Creative Time Tracking Ideas

Since the dawn of humanity, society has used honor and shame to motivate its people. Businesses around the world experiment with these human emotions when scheming up creative time tracking ideas.

It’s simple. Employees don’t like to track their time. They like to create, imagine, sketch, write, and think about new ideas and projects. No one in creative agencies wants to hear the clock ticking in the midst of their tour de force.

Be that as it may, time tracking is important. Everyone knows this to some degree, but many still don’t understand how important.

Most agencies operate on an invoice-centered model for time tracking, meaning their employees fill out timesheets for the sole purpose of invoicing. However, invoicing is second in importance to the valuable data in timesheets hold. A data-centered model analyzes this data, which allows agencies optimize employee’s time, plan projects with confidence, and estimate budgets accurately.

Creative time tracking ideas motivate employees to fill out timesheets so agencies can collect this beneficial information. Below is a list of creative time tracking ideas companies around use to tackle the timesheet issue. Some are nice, some are mean, and some are above and beyond the old honor and shame dialectic.

Honor your employees; reward them with positive incentives for time tracking.

Reward your employees for filling out their timesheets with pay raises, extra vacation, a $80 heated massage pad with speakers form The Sharper Image. Or, be more down to earth with your creative time tracking ideas. Give them free beer.

Colle+McVoy in Minneapolis uses a machine called TapServer that allows an employee to pour a pint once they scan their employee card, verifying that their timesheets are complete. According to the company, employees feel 90% more positive about filling out timesheets since TapServer came into being.

Positivity is always nice, but how much beer do you really need? What happens when you use creative time tracking ideas to take privileges away from employees?

Shame your employees; punish them with negative incentives for time tracking.

Negative versus positive reinforcement is usually a personal preference. Let’s look at how some companies use shame as part of creative time tracking.

Tronvig Group in Brooklyn uses piggy banks. If an employee hasn’t filled out her timesheet by 10am the next day, she places $5 in the piggy bank labeled “this piggy did no timesheet” in front of the whole office. There is another piggy bank that gets $5 when an employee is late to a meeting. That one is labeled “this piggy came late.” It’s cute, albeit a bit sad, and the company says it actually works.

Would you pay $5 a day to ignore your timesheet responsibilities? Some probably would. For those troublesome individuals, consider a harsher method like Drew Downie’s idea. Didn’t do your timesheets? I guess no one gets to use the coffee pot today. Still not done? Elevators are closed until further notice. Friday at 5pm and still no timesheets? How about a million pop-ups on your computer instead?

Harsh is the right word to describe his idea. My guess is, if implemented, there would be quite a bit of resistance. The good news is that it might be possible to lighten the incentive without handing out free stuff.

Neither positive or negative; utilizing employees’ creativity for time tracking incentives.

Positive creative time tracking ideas are fun, but work only as a short term solution. Employees risk feeling like Pavlov’s dog after awhile. Negative incentives are also fun, but not for employees, and fostering negativity is never a sustainable long term goal.

Creative professionals’ minds are not linear. Theirs are webs of creativity that expand with each new project. Let them use their talents to figure out a creative time tracking idea that inspires them in a more peronsal way.

For example, gamify your office. This is fun, but not as the expense of the owner’s wallet or the employee’s humor. It could be a simple white board that keeps points for those who turn in their timesheets. Or, it could be an online game created by employees that’s a bit more complex. There might be levels to beat and awards to earn.

Or how about this: at a design studio called Vitamins in London, designers created a wall sized calendar made of legos that syncs with Google calendar. The calendar is divided into months, days, employees, and projects noted with block size and color. Anyone outside of the office that day can see the exact representation online. The calendar is big, bright, and easy to read. It’s stunning design made by and for designers.

Both of these ideas are primo examples of power agency employees have to come up with their own creative time tracking ideas.

Don’t lose track of the end goal in creative time tracking ideas. 

Remember how most agencies use a payroll-centered model for time tracking? All the creativity in the world can’t convince employees to fill out timesheets as long as your agency uses this model. Stay with this old model and you will only see short term changes from creative time tracking ideas. No matter how creative the idea, your employees will not turn in their timesheets if there is nothing in it for them.

Switch to a data-centered model for time tracking. Commit your office to time tracking best practices. Put your first time tracking priority as data. Hold everyone in your office, including yourself, accountable. Let your employees know that you use the data to optimize their time and to plan projects with better strategy.

Once you’ve committed to a data-centered model, go ahead and play.

What can your firm come up with?