Who doesn’t love Dilbert? I find that a Dilbert comic strip, while completely farcical with its absurd characters and situations, will actually contain some grain of relatable truth. Heck, there are probably times when I can say, “Yep, I’ve dealt with that.”

Which is why this Dilbert cartoon is particularly funny to me:

This is one of those “It’s funny because it’s true” moments. Here at Journyx, we hear, on a near-daily basis, from the people on the front lines of time sheet collection who ask “How do I get our employees to turn in their time sheets?” Journyx conducted two surveys over the last year and half, which asked about the biggest challenge with tracking time at the organization – the hands-down top challenge, as indicated in both surveys, was getting employees to submit their time sheets on time.

NEWSFLASH: Your Employees HATE Tracking Their Time

And that’s why this Dilbert comic strip rings so true – not just to the people who have to collect and process the time sheets, but (most importantly) to the employees who have to fill them out. There are a number of reasons people hate filling out time sheets:

  • Filling them out is perceived as hard or time consuming.
  • Gathering the information is pointless because it isn’t useful.
  • The data is used by management to “spy” on employees or make a case for poor performance.
  • They view their work as an “art” that couldn’t be adequately measured.

There are lots of clever and crazy ways that different companies have devised to make employees turn in their time sheets on time, and they may even work (free beer for turning in my time sheet? Yes, please). But what this Dilbert comic strip so plainly and hilariously illustrates (along with the historical reasons listed above) is that employees don’t understand why they have to do this painful task every week. And, as humans, we tend to dislike what we don’t understand.

Helping Employees Understand and Getting Their Buy-In

You’re collecting time data from employees for good reasons – such as project accounting, payroll, billing, or compliance; however, you’re not going to get the most accurate data if employees dislike filling in their time sheets. So, overcoming the discomfort and misconceptions surrounding time tracking is necessary in order to gather good data from the people who do the work. The best way to achieve buy-in from your employees is to design a good time collection process and educate them on the benefits of the results for everyone.

A good time collection process that empowers your employees includes the following components:

  • Enter time once, and only once– While there are many uses for time data, there should not be many places where it is collected. One of the quickest ways to kill participation and buy-in is to require your people to enter time in more than one system or in more than one way. Some of the worst processes even require employees to duplicate the SAME time in more than one system. Your people need a single timesheet where they can provide all of their time information quickly.
  • Group all time reporting activities together– In order to enter data one time and in one place, you need to group all of your time-related activities together. This means your employees can see and update their project assignments, log time for administrative work, manage overtime, see leave time balances, request time off and track leave time taken. It may also make sense to include submission of reimbursable expenses, widget completion and/or equipment usage tracking as components of the time collection process.
  • Sell the benefits of daily time entry, but make it easy to catch up – The more frequently you enter your work data, the more likely it is to be accurate. According to a 2014 study by AffinityLive, workers who filled out their time sheets at least once a day were more likely to be accurate than those who filled it out once a week or less. That said, it’s not always easy to stop and enter time at the end of each task – especially if you are moving back and forth between tasks rapidly. However, establishing a routine for updating your time at the end of each day shouldn’t be too difficult.

What this all boils down to is making it easy for your employees to track their time, and helping them to understand why this process is important – for whatever reasons this data is used at your organization. Be transparent with them, so they don’t think they’re turning it in for “arbitrary” reasons and they know that this data is indeed useful.

LEARN MORE: How can you empower your employees to track their time?

Download the whitepaper Get Better Timesheet Data and Increase Profits by Empowering Your People to find out:

  • 9 ways time data is used
  • Why employees dislike filling out timesheets
  • 8 components of a good time collection process