Time reporting challenges (and solutions to these!)

Welcome to our blog – a regular publication by Mantle, with a focus on business growth, business value, decision making and performance management, in other words, all things that make a business better.  Today’s edition is written by Laura Landmark. 

Time reporting challenges (and solutions to these!)

Time is the key to creating a competitive advantage. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, time is the ultimate equaliser, it is a precious non-renewable resource.  Its exclusivity means time has always represented the key to creating a competitive advantage.  

What can we do with our time to grow our business? How can we use it wisely to stay ahead of the pack?  How do we make the most of our time, create leverage with it, get more from it? 

The only way to know if we are doing this consistently and effectively is to track it.

How do we allocate our time to create the best outcomes?

Time tracking and time management helps us to prioritise what we ‘spend’ time on, which tasks and activities are important enough to consume our time? 

How can we allocate our time in the best way to create the best outcomes?  Managing time focuses us on the real needle movers in the business and opens up the possibility to grasp opportunities as they arise, by quickly redeploying our time as necessary. 

Lyspærer

Time can be tricky to measure

Time metrics form an integral part of management reporting. But time reporting can be tricky due to all the different dimensions, groupings, types & filters.  

Time is multifaceted and needs to be monitored from many different angles, not for the purpose of micromanaging the team. Because mismanagement of time can have catastrophic results.  

What can time metrics tell us?

Metrics can reveal ‘Who is spending time where?’ ‘How much is productive?’ ‘How much time is ‘spent’ on admin?’  ‘Are there any concerning / recurring patterns of absence?’  ‘Has everyone booked their time?’  ‘Is there a tendency to overwork, meaning danger of burn out?’  

What can we learn from the way we used our time on X project, meaning we can price better next time?  Have we invoiced our chargeable hours?  Which projects / products / departments / regions are consuming most of our time resource? The list goes on.

 

Flexi time is a blessing and a gift.

 

Another aspect of time is what it means to the employees as individuals.  Extra time spent in periods can be recouped later under a flexi time arrangement.  Flexi time is a wonderful concept. We all love it, the freedom to work a few extra hours Monday to Wednesday and take an early weekend on Friday. The flexibility to work when it suits to accommodate family life. This can increase motivation and morale and reduce tiredness and stress.

 

Challenges of calculating the flexi bank balance

One of the issues with flexi time is that not all ERP’s, accounting systems or time booking systems have the capacity to report time or flexi time in the way that works for your company.

Typical challenges are different treatment of holidays. Some companies have extra half day holidays before main holidays. Companies have different ways of recording time. Sometimes against project, time type, or activity, they have different standard hours, and all of this can have a bearing on how the flexi bank is calculated.  Other challenges are calculating flexi time for part-time or seasonal workers.

As much as having a flexi bank is a valuable perk, as an employee it’s a little frustrating if it is difficult to get a quick overview of your flexi bank balance. As a department head its also risky if you cannot control the team clocking up unmanageable quantities of flexi time which will be difficult to ‘pay’ back.

Other time reporting challengesGirl smiling reading message on her phone

The way the company is segmented can also have a bearing on how to calculate time, when it comes to productivity reporting. Different companies want to look at different departments or groups of different types of workers in different ways. A typical example that arose recently was where we built a time related report that showed the amount of ‘down-time’ for a specific department, where the ‘norm’ would be a high % of productive work. It became apparent with a quick glance and a bunch of red traffic lights that something was amiss.This kind of information can be used to look deeper at underlying issues. Is there too much work, too little, is there a way to redeploy or support this team in a way that makes the best use of time, and gives the employees the best experience?

Prior to building this report the department head was not able to easily glean this information meaning it was impossible to be proactive about correcting the situation.

 

Dodgy absentee trends

Absenteeism can be reported on, revealing trends that might need a further look. You may have a KPI for example that measures number of absentee days, and that might be at an ‘acceptable’ level on the surface. But maybe it masks the fact that there is a trend of regular small absences, typically on Friday and Mondays! This is a red flag and can point to cultural or other issues that need addressing.

What can we do about this?

Using technology, we have ways of digging out this sort of information and flagging it quickly, which can lead to a critical dialogue with relevant employees around the reason for the unauthorised leave.  Are there family issues? Workplace harassment? Are they job hunting, or just partying too hard at the weekend?!

 

Is all time booked?

Another example of a time related report that we built was one that highlighted if people were failing to book all of their time on-time. Many companies have rules around when time must be booked, i.e., by 9am the following day. The reasons for this are often several, it is used to calculate wages, send invoices, and in other contexts. If there is uncertainty whether all time has been booked before the relevant cut off periods, it renders the reports untrustworthy, or can have other consequences like unpaid overtime or failure to invoice customers completely or on time. The longer it takes to book time, the more chance there is of forgetting and it being inaccurate.

We have been employed before to create a report that flags up missing time, and also looks at date stamps of time booked to warn department heads if there is a lack of compliance which they can follow up on.

 

Automate and accommodate!

The important thing is that the reports are set up within the relevant company’s parameters.  Being based in Stavanger we work with a lot of oil companies, and they have extra challenges around complicated time packages for offshore workers. These include normal time, overtime, waiting time, delay time, meeting overtime, overtime that is rechargeable, and overtime that is not, red day allowance, night shift allowance, mud allowance, mask allowance, sickness +++ the list goes on! These workers are often working alongside onshore workers who have a different set of time types, and somehow the reporting needs to accommodate for all. And the salary payments need to be correct!  A good time report can help make sure that there are no unhappy workers on pay-day.

Teamwork

Gone are the days where one person works in one department on one task. People float around organisations, therefore its important to be able to ‘cost’ their time where they work.  The best way of doing this is to book time against projects so that the cost of their time can be allocated appropriately.

An employee may ‘belong’ in one department, but the project they are working on belongs in another.  Therefore, when reporting it is important to distinguish which department is relevant, the employee department? or the project department? as both will give very different results.  Equally valid, both correct, but different and relevant depending on the circumstances. Using technology, we can make a measure that will allow either (or both) views, the report reader can choose.

 

Flexi time Power BI dashboard with drill through

In summary, measuring and managing time has numerous benefits. It can get a bad rap, but in my opinion it is as important as measuring how much cash you are using in the business in different areas. The are both important resources and usually limited and need to be tracked. Choose a time system wisely and ensure that if the reports you need are not produced directly from the system itself that alternative reporting systems are employed to create the relevant dashboards, PowerBI is a great tool for this.

Below is an example of a flexi time dashboard we made in PowerBI so that all employees can get an instant overview of their flexi balance, and also whether or not they have remembered to book all of their time. You can see in the calendar grid the red cells are where the employee has failed to record the minimum standard daily hours. Many people forget to book time on the 1st Jan for example, this employee would need to go and book that time correctly in order to ensure their flexi bank is not deducted with 7.5 hours! 

Learn more about PowerBI

       

 

There is a drill through from this report to the underlying data, so its really easy to keep control.

We have built time reports in all flavours, they are not always straight forward to create, and it is not uncommon to hear a few expletives underway during report design.  The end result is always good though, and once they are set up they can be used regularly and automatically to make sure everything remains on time and on track.

 

PM us if you have any time related challenges that you would like to get a handle on.

ll@mantleanalytics.com