS-enabled way of time tracking means  that employees don’t need to return to the office of their employer to clock in or out. 
  • Electronic: Using an app on a mobile phone, tablet, or POS to clock in or out or view a schedule. 

What does time tracking not include? Time tracking isn’t a surveillance tool. Because modern time tracking tools have access to personal data, like fingerprints or GPS-enabled locations, or can be accessed by an  employee’s personal device, it’s very easy to presume that time tracking is a way of checking in on employees to extreme—and totally unnecessary—levels. 

Ultimately, the purpose of time tracking is clear: to record business hours worked so you can accurately pay your employees what they’ve earned, and any billing to clients accurately reflects the completed work and the time it took to do so.

6 common concerns about time tracking

Employees will have questions and valid concerns about what time tracking is used for and how it will improve their work. It’s important to address any concerns your employees have about integrating a tool like this into their work routine, so keep lines of communication open to ensure your employees feel heard and validated. 

Micromanagement worries

On the surface, time tracking seems like a way for managers to know exactly what their employees are doing at work. This means micromanagement is a common concern. If a manager is keeping up with how many hours an employee is working or trying to see how time is spent on a project, how can’t that seem like they are controlling you in the workplace? It’s a worry that could possibly lead to unnecessary conflict

Employee privacy concerns

Privacy concerns around time tracking are twofold: managers surveilling worker hours and tasks, and the potential data held in time tracking software or systems. 

Managers having access to  the hours of which an employee is working, including how they’re spending their time and on which project, can appear to be an invasion of privacy. 

Or using a time tracking tool that requires a biometric measurement like fingerprints or a palm scan have some cause for concern. Where is that data being held? Who has access to it? 

Another layer of employee privacy is using an app on their device to clock in or out, check their schedule, or add in hours worked for a project. Similarly to any biometric data concerns, electronic, or app-based, there might be fear that time tracking tools could be open to a data breach that puts the employee at risk.

Lowered employee morale 

A lack of trust is a clear shot to lower employee morale. Tied to concerns around micromanagement and a lack of privacy, and not understanding the implementation of a new tool, employees may feel discontented with their position at work, and the work itself, when learning and using a brand new time tracking tool. 

Added work without clear benefit 

Introducing new tools, routines, or processes in the workplace needs to come with clear communication of their purpose: why is it being brought in and how is it going to benefit me?

Without communicating the perks of the tools you’re bringing in, employees can assume that time tracking takes, well, time.  It can be normal for workers to think that time tracking requires them to carve out time to update specific projects, bills to clients, hours they have worked or planned time off. Without knowing the why behind using a time tracking tool, it can seem like added work just because. 

Technology complexities and information overload 

One might think that today’s generation is technologically savvy, equipped to navigate new tools on their personal or work devices with ease. But that isn’t always true, and something that can’t be counted on if you’re going to bring time tracking into your business. There’s still a learning curve, training and implementation, and perhaps a few bumps along the way when it comes to bringing on a new tool for employees to use. 

Complex systems shouldn’t be a deterrent but be mindful that it takes time to learn something new, even if you have proper documentation and training manuals. Your system of choice may have a few extra steps required, or an employee may need to read and re-read documentation to understand how to use it. Everyone learns at a different pace. 

Time tracking validates job cuts 

Likely one of the biggest concerns an employee can have about using time tracking is if management is implementing it to see where job cuts can be made. An employee may think that their manager is noticing that their  time isn’t being used efficiently, or that money is being lost because of an employee’s position. Which is why communication is critical. Without proper explanation, context, or consideration of what the tool actually does, an employee may think a manager will use it to justify cutting their job. 

The benefit of time tracking for employees

The benefits of time tracking far outweigh the concerns. When introducing time tracking to your employees, begin by discussing how this tool is going to help them at work. It can be hard for anyone to understand why a change is being made without an explanation, or going through how those changes will improve a situation, so make sure you incorporate this into your training. 

Benefits for employees include:

  • Specific data for billing: If your employees bill for their hours worked, time tracking tools can help ensure precise payroll data for what team members are working on and for how long. Who-is-doing-what-task becomes clear to manage with time tracking. 
  • Accurate data for paying employees: Hourly employees who rely on scheduling and clocking in and out of their shifts greatly benefit from time tracking to ensure the hours they are scheduled for and work are indeed what will appear on their pay.
  • Agency over hours worked and schedule: Time tracking isn’t a surveillance tool—it empowers employees to maintain agency and accountability over the hours they work, how much to bill a client, and keep on track to complete a project. Time tracking helps keep employees in control of their schedules and time worked through easy-to-find data. 
  • Transparency and trust: Time tracking provides a window into employee work. It’s a great way to reassure employers that their employees are working, and to keep fostering a trusting, transparent relationship. 
  • Productivity improvement: A neat way to use time tracking is as a productivity tool.Time tracking can help employees and teams see patterns in their working habits, such as how long they stay focused on a billable task. Time tracking can be used to increase productivity without depleting your employees. 

Introducing time tracking to your employees in 10 easy steps 

Now, you know what time tracking is, along with the benefits it has for employees, plus some valid concerns you can address. If you’re ready to bring time tracking into your business, use the following step-by-step guide on how to introduce time tracking to your employees.  

1. Assess and select your time tracking tool  

First and foremost, bringing a time tracking tool into your tech stack or operation is a choice that needs to be made for the business and by the business. 

Understand the purpose of time tracking and if it’s being incorporated to solve revenue, operational, or scheduling concerns. 

Make a list informed by following: 

  • What current business needs does time tracking help?
  • Is time tracking going to solve any problems for the business?
    • Lost revenue
    • Scheduling
    • Project confusion and employee accountability
    • Productivity
    • Accurate billing to clients
    • More efficient payroll process
  • Will time tracking be something the business uses long-term? 
  • Does everyone need to use time tracking or only select employees? 
    • If everyone, will you need to create a timeline and rolling training system to capture everyone? 
    • If it’s only a select group of employees using time tracking, what will they need that the rest of your employees don’t to support using the new tool?

From there, research what type of time tracking tools fit your business best. 

After a rigorous consideration process, select your time tracker. 

2. Create a time tracking policy and company requirements 

Before introducing time tracking to your employees, create a policy and any company requirements on how the tool will be used. It’s important to build this foundation for the purpose of time tracking before any employee begins using it. If you’ve set this foundation, no matter if training or documentation or even upgrades to the tool occur, you can continually point back to the why as reasoning to continue on with this process.

Some time tracking best practices to include are:

  • Thorough details of what time is being tracked such as work hours, full schedules, hours contributed to a project that need to be billed, PTO, and overtime.
  • Build out the process for how and when time needs to be tracked.
  • Avoid chaos by making the policy clear, concise, and easy-to-understand about when time needs to be added to a tracker, how often employees are expected to use it, and any other responsibilities you require of them for the tracker. 

3. Introduce time tracking to your employees with clear internal communications

After you’ve set your company’s requirements and reasoning for getting a time tracker, and have created a policy around using it, the next step is to draft internal communications for implementation and employee use. 

Your internal communications are the starting point to broadly announce this new change in process. It sets the tone for how an employee or manager is going to feel about using a time tracker, and if they understand what it’s for or not. Keep employee benefits top of mind when drafting, and address some key concerns right away. 

Introduce time tracking with an in-person team meet, or  an email, Slack message, or posting to an internal website. Whatever method you use to communicate to employees, make sure this announcement goes there, and can be searchable after the fact in case employees need access to it. 

Include the following in your internal communications:

  • Explain what a time tracker is and why your business is adopting it.
  • Address how the time tracker will be used (hours worked, scheduling, overtime, etc.)
  • Explain how it will benefit employees.  
  • A full timeline of when to expect training and full access to the tool, along with the expected date everyone should be moved over and operational on it. The clearer you are on when and how long it will take to get everyone operational on it, the better experience an employee’s going to have with the tool. 
  • Address that using a time tracker is a work-in-progress. Be transparent that you’re using this tool for the first time, and everyone is going to be learning it together.
  • Encourage feedback. This will be your best friend during the first few weeks and months. Employees will trust the decision—and their own voice in the workplace—if they see that feedback is wanted during this process. 

4. Communicate the purpose of time tracking to your employees

Letting your employees know the purpose of time tracking is important. It can’t be overstated that clearly addressing the business’ reason for implementing time tracking before getting the tool will help immensely when it comes to talking about it with employees. This will make feedback, questions, or concerns much easier to manage. 

5. Explain how time tracking will benefit your employees

Explaining the benefits of time tracking may take time and reinforcement. Begin by addressing high-level benefits in those first internal communications. Then, train managers on the specific ways time tracking will help employees in specific roles. If employees understand how time tracking will impact their day-to-day work, it’ll help make adoption and use of the tool smoother. 

6. Train employees on your new time tracking system

Follow your internal communication plan’s timeline for training employees on a time tracking system. If the dates have to change, inform them about it as soon as possible. A timeline keeps you and your employees accountable to learn the new time tracking process, and maintain accountability over it. 

Tips on training employees on a new time tracking system:

  • Schedule training like a meeting For your meeting-turned-training days, have clear objectives, learnings and outcomes, and any next steps that employees need to take.
  • Make training mandatory (but fun). To ensure employees attend training, make it mandatory. Consider adding an interactive component that gets employees more familiar with their new time tracking tool. Encourage group discussion, and be sure to demo the tool for hands-on learners.
  • Make follow-up or group sessions available. It’s normal for questions to pop-up after training or usage of the tool. Provide additional training slots or group training to anyone who has a) missed their initial training on the system or b) need refresh to ensure they’ve understood it.
  • Have clear and easy-to-find documentation. Training is only as good as the documentation you have. Without clear how-to manuals or internal web pages as resources, employees will find it difficult to continue to properly use a time tracking tool. Documentation should include: 
    • any and all steps on how to use the tool, 
    • where to raise questions about how to use it (e.g., a Slack channel or a specific team member training employees on the tool), 
    • what time needs to be tracked, 
    • and if there are any specific codes for certain tasks, and, lastly, if any processes change. 

Training guides can be a living document. Has a process changed? Do employees not need to fill out certain information anymore or have you pivoted to capturing something else entirely? Update it in the training materials for future and current employees. 

7. Get employee feedback early on

Feedback is extremely valuable in any business. The most important feedback you’ll get on how your time tracking tool is working is from your employees.

If you’re using time tracking for the first time, and everyone is learning together, communicate that to your team. It takes time for everyone to get on the same learning curve. There will also be new experiences and scenarios that you’ll have to account for. As you go, ensure your team is collectively sharing feedback in a safe way. Are things working? What could be better? Is there an easily fixable roadblock?

Encourage employees to: 

  • Provide feedback after initial training.
  • Provide feedback to managers after the first full week of using the tool.
  • Complete random, short surveys to employees to capture how training and usage is going .

8. Integrate feedback into your training process

While feedback is a gift, doing nothing with it is a waste. Keep a document or folder of the notes, experiences, and ideas from employees on how to make time tracking easy to use and integrated into their work day. Communicate what changes are being made based on the recommendation of your employees. This goes a long way to reaffirm their trust in you and the business need for time tracking. 

9. Keep reminders fun but firm 

It may take a little bit for your team members to get the hang of using a time tracking tool. And that’s okay. A great way to help is to gently encourage them with time tracker reminders. Set up automated reminders for the first month or two as a way for everyone to be on the same page for how often they need to track their time. You can do this over Slack, a team communication app, or calendar reminders. Whatever way you manage it, ensure people are all on the same page about where to get the info.

If the time tracking tool you’re using has notifications set up within the system, let your employees know they can set-up automated reminders on their own to complete any time tracking tasks.

10. Monitor data over time by capturing feedback and employee usage 

The long-term benefits of time tracking won’t be felt for some time so be patient with it and your team members. Because time tracking is an efficient way to capture data, pair that data with employee feedback to make improvements as you go. This will make sure the tool is helping create efficiencies for your business.

Allow for some flexibility in the learning process and policy. Your policy for why your employees need to use time tracking should remain firm. But any guidelines, rules, or anything else that may come up as a result of using the tool should remain adaptable. Being open to change can be a really useful way to keep affirming trust and validation between you and your employees. 

Track key data like how often your employees use the tool. You’ll be able to tell who is using a time tracker but ask yourself some of the reasons why an employee might sputter and stop. 

  • Is there a dip in usage because the tool is convoluted? 
  • Are there added difficulties in the process?
  • Is the tool actually taking up too much time to use? How can it be streamlined?

You need to know all of it to make the tool work best for you. Employee feedback is long-term, not just in the moment.

Make time tracking a breeze for employees with Homebase 

Free up your own time to focus on other work by using the Homebase time tracking app. 

Homebase’s time tracking app helps ensure work data is consistent and accurate. Employees have agency over maintaining their schedules, clocking in and out on their own device, and seeing alerts. You can trust your employees can manage their tasks, and help them keep accountable for their work. That way, you’re freed up to perform other important duties for the business. 

The Homebase app helps streamline your needs, like: 

  • Clocking in and out from many devices
  • Automated timesheets work for you, not against you
  • Getting alerts when you’re approaching overtime hours
  • Seeing reminders if you forget to clock in or clock out
  • Access to data of how work time is spent
  • Payroll and taxes made easy

Introducing time tracking FAQs

How do you introduce employee time tracking?

Explain to your employees first what time tracking is. Time tracking is when businesses record the hours their employees worked during a given period. It also includes paying them for that time. Time tracking usually falls under the part of a business that includes vacation or PTO, billable hours, and scheduling. 

Follow our 10 step guide on how to introduce time tracking to employees. Learn about assessing and selecting your time tracking tool, plus proper employee training and feedback. 

How do you explain the need for time tracking to an employee? 

Use your company policy for why time tracking is necessary, and make sure it’s clear and concise. Cite examples of where time tracking may have improved a particular work situation.

Some best practices  include explaining what time is being tracked, like work hours, PTO, and overtime; that time tracking will cut down on confusion around employee tasks or responsibilities; and that it is meant to improve productivity overall, not impede it. 

What are the benefits of time tracking for employees? 

There are lots of time tracking benefits. Some benefits include: accurate data for billing, employee accountability for hours worked, transparency, and increased trust among team members.

Create a workplace your employees love with the free time clock app from Homebase.

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