more-arw search

Q&A Forum

Any creative ideas out there for motivating employees to submit their time sheets on time?

Explain Billable Hours To Employees

We bill out clients based on actual hours incurred and when time sheets lapse we can't invoice or record the appropriate income. Recently switched systems and having a very difficult time with employees grasping the new, easier system and submitting their time sheets in a timely manner.


Jim Brendel
Title: Partner
Company: Hein & Associates LLP
(Partner, Hein & Associates LLP) |

One idea that we used was to have a drawing for a prize (gift card, etc.). Only those employees who submitted their time sheets on time were eligible for the drawing.

Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Proformative offers 400+ business courses with free CPE, many on Management.

Theresa Wilt
Title: Independent Contractor
Company: Multiple U.S. Clients
(Independent Contractor, Multiple U.S. Clients ) |

I have worked in the Governement contract industry over 20 years, where daily timesheet updates are requirement. The Government requires them of companies and companies require them from employees. It is part of an employee's job to follow specific timesheet policies that include daily updates, submission by specified deadline and in accordance with several more specific requirements including processes how hours are recorded, how coded, signed, approved with specific processes for any changes which require explanation and audit trail.

There are several good reasons the Government requires this and in my opinion they are exact same reasons that every company can and should require these. These are very basic accounting principles of recording all costs accurately, consistently and timely, which also facilitates these first two requirements.

Ultimately, the Government's reason is exactly the same as yours, which is to facilitate accurate, complete, consistent and timely billings to customers. So not to sound harsh, but I do not think it should be a reward-based system. It should be an expectation as part of the employee's job. However, since in many cases employees don't understand the connection between timesheets and billing.

I suggest the starting point is to explain why it is important and therefore a requirement. Every employee can understand that their timsheet record of their hours worked is technically their bill to the company for their time worked. So then it is logical that all of those timecards make up the billing, which is how the company gets money from the customers to be able to pay their paychecks.

To make this work, company should have specific policies and procedures that explain the requirement, the reason, and the exact procedures to be followed. As with all company policies, they should be required reading at date of hire and updates should be required reading for existing employees and employees should be required to sign document acknowledging they have read, understand, and agree to comply as a requirement of their position with the company, and as with all policies, they must be kept updated and they must be enforced.

Once that is all in place, then I would go on to explain billable vs.nonbillable time and the goal of maximizing billable time, and maybe here would be a better point to consider a reward system for maximizing billable hours, to maximize profit, which employees can also understand.

That's my two cents.

R. Jeff Jeffreys
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Assure Holding Corporation
(Chief Financial Officer, Assure Holding Corporation) |

My 2c. Firstly ensure the time sheet submission process is remotely accessible. Web enabled preferably. No excuse for being away from office.
Secondly make mandatory say 5% of all annual performance assessments based on meeting T&E submission deadlines during review period (approx 2 hours per 40 hour week).

Michele Riffe
Title: Owner
(Owner, ) |

You don't say whether the Employee's paycheck is contingent upon submitting the time sheet, or not. The fastest way to get an Employee to turn in their time sheet in a timely manner is to relate it to whether "they" get paid, or not.

I, also, agree, that this is not something that should be rewarded with an "incentive" but should be a performance/employment issue.

Theresa Wilt
Title: Independent Contractor
Company: Multiple U.S. Clients
(Independent Contractor, Multiple U.S. Clients ) |

Michele - I agree it is best if employees think their paychecks are contingent upon timesheet submission, and they should be, even if not physically required, since they usually are not for salaried employees. I am all for using that as a "payroll requirement" but I think it is too late to use that reasoning when you have already paid employees who did not submit timesheets, which it sounds like they already have. It would be hard to to say that when already proven not.

Jeff - I agree electronic timesheet systems are the best way to go if there are enough employees and if the company can afford it, and I agree web-based is the best to eliminate the problem of access. Additionally, good timesheet systems can help track missing timesheets and send automatic email reminder notifications to employees and to supervisors to help make sure everyone submits theirs on time. I don't agree with the 5% performance review measurement. I can tell you that in my industry this is a 100% requirement of all employees who work for any Government contractor since it is required by the Government, up to and including the CEO.
There are many more specific stringent requirements regarding proper recording of that time as well, but submitting on time is the assumed absolute minimum.

brian Norton
Title: Director
Company: Dynamic Business Innovations
(Director, Dynamic Business Innovations) |

I believe there are a deeper issues here. I filled in time sheets for many years and I now question there validity in terms of improving control and output of the system as a whole. Accountants have been brought up on time sheets and therefore the system must be the right way to manage resources to deliver benefits. However the fact that everyone is doing something does not mean that it is the best way.

Why are people reluctant to fill in time sheets and do they achieve their intended purpose. If I am paid by the hour or day that I work I am more likely to fill in a time sheet. But does it motivate getting the job done on time. If I can do the job more quickly than the planned time but I am paid by time what will motivate me to finish earlier. And if I am paid monthly what benefit is it to the organisation and me if I tell them how much time I have spent on tasks / projects. I here the screams 'we must do this to account for time in the accounting system so that we can get our project costs right'. If we get all the time sheets in on time and processed will it actually improve management of the projects and jobs to be done. We will know exactly where people say they have spent their time. But will this tell me where to focus to improve performance.

From the employers point of view, are you interested in how much time has been spent on a task or project or how much longer it will take. How many times have you got to 90% or 95% of a project being complete according to time sheets and other measurements that record usage only to find that when you take a look at the project from the perspective of how much more work is left in the project that you find it to be far from nearly complete. This is the fault of the measurement system and time sheets actually facilitate this faulty logic.

I would encourage you to look at the thinking proposed by Dr Eli Goldratt in his book entitled Critical Chain. You can either continue to try and improve a faulty system or you can rethink the logic of what you are trying to achieve thereby significantly increase your performance. As financial experts we have a duty not only to improve a system but ensure that the system achieves its intended objectives.

Are there places where time sheets or time recording are important. Yes of course. But there are very few areas where it is important. In a private hospital the rate that the hospital can earn money is usually determined by flow of patients through the theaters.Try to maximise output everywhere through optimum use of time of all resources and you will reduce the flow through the theaters and thereby the flow of income. Looking at the flow of projects and what determines flow is far more important than trying to accurately record everyone's time in time sheets.

So if you want to add significant benefit to your clients bottom line and your own move away from time sheets as means of invoicing clients. The client is not really interested in the time, what they are interested in is that they receive what they ordered at a reasonable price. The use of Critical Chain thinking is a far better way of achieving that desired outcome.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

This is a typical problem where time entry is the life blood of the business, the core of payroll, revenue, and billing.

Do not spend one more minute trying to cajole people to input their time.

Announce your new time entry policy, where working for your company requires accurate and timely time entry.

There is no other way around it. We had this issue at a large consulting firm, the lack of completing the task is due to arrogance and feeling like someone else should do this administrative task for them. The same with expense reports.

The final solution was for the division leaders to enforce time entry policy.

You would be so amazed at how fast you can achieve full compliance when you put the guy with the purse-strings in charge of having to remind 300 of his project consultants to get their time in. No one wants to be on the list of people that the VP has to call on a weekly basis.

This is only a hard problem to solve in organizations who are too afraid to communicate what is required for fear that employees will feel they are required to comply. Read this out loud and see if it sounds like a silly excuse.

Professionals working at hourly rates must perform time entry. If they don't they don't get their paycheck.

Time entry is the commitment they make to you as their employer.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

In this situation, compliance can only be assured if you add a financial penalty for non-compliance. Caution - some states very much frown on employers withholding pay from employees. Before implementing any policy check with an employment attorney. If you are given approval - create a policy, develop an addendum to your compensation program, communicate the policy, obtain the employee's signatures evidencing that they know the policy, and then enforce it.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

If they have not completed their time entry or have entered no time at all they have not completed the payment cycle.

Have your HR director call your state department of labor. No one is getting sued over this issue.

(Manager) |

No employee wants to have an uncomfortable conversation with their boss, let alone repeated uncomfortable conversations. To the point by Regis about needing penalties to ensure compliance, the simplest penalty is to have a deadline followed by a prompt and mildly uncomfortable conversation.

Gimmicks like prizes for turning in time sheets on time or strikes me like everybody gets a trophy just for participating. Making it a huge part of a bonus system seems like it would displace other, more important, goals.

Maybe the real question was, "how can I get employees to turn in their time sheets on time without having to do much?" If that is the case, I would suggest that sometimes there is no substitute for actual hands-on management.

Maria Marsala
Title: Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author
Company: Elevating Your Business
(Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author, Elevating Your Business) |

When considering any new system, it's so important to get the staff involved from the "get-go".

IMO, you should NEVER give someone a prize for doing their job --and part of their job is to complete the time sheet (on your time of course).

When a firm puts in new systems without input from staff, most often people will not want to be involved. (as in their mom's telling them what to do; vs. asking them)

I would be more apt to learn why they're not filling it out (from those who don't do it most often) and go from there. Maybe there are real flaws in the system. Maybe they need to understand that their time sheets are legal documents and necessary to complete -- not only in the firm but for the state, etc.

At one firm I worked at (when I did have time sheets) each unit had a manager who was responsible for making sure that people were paid on time. At 3pm each Friday she's start asking. That meant getting time sheets in on time.

If all other things fail, I also agree with Valerie. Learn what you can or can't do from the DOL. In fact, in addition to learning from the staff you can go to your states website now and I bet there are a few things you can download that can assist you, too.


Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email [email protected] to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.