Did time tracking begin with Fred Flintstone?

If you are one of the millions of people across the world who need to track their time on timesheets, you know how tedious and monotonous it can be. Tracking every minute of your work day is not fun. So I’m sure this video of Fred Flintstone joyfully punching out with the red dinosaur will put a smile on your face.

Never fails to cheer me up ūüôā

But timesheets are an essential part of business. Virtually every industry measures the cost of labor, in hours and minutes. And it’s timesheets that make this possible.

Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi at the Louvre

The Ancient Roots of Time Tracking

Tracing back the history of time tracking takes us to ancient Babylon and the Code of Hammurabi. Yep, him of the “eye for an eye” fame! This ancient treatise written in 1754 BC, set a typical worker’s daily wage at 6 grains of silver. Without adjusting for 3,772 years of inflation, that works out to about $ 0.25 per day.¬† It also mandated specific pay for specific types of work. While wages were set by the day at that time, it laid the foundation for¬†the time-based labor practices¬†that we follow to this day.

The Timesheet

Ben Franklin - an early time keeper
Ben Franklin – an early time keeper

So let’s fast forward to a more modern time – the 18th century. We begin to see more emphasis on effective time management as the workforce began to shift from being mostly independent work to an employer-employee business model. One of the key champions of time tracking was Benjamin Franklin. He kept the most meticulous and detailed time tracking records that could ever be. In fact, looking at what he could accomplish in one day, would make most of us feel worthless. He’s even credited with coining the term “time is money” to drive home his point.

Following Ben Franklin’s views about time and money, employers wanted to make sure that they only paid for time worked. While employees wanted to make sure that they were actually being paid for that time. Obviously there was a need for accurate and efficient time tracking methods. Pen-and-paper based time tracking records were the solution at the time. Though the system was error-prone, time consuming and relied heavily on employees maintaining truthful and accurate records, the practice continued for years and is still used in some businesses.

The Time Clock

The Bundy Clock
The Bundy Clock

Move on to the 19th century, and finally the world caught up with Fred Flintstone’s punch clock method of recording time.

As timekeeping technology developed, the daily wage was replaced by the hourly wage. In¬†November 1888,¬† an Auburn, NY jeweler named Willard Bundy started producing a time tracking product by the name of The Workman’s Time Recorder. His brother Harlow started mass producing the clock and in 1890, they filed for a patent for the clock.

Several other inventors during that time period developed mechanical time recording devices to help businesses keep track of their employees’ hours. Over the next century, entire companies dedicated to time tracking solutions emerged, improving on the Bundy design. To this day, many manufacturing plants and business office employees use a time card and a black box system similar to Bundy’s Clock to record their attendance and payroll. But not all professions paid so much attention to the clock. Engineers, lawyers and architects still charged by the job and not by the hour.

The Billable Hour

A paper timesheet
A paper timesheet

During the 1950s, the efficiency experts who had squeezed extra production out of factories brought their skills to bear on the service professions. They created a new measure: the billable hour. Thus laying the foundation for your¬†<insert profession here> charging you hundreds of dollars while you discuss last night’s game with him ūüôā Billable and non-billable hours became a significant part of project estimating and forecasts. Workers tracked their time on paper timesheets, creating a huge repository of information about how long different tasks would take.

Time Tracking in the Digital Age

As computers became more ubiquitous in the workplace, many companies started replacing the cumbersome paper time sheets with digital ones. Programs like Excel and eventually time tracking software revolutionized the way that businesses tracked their employees’s hours and time-off.

Rather than punching in and out, employees now swipe a card, enter an identification number or perhaps just click a button. All the data is then stored digitally for easy access at any point. Better yet, it’s now remarkably easy to discern patterns in and trends in the time sheet data through automatically generated reports and dashboards.

Mobile Time Tracking

Mobile Time Tracker Clock out
Mobile Time Tracker Clock out

Increasingly, supervisors and employees in the field are using mobile devices such as phones and tablets to capture the time spent on different projects and tasks. Automating these tasks, frees up employees to focus more on their work and less on writing down their time.  In addition to time, employees can also track notes, photos, expenses and other details all on their mobile devices. With mobile devices, employers can also choose to track GPS locations as well. And with all time now efficiently and easily tracked, businesses are pleasantly surprised by the addition to their bottom line when they move from paper time sheets to mobile time tracking.

The ROI of automated time tracking

If you are like most US businesses, payroll and associated costs form as much as 50% of your total budget. And like a lot of businesses, you may not be using automated time tracking systems.

Traditionally, payroll¬†is a manual and labor intensive process, with employees hand-writing or punching in time cards. Not only is this process error-prone and rife with time padding and buddy punching, it’s a system that requires additional audit and reconciliation. There’s overwhelming evidence that streamlining the payroll process with a simple and automated time tracking system can significantly reduce payroll costs.

Let’s take a look at how an automated time tracking system can eliminate errors and increase accountability.

Reduce human error.

Let’s face it. Errors on time sheets are not exactly rare. For the most part, they are genuine human errors in rounding up or down, perhaps a misplaced decimal, maybe a miscalculation of hours worked. And then there’s those completely illegible timecards. Can you blame your payroll processor, if they couldn’t read the timecard correctly? Or even if they hit the wrong key? Automated time tracking systems reduce such human errors by close to 90%.

Your Mobile Time Tracker
Time tracking with optional photos, notes and GPS locations

Buddy punching” – the act of clocking someone in when they are not actually there – affects 75% of businesses in the US. It can cost businesses up to 7% of a company’s gross payroll annually. Let’s say your annual payroll is $ 250,000. That’s an additional $ 17,500 in payroll costs that you could easily avoid and send to your bottom-line, with automated time tracking. Then add in the costs of hour inflating. With a mobile time tracking solution, you have the added benefits of photos and GPS locations, to avoid these time theft issues.

Speed up payroll processing.

With all timesheet data collected digitally into a single system, you completely eliminate the need to collect manual timecards, transcribe them, calculate hours worked and manually update your payroll system. You can either integrate the data from your time tracking system directly to your payroll system or just export data from your time tracking system and import it into your payroll system. Automating this process can easily save you 50% of your payroll processing costs.

Eliminate material costs.

Automating your time tracking system eliminates several recurring costs associated with a paper-based system.  Reduce the costs on paper, ink, storage, mailing. And win big for Planet Earth with an environmentally friendly digital system.

It’s a win-win-win for your employees (faster payroll), your company (reduced costs) and Planet Earth (reduced paper and ink). Time to make the move?

 

 

 

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.