For some people, sticking to a workflow is no big deal. But for some, it becomes a colossal task to streamline their work sprints. As a result, sometimes the whole day is gone and the productivity doesn’t budge an inch. How to help such employees? In this guide, we will tell you exactly how to do it with the help of a simple technique called time audit or time management audit, also known as time audit for employees.
A time audit is simply taking back control of your time into your own hands. And that is exactly what you need to train your employees for as well. Let’s find out how.
What is a Time Audit?
You get audited for your taxes, right? It helps you follow laws and keeps your finances in check. Similarly, a time audit keeps your track of time, which is in the form of your man-hours.
A time audit refers to an audit of time concerning the daily sprints or schedules put forth by each employee. This is done to map productivity against hours, not as a micromanagement practice, rather, as a way to manage the time better.
The purpose should be to not just conduct a time management audit but to make it actionable. This can be done in various ways, one of the most popular ones being implementing SMART goals. It is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, perfect traits for any organizational goals that you set.
A time audit can help you with all of this and more.
What are the Tools Required for a Time Audit?
A time audit is as relevant as the time data collected. And for accurate data, you need to provide your employees with the correct tools. The usage of these tools varies, depending on the scale of the organization.
Pen and paper
Most of the employees still prefer to take notes by hand. The best way to go on about it would be to equip them with branded stationery that can be topped up from the office shelves. They can use these in-office meetings as they create their daily, weekly, or even monthly plans.
However, while these are great for personal audits when it comes to an organizational time audit, it becomes a little tricky to follow up and paint a clear picture.
Where the usual pen and paper technique doesn’t work, the calendar does. Calendars can be used to include both meetings and the actual work done. It stores the time usage data that can be retrieved for the record.
One of the major cons here can be that if the employees are not well-versed with the calendar apps, they may end up spending more time recording their time stamps than doing the actual work, which may lead to reduced productivity and increased stress.
Time Tracking Applications
Technology is advancing at an increasing pace and for good reasons. The whole concept of remote working is possible because it is possible to connect and work via technology.
Good time tracking apps and software comes equipped with features that take care of daily time and productivity hurdles, thus automating time management and its audit. Time tracking applications also create a sync between the ones recording time and the ones managing it, thus bridging the gap between the employee and HR, for a perfect time audit.
For instance, time tracking software like AttendanceBot comes with features such as clocking in and out as well as reminding the employees to punch in and out with an automated feature. The HRs can easily track and print timesheets and reports at the time of appraisals to track productivity. It also comes with the additional feature of tracking billable hours for the client, thus making it an all-inclusive time audit app that not only audits internal time usage but also the time spent.
Time tracking applications do away with the flaws of both manual note-taking and calendars.
You know about the tools. But, what about the people using the tools- your employees?
What are the Best Time Audit Practices for Employees?
While having the right tools is important for a time audit, it is equally important to inculcate the right practices in the employees who use these tools.
Daily Tracking Activities
Remind your employees to track their daily activities. It can be done by simply jotting down their tasks for the day and whether or not they can finish them in the allotted time. They should be able to self-assess if certain tasks are taking longer than usual or are being carried forward.
This is another thing that the employees should be reminded of, especially if they have multiple and recurring tasks at hand. They should create a routine and know how many reminders they need in a specific period; day, week, or month. It will prevent them from forgetting crucial tasks and reduce stress.
Ask your employees to analyze their work sprints regularly and jot down where they fall short. This will help them do their SWOT analysis from time to time. Sharing such reports will also keep HR abreast of employee productivity and conduct a better time audit.
Plan and prioritize
This is the last and continuing stage which is done via regular monitoring and improvement, basis the identification of the problems that the employees may be facing. The planning and prioritizing happen with the combined efforts of the employee and the HR. It is the result of a healthy time audit.
But is planning and prioritizing the only result of an effective time audit? No, there is a lot more to it.
Post-Time Audit Action Plan
Now that you have effectively conducted the time audit, it’s time to work towards the next part of the plan; creating actionable strategies that help your employees make the most of their work time.
You can do it in the following steps.
Step 1: Categorize
Ask your employees to categorize their time into ‘high-priority tasks’ and ‘time-wasters.’ This would help them understand which tasks need their immediate attention and which are the ones that can be deferred for a limited period. Mostly, ‘time wasters’ are discussions and meetings and not the actual tasks. While they are important, they do have to take a backseat when compared to the actual tasks. ‘High priority tasks’ are the ones that help an employee meet professional goals and objectives within the organization.
Step 2: Push Productivity
Now that the employees have categorized their tasks, the next step is to prioritize the tasks and distribute them over working hours in such a manner that maximizes their productivity. This can be done by creating time blocks, assigning tasks to them, and transferring tasks that can be delegated and reviewed later. The goal is to divide the tasks into achievable goals.
Step 3: Consolidate to Eliminate Context Switching
This is a lesser-known trick but one that is quite useful. Train your employees to group their tasks into similar and dissimilar categories. The reason being, similar tasks can be done in one flow and will take less time if done together because the employee does not have to fit into a frame of mind every time they start the task. This will save up a lot of time and help them be more productive.
Step 4: Day Comparison
Ask your employees to list down two types of days; their ideal day and their realistic day. This exercise is important because it will help the employees self-evaluate if they are setting unrealistic goals for the day which they can’t achieve and as a result, there is a massive backlog tagging along. The employees should figure out how much time they put into a task and compare it against how much time they would ideally want to spend.
Until this stage, you have managed to help your employees chart out a clear agenda. Beyond this is the time to implement that agenda and create a calendar that would help them manage their time better and give you a clear picture, thus completing your task of time audit for employees.
Step 5: Build Out an Action Plan
Ask your employees to create individual calendars and start mapping out their tasks, as per the time they would like to allocate. Again, they should map a realistic time and not the ideal time. A realistic time falls somewhere between the current time taken to complete a task and the ideal time. The employees should chart a rough period and put it in their calendars. This time will slowly reduce, and if all goes well, would reach the ideal time by the time it’s time for the next time audit.
Step 6: Consistency
This is one of the most important parts of the entire exercise. Anyone can start workshops. But are you following up on the results? Human beings are creatures of habit. If the results of any exercise are not monitored and measured carefully over time, chances are your employees will go back to their original way of working. This will not only waste the effort of the entire time audit exercise but also kill the chances of conducting another. A crucial part of the time audit for employees is to continually monitor them. This can be in the form of weekly or monthly reports. Avoid going for daily reports as it may lead to micromanagement.
A time audit is an important activity, both for the individual development of the employees and the organization as a whole.
Why is Time Audit Important?
We all struggle to manage our times at some point or the other. The same holds for organizations as well. It is important to conduct a time audit at regular intervals so that the business goals are achieved on time and the employees do not indulge in procrastination or employee time theft.
Here are some of the reasons why time audit is important.
#1 Helps Reach Goals
Poor time management is one of the main reasons why a person cannot achieve goals and objectives. Regular time audits to ensure that there are no unrealistic time allocations and the work is done within a reasonable time. It also means fewer to none missed deadlines.
#2 Increases Productivity
Of course, a time audit is an excellent way to figure out what exactly is holding the employees back from achieving their work goals. Once the issues are identified they can be tackled and removed, helping employees work better. This improves their productivity and boosts their confidence. Identifying ‘time wasters’ is a professional way of finding out how much time the employee wastes in casual social media scrolling or idle chat, which can be reduced if not cut altogether.
#3 Time Redistribution
Time audit for employees is aimed to train them in managing their time efficiently. This also means that they gradually figure out how to redistribute their time efficiently, depending on the tasks at hand, in the order of priority.
All in all, a time audit is a great way to keep a check on your employees’ time management skills and hone them over time. It will be beneficial to them as well as the company.
Automate your Time Audit
Time audit is essential to hone time management skills. But, do you really need to conduct workshops and exercises every time you conduct a time audit? It is an expensive and time-intensive task. The goal is to reduce the time and automate the process so that the employees internalize the learnings and managerial interference reduces over time. This can be done by incorporating time tracking tools.
AttendanceBot Time Tracking is one such option where you can not only record the attendance of your employees but also track internal time usage and external billable hours. What’s more? It gives accurate reports and data that can help you with your appraisal process when the time comes.
That being said, what tool you use depends a lot on the type of organization you are a part of. Smaller organizations and start-ups usually go for manual procedures and mini-workshops because it is easier for the managers to keep an eye out. With time and growth, automation via tools is an option that should be looked at.
What is your pick; automation or manual workshops? Whichever you pick, it should be able to meet the goals; increased productivity and better time management.
What are some of the best time audit and management techniques you’ve seen?