Tips for Tracking Employee Time Effectively in Your Business

tracking employee time

As important as tracking employee time is for organizations, it is typically tough to get employees jazzed about it.  From their point of view, it’s at best a minor administrative nuisance. At worst, it’s a waste of time entirely.

Companies have tried various ideas to make time tracking more fun and less of a chore for their employees. This ad agency went the humorous route and used their own employees to create motivational posters and pinned them around the office. Regardless of the approach, the issue needs to be addressed–so what’s a leader to do?

The Root Problem

The cause of the “but I don’t wanna” attitude with time tracking is that employees don’t actually know why it’s necessary. If you tell someone to do something that looks like busywork and feels like busywork without telling them why it’s vital to the operations of the company, they’re going to blow it off.

It’s like getting the creative and operational teams to work together. If neither team understands the jargon of the other, what the other does or why it’s important, they won’t take the time to make it work. It’s your job to make sure communication barriers are removed and the importance is clear. For the importance of time tracking to be understood, employees need to be told, “This is why the data is useful and here’s how you’re helping the company by providing it.”

This could include:

  • “We are going to automate our payroll in order to reduce errors, improve efficiency and make sure you get paid on time. To do that, we need to have accurate time data from you.”
  • “In order to make sure we correctly bill our clients for all of the hard work you put in, we need to track your time on projects.”
  • “We don’t want you to waste your time on projects that aren’t successful. In order to know this information, we need to know how much time you’re putting toward what projects.”

At the end of the day, people want to work for a successful company. Obviously, if the company isn’t successful, the employees won’t be successful either. So you need to articulate how this data is going to be used in the short and long run.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “For goals to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. Employees who don’t understand the roles they play in company success are more likely to become disengaged.”

Additionally, according to this recent Forbes article, “84% of people surveyed said they don’t get enough information from top management, while 75% said their employers aren’t telling them enough about changes in policies and goals. Almost the same number (74%) said consistent messages from senior management, although few and far between, are important to them.”

Be clear about why it’s important, and communicate often.

Working Toward a Common Goal

Even after they understand the need to track their time, you might still find some employees slacking on the effort. But here’s the reality of it: time tracking can be useful for seeing which projects are the best use of employees’ time, which teams perform well and on what types of projects. It’s not about downsizing, it’s about trying to find a purpose-driven way for people to be successful.

According to Firms of Endearment by Raj Sisodia, “purpose-driven companies provided returns of 1,646% between 1996 and 2011”.

Don’t Be Big Brother

Now that your employees are working toward a common purpose, you’ll need to monitor progress, but from a distance. As a manager, you’ll quickly be able to identify those who are just entering in their time haphazardly versus those trying to do it correctly.

Not to mention, you can give your employees a bit of power by having them hold each other accountable with different approval levels. This is important to note, because according to an article by, “Your employees are much more likely to ‘own’ their work when they help create or have a voice in what they’re doing.”

Where That Leaves You

In the end, time tracking (and other types of data collection) are meant to help make your workplace environment run more efficiently. They also meant to allow the company to be more profitable as a whole (which, of course, is going to make things better for the employees!) Because of that, it’s worth the time to make sure your employees understand why it’s necessary and how it works to their benefit.

What’s your tip to explain how seemingly boring administrative tasks are necessary to the company? Let us know in the comment section below!

Image: Shutterstock


Curt Finch Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Founded in 1996, Journyx automates payroll, billing and cost accounting while easing management of employee time and expenses, and provides confidence that all resources are utilized correctly and completely.

6 Reactions
  1. Unless you’re a company with billable hours, I prefer a system where the employee clearly knows the desired outcome and is free to allocate as much, or as little time, to accomplish the desired objective. If an employee can do their job in 30 hours then why add the overhead of tracking what they were doing during all 30 of those hours?

    My experience with time tracking is that it’s used when employers don’t trust employees. They feel time is being wasted or the employee isn’t giving them 100%. It naturally creates an us vs. them mentality. Focus on the high level goals and build trust (then if it makes sense, use time tracking).

  2. I agree. It is about including your employees in your business goals. It does not work to constantly monitor them like a hawk. In fact, that will only result with unproductive hours as they try to relax when you’re not around. It will also wear them out which will greatly affect productivity.

  3. For me personally, detailed time tracking is an absolute necessity because we work entirely based on billable hours (I run a web development business), so it’s not at all about spying on my team, but simply making sure we get paid for everything we do. We’ve used Collabtive before, but we’re soon going to switch to Saus (, which is a very neat new app.

  4. Result provided by using time tracking software is the proof of employees productivity, so all the companies which want to succeed should use it. It’s the best way to know how people spend their time at work without looking over their shoulders and making them feel under control. That’s why we decided to try one of them few months ago – it’s called Timecamp ( and we’re really satisfied with effects.