Reward, recognize and retain your volunteers.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of most nonprofit organizations. Most of them dedicate their time to volunteer for a cause that they believe in. And that is rewarding in itself. For nonprofits, volunteers are priceless. They add value to your organization, bring new ideas and enthusiasm and connect your organization to the local community. The success of your volunteer program depends completely on your ability to retain and celebrate volunteers.

Recognize and reward volunteers
Recognize and reward volunteers

Volunteers not only need to feel valued, but really should be valued. They need to be respected and recognized in order for your volunteer program to function effectively. Knowing the financial benefit of the work that volunteers do, will justify the costs of volunteer celebrations and rewards.

Recognizing volunteers is one of the easiest things to do that has really high impact. But it often gets overlooked because of the difficulty of tracking what volunteers are actually doing. This happens even in the best organizations. When everyone is over-worked, it’s easy for things to slip between the cracks. That’s where volunteer time tracking can make a huge difference, ensuring that all volunteer time is tracked and transparent.

Volunteer Tracking and Rewards
Volunteer Tracking and Rewards

If your volunteers are tracking their time every time they come in, you have complete insight into who’s active and how much time they are spending with you. You can easily set up automatic milestones like 50 hours, 100 hours. When your volunteers reach those milestones, give them a small gift. Maybe a pin, a certificate, coupons for cookies, perhaps just a public mention of the milestone.  Nominate your volunteers to the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Any of these will make your volunteers feel special. Knowing that someone else knows what they are doing makes it all worthwhile.

When volunteers track hours and that progress is visible to everyone, it makes a volunteer fell connected to the organization and to other volunteers. Post a volunteer leader-board in your newsletters, on your websites, at a central position in your organization. Kindle a little competitive spirit among your volunteers. Give your best volunteers a huge morale boost.

Do you know how your employees are spending their time

Add in costs for compensation, federal, state and local taxes and other benefits

How do you track employee time?
Employee time tracking

and I’m fairly certain that employee costs are the single biggest expense for most companies. Every hour that your employees spend working has a certain cost attached. Do you know how your employees are spending their time? Are you able to track what unproductive tasks are sucking time away from your employees?

A good time tracking tool that is simple and easy to use by everyone in your company will help you answer this question. After all, time is a finite quantity and you would really want to know where that time is being spent. While the underlying reason for time tracking for most companies is easier payroll or faster billing, a good time tracking solution can actually give you a lot more insights into your business. As a manager, if you could get a clear view into the actual use of time by your employees, you could do a lot more analysis.

  • Are your employees spending a lot more time on unproductive meetings,
    Analyze employee time
    Time Tracking reports

    administrative tasks rather than on revenue generation tasks like sales or customer service?

  • Can you identify opportunities to improve processes such that you can reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction?
  • Compare actual time spent on a project vs the initial time estimates that you made. Are your projects actually profitable?
  • Can you make your estimates more accurate? Can you identify scope creep and modifications to project scope?
  • How about increasing employee satisfaction by removing unnecessary tasks and steps?
  • Can you move resources from under-worked teams to overworked teams?

When you begin to track employee time at a granular level and have a base of actual data to analyze, you’ll definitely find areas that you can improve your processes and cut costs. While at the same time, improving customer and employee satisfaction.

How to motivate employees to track their time

Most people don’t enjoy filling timesheets. Probably, ranks right next to a visit to a dentist for a root canal in terms of least enjoyable things to do. Getting employees to track time is actually the biggest challenge that managers face when implementing a time tracking system.

As the old adage says, “Time is money”, and not tracking it can be a cause for serious concern. Especially if your business bills customers on the basis of time spent by employees. So how do you get your employees to see tracking time as a productive activity rather than a thankless chore?

We’ve put together this short list of how to convince your employees to track their time properly.  These tips are based on conversations with customers and prospects, as well as of our own experiences with time tracking.

  • Explain why time tracking is important. One of the critical steps in motivating your team to tracking time properly is explaining to them why it’s important. You can’t just force your employees to track their time without any explanation. This can cause suspicion within your team and lead people to fudge their time sheet entries. A simple reason for your employees to fill out their time sheets is the huge benefit that it brings to them personally. It’s estimated that every single day, the US economy loses 50 million billable hours or $ 7.4 billion. According to Affinity Live, a professional services automation company, this loss is due to poor time tracking methods. The solution?  According to Affinity Live,  “Moving from weekly (or worse) timesheet updates to daily (or better) would recover $52,000 per professional, per year in billable time.

So the most important step in helping your employees completing their time sheets is helping them understand that the better they track their time, the more billable hours your company will have. That means more incoming revenues and better employee compensation – a direct benefit to employees. Even if you halve that $ 52,000 number to $ 26,000 per year, a 20 person company could add over half a million dollars to their top line, annually.

  • Make time tracking easy. Make it easy for your employees to track their time.
    Track time on the web, in a mobile app or within Salesforce.
    Track time on the web, in a mobile app or within Salesforce.

    Definitely, move away from manual, antiquated systems. Give your employees the flexibility to enter their time as easily as possible, If they are on the field a lot, give them a mobile time tracking app, so that they can enter their time where they work, without having to come back into the office to input their hours. Give them simple, easy-to-use interfaces. Tracking time shouldn’t take so much time that your employees need to track time for that. Ideally, no more than a few minutes per day, will ensure that your employees don’t see time tracking as thankless chore.

  • Send reminders. Even if people are convinced about the importance of time tracking, it’s human to forget about tracking time, especially when work stress is high. So make sure that the time tracking software that you use, can be configured to send out automated reminders to employees on a regular basis. Ensure that reminders can be sent out in multiple ways, notifications on mobile phones, emails, text messages. Ensure that the reminders are not sent out so often that employees see them as intrusive. But often enough that time tracking is done properly.
  • Share the results with your team. Once you begin tracking time in earnest, it’s good to share some reports with your team. During your regular meetings, share some time tracking reports. If possible, share some statistics about improved billing and payment cycles. Your team will learn more about their time allocations and what tasks they are more productive at. Make your whole process more transparent, and get your team to be more engaged.
  • Get management to set an example. If you want to get your team tracking time efficiently, you need to set an example. Make sure that your management team is tracking time too. This will be a great morale booster for the team and make them more proactive in tracking their own time.

Get your team to understand that recording hours is mutually beneficial and you’re much more likely to get them to tracking their time. Share the benefits and you’ll see them eager to use a time tracking system.

Mobile apps: Not Suitable For Work?

Vancouver 80

11 apps. That’s how many I installed in the 1 week I spent up in beautiful British Columbia, on the Sunshine Coast. The sun so bright, the water so blue – and my phone so full of new apps. Over a span of five days, I installed an app for Caltrain, one for United, another for Vancouver, even one about ferries in BC. While most people install an average of 3.5 apps a month nowadays, here I was, hitting the Play Store every few hours for something new. And my motivations were somewhat different from the usual buzz you get from Facebook and WhatsApp – they were mostly about finding the right information using my phone. For example, I saw that the Caltrain website looks terrible on my phone, so I looked for an app in the Play store and, sure enough, found one that worked well. I’m sure you’ve been through that process, too, when you find a problem and think that there must be app to solve it.

What I find fascinating, though, is that I don’t seem to think that way about business issues. When I see a problem at work, I don’t think of a mobile app, I think of a web solution. Track leads? Buy into Salesforce. Send mass email? Sign up for Mailchimp. Set up a marketing process? Use replyapp.io. So while my personal needs demand mobile apps, my business needs seem to be calling for web solutions. For example, while I know Salesforce has a strong mobile offering, I’ve never used it to track leads. And replyapp does not even have a mobile offering, but that’s not stopped me from relying on it.

As a company that offers mobile apps for businesses, I see this behaviour among prospects regularly. I’ve seen customers spend thousands of dollars rolling out responsive websites. I’ve seen nonprofits spending hours tweaking their Sites pages. But I don’t see them considering solving issues with a mobile app. It’s not that they think it won’t work – it’s that most people seem to not think of mobile apps for work at all. Consider this chart from Statista about the categories of apps that are popular in the US – Business appears far down the list, with only about 22% of people even trying Business apps.

I can see, though, that this is changing. Recently, a friend who runs an online store in Amazon discovered Amazon Seller, a mobile app that gives him access to his store on his phone. Now, he’s probably in Amazon Seller more than in WhatsApp (and that’s saying something, for an Indian). And our customers who DO make the effort to think Mobile wind up being addicted to the idea. So I guess that’s the issue: Mobile is not yet in the normal mind-space of solutions today. And I believe the operative word is “yet”. In the “personal” space already, no matter what problem you want to solve: there’s an app for that!

 

Of memories and management.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a group of friends. I was astounded by the eidetic memory of one of them. As she showed pictures  from 37 years ago, one of the women was able to rattle off dates, events, anecdotes of people. Down to even the names of the dogs at one of the houses.

I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons that those memories were so strong was that the exchange program was so seminal in her formative years. But what of less influencing events? How do we manage those? How do we ensure that we actually do everything that has to be done, complete all the tasks and activities of our daily work life. And that of our home life. Can we rely on just our memories to carry us through all of that ever-expanding domain?

Fortunately, there’s a range of technology to help us get through the daily grind. I

Mobile and wearable technology
Mobile and wearable technology

remember my dad’s to-do lists. Every morning, his first task would be to make a list of all the things that he had to through the day on a sheet of paper. He would tick off tasks as he got them done. Today, with To-do lists on our ubiquitous mobile phones and wearable technology, it’s easy to organize and get work done efficiently. With multiple calendars on our mobile phones, you can set up all your meetings and timed activities on your calendar with reminders to make sure that you don’t miss a thing.

Moving on to our own domain of volunteer tracking and management in the

V4S Management Dashboard
V4S Management Dashboard

resource-constrained non-profit world. Technology becomes key to handling large numbers of volunteers who come in at different times to do different tasks. You can use technology to post your volunteer opportunities on mobiles or on the web. It’s not just McDonalds that can get people to self-serve and clean up after themselves. Volunteer tracking software allows your volunteers to sign up for those opportunities at their convenience, either on their mobiles or on the web. Automatically send out registration confirmations, event reminders and thank you emails. Generate online / mobile-based signup sheets and rosters. Volunteers can check in/out of their assignments to track the time spent and send you feedback online. You can use volunteer tracking to identify your star volunteers and recognize them.

The return on investment includes reduced workload for harried nonprofit staff, greater convenience and better engagement with volunteers, and the ability to ensure that the right number of volunteers are available for your projects. So for those times when just memory does not suffice to recall how many volunteers actually showed up for an event or how long they actually worked, volunteer management technology is definitely the answer.

Configuring dftly Time Tracker to your requirements.

Last week, we spoke about how powerful Salesforce’s configuration options are. It is configuration that allows Salesforce to fit into many different business situations.

With the dftly Time Tracker, we give you a layer of configuration above and beyond those provided by Salesforce. You get several configurable options to make the Time Tracker fit your business needs and requirements closely, without having to go through the time and expense of a “customized” solution.

The idea is to enable you to match dftly Time Tracker to your business process as closely as possible. And to do all this easily and quickly, without having to depend on busy programming staff. You can configure everything that you need with a series of drop downs, clicks and check boxes.

You can select the specific objects in Salesforce to which you want to track time

Select objects to track time to
Objects to which your org tracks time to

to. Let’s say you want your Sales team to track time to Opportunities and Tasks related to them rather than to Projects and Tasks. So now your Sales team would see Opportunities and Tasks as the two drop downs on their mobile phones.  You can do that by selecting Opportunities and Tasks as the two drop downs that your users see, when you configure the Time Tracker. You can also choose the specific fields from those two objects that will actually show up on your user’s mobile phones. If you want each user to see only those Opportunities that are assigned to him/her, you can set that up as a filter condition, when setting up that specific configuration.

Let’s say now, you want your Service Engineers to track time to Orders and Cases. You can set up another App Key that will allow you to set up a different set of drop-downs from what you set up for your Sales team. Again with the same level of granularity for Orders / Cases assigned to specific Service Engineers.

With Time Tracker, you get a whole set of options for configuring the product to your exact requirements:

  • You can choose what specific work types or Check-in Types
    Configure Time Tracker Check-in Types
    Configuration options for Time Check-in

    your mobile users can track time to. Let’s say you have construction teams and you want to track time when they Travel, Load/Unload Equipment, Lunch Breaks and Work, you can do that very easily. Now let’s say you are a healthcare business where your therapists travel to patient locations, you could choose to track time for Travel and Therapy.

  • For each Check-in Type, you can select whether your users need to take a photo at the beginning and end of each transaction.
  • You can set up specific instructions for your users at each step
  • You can set up whether GPS Location Tracking should be enabled at Start and Stop of each Check-in Type
  • You can set up whether your users need to add Notes at the Start and End of each Check-in type
  • You can configure the icon for each Check-in Type to be something that your users are familiar with
  • And you can even configure the colors for the icon to match your company colors.

All of these options go back to our original premise that configuration allows a business-focused user to personalize aspects of a system, without having to depend on programmers to do so.

Configuration or Customization – what makes sense?

As a society we are increasingly using online or cloud-based software in everything from buying clothes to managing our bank accounts. As you look around for cloud software for your organization’s needs, you’re quite likely to hear the terms “configurable” and “customizable” being thrown around, sometimes interchangeably. It’s critical that we understand the difference between these two terms.

A configurable system is an out-of-the-box solution that allows a user to personalize some aspects of the system themselves, without having to depend on experienced programmers. Configurable software is generally flexible and scalable and can be shaped to meet an organization’s requirements. While the system comes with a default configuration that works out-of-the-box, it generally lets you tweak the system with simple drop-down menus and lists to more closely reflect your own business. Configurable software gives you the advantage of best practices from the industry and other organizations. But overall, may not fit your requirements exactly. Since you can do the configuration on your own, there is generally no additional fee that you need to pay.

Customizable software, on the other hand, requires bespoke programming, generally done by the software company’s technical team or by a partner. With customized software, you get software that fits your requirements exactly. But because you are getting it specifically developed for you, the software itself does not evolve with usage from multiple companies. Whenever you need changes, those changes need to be specifically made for you and therefore will be both time-consuming and expensive.

The best example of configuration vs. customization is that of clothes. You

Configuring a shirt
Configuring a shirt

could get a shirt custom stitched to your exact size OR you could buy a shirt at a store. The custom stitched shirt is the equivalent of customized software, whereas buying a ready-to-wear shirt in a store is the equivalent of configured software. You can “configure” the shirt in the store by choosing your specific collar size, sleeve length from the variations available in the store. The custom shirt is specifically tailored for each of your lengths and sizes, but takes longer to make and may not have all the bells and whistles that come with the factory-made shirt. In software terms, we would say that the “configured” shirt has all the best practices from the industry.

Coming back to software, configurable software allows for users to re-arrange key elements of the software to suit their own business requirements, without programming changes. While customized software that works exactly to your specifications is alluring, the overall cost and time involved is generally prohibitive.

Like with most things, the 80-20 rule holds true for software implementations too. Check to see if out-of-the-box solution fits 80% of your requirements. If it does, you should be able to get the remaining 20% of the functionality through configurations, eliminating customization completely.

This post is the first in a 3-part series on software configuration. Next week, we’ll talk about how configuration makes Salesforce so powerful that it has become the platform of choice for many different implementations. The following week, as an example, we’ll look at how configuration works with dftly Time Tracker.