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Why recording time spent on activities could give your business a boost

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Managing time isn’t just about totting up hours, but looking into (and addressing) what your staff are working on and for how long.

It’s a little known fact that small, not large, businesses form the backbone of the British economy. They comprise 99.9% of all companies; they account for three-fifths of employment and half of all private sector turnover. Often praised for their ability to be nimbler, and able to react faster than their larger counterparts, it is SMEs that are often able to innovate, whilst successfully managing their staff.

But while-time-to market is often their strength, the one thing SMEs often find difficult is managing activity time management - even though the ‘product’ they typically sell is brainpower – that is expertise like marketing, PR, consultancy or legal advice – i.e. work that is paid for in billable time. When shocking reports suggest SMEs lack time to even market themselves (data by Instaprint recently found 10% of SMEs find less than one hour a week to devote to growing their business, with 8% struggling to find any time at all), it’s easy to see that time against activities, projects and clients is something they need to concentrate much better on.

Better time management doesn’t just make companies be more efficient and productive in how they go about apportioning their time [with hopefully greater task completions], but it builds client trust too. Few things In business are as inexcusable as causing a client to have suspicions that a project has been ‘lengthened’ (with all the cost implications this has) without the proof they need to tell them otherwise.

Back in the day, it was a proper paper trail that was needed – to prove as far as possible that numbers of hours spent were as they were billed. Paper clock-ins and forms have now been replaced by smarter working tools incorporating easily accessible clock-ins and online time-sheets, but while they’ve been useful in removing guesswork, being able to also track time against projects and activities can help improve accuracy when looking at billable hours.  

Time (literally) has moved on though. Organisations now need much more detailed knowledge. Perhaps a project needs repeated oversight by someone with a higher ‘cost’ base (i.e. level of expertise). Time costs more depending on who’s looking. But more than being able to create an external view of accurate costs for clients, time management has long needed an internal focus too. Not only has there been a need for more detailed reporting so that line managers can (for example), see who’s working on what, and the amount of time they may be over- or under-servicing to a client, but there’s also been a need for working out whether staff are struggling to fulfill their work.

A properly aligned time tracking software solution that works alongside specific time spent on activities, clients or projects reveals this until-now missed gap. When hours apportioned to a task are seen to take longer than is necessary (or expected), this can now be used to investigate whether an employee has a problem. It could be that they are struggling; that they have too many competing projects; that they are disengaged; ill, or lack the skills needed to do tasks faster. Whatever the answer, remedial action can then be taken. 

Comparing under-delivered project data with absence data (or even data that shows where staff are working – such as remotely) – can add additional layers to this, suggesting perhaps there is a productivity problem in the home environment. 

It’s clear to see, that while time is linear, the things that impact it are numerous. Devoting a small amount of time to check productivity (and all the elements that may impact it), can save a huge amount of time trying to put things right later down the line. Clients only really want to be paying for productive time. They’re not interested in paying for people’s falling productivity (nor the reasons why). Time has always been the most precious of commodities, but now it’s only right clients expect reassurances from you that their billed time is something you’ve also taken seriously.

Our features in Appogee HR Essentials and Appogee HR Success allows your staff to clock-in and clock-out and view and edit online timesheets, export data and create meaningful insights. Find out more about Appogee Time’s Project Time Recording feature here or why not start your 14 day free trial to explore this feature for yourself.