Capturing time (and expense) is a critical task for everyone in your firm. This is valuable information that guides all of your strategic and tactical decisions.
For example, it can answer the questions:
- How much should I bill a client (for Hourly Billing)?
- How much of each employee’s time is billable (Realization Rate)?
- How well utilized is each employee (Utilization Rate)?
- How much does it cost for each employee working on a job AND the job itself (Job Cost)?
- How much is the work worth (Billable Amount regardless of the billing arrangement)?
- How much margin is generated for each employee AND the job AND the client (Gross Margin)?
With this information alongside later actions in the flow from WIP to Cash, you can start to build strong and healthy time entry habits at your firm. .
NOTE: Hours also need to be captured for holidays, sick leave, vacation, jury duty, and so on. This facilitates tracking available and allowed hours for personal time off in BQE CORE. And if you want to get out from under paper for your HR team, BQE also offers CORE HR.
Why is Tracking Timely Time Information so Hard?
My time is too valuable, and I’m too busy to do admin work.
I keep a journal and then do it when it’s needed.
My work is all the same.
My time is not billable.
I do it when the back office tells me they’re ready to bill.
Many studies and surveys show that the more time that passes between when a task is completed and when it is recorded, the less precise the information is. The details become increasingly fuzzy after 5, 10, 20, or more days. We begin to guess, enter what feels right, adjust hours to total 8 hours arbitrarily, duplicate old time entries, and check emails and other information. All of which is not as accurate or helpful as immediate time tracking.
3 Ways to Improve Time Tracking Habits?
1. Create a Written Time and Expense Policy
First, create a written policy for time and expense entry. Make sure everyone is aware of, understands, and follows the policy.
- Create a policy for time (and expense) entry.
- Go through the policy in your company or department meeting.
- Hand a copy of the policy to every employee, including partners (1099 employees too).
- Require every employee to sign the policy.
- Put the signed copies in the employees’ files.
Make time entry a DAILY requirement. Employees can choose whether to record hours worked after each task, enter start and stop times, switch timers throughout the day, or enter time at the end of the day. In BQE CORE, expect each time entry to average less than 30 seconds. If memos are required for some projects or all of them, you can add this requirement with a couple clicks.
2. Monitor Employee Adherence to Your New Time Policy
Second, monitor adherence to the policy.
There are several ways to do this in BQE CORE. The easiest way is to review the Employee Missing Time Week Report. Schedule the report to automatically print daily or weekly. If you need to send it to specific supervisors for review, apply filters to the report and email it (PDF) to each one.
Later in 2020, BQE CORE will make monitoring automatic. This new intelligence feature will remind employees to finish their incomplete time sheets. You can also control the minimum number of hours for each full-time and part-time employee. This automatic check can be scheduled daily or weekly.
3. Follow Up on Time Sheets
Finally, you need to follow up. Even with monitoring, unless you follow up, no one will take the policy seriously. It is especially important for partners, managers, and supervisors to adhere to the time sheet policy—both in their actions and in conversations with staff.
What might the policy be for violators?
- Verbal Warning: The back-office staff can remind employees up to three times before escalating it to the supervisor or manager.
- Supervisor Warning: Employees receive reminders for two more delinquent time sheets, then a written warning is provided.
- Partner Meeting: The employee sits with the partner and explains why they cannot follow the time entry policy.
We all know adding and changing habits is not easy. Obviously, the time tracking policy outlined above, and its follow-up elements, are meant to build strong habits. Improving your time tracking habits is critical to your firm’s success and employees who cannot follow the policy should be put on a plan for improvement or they will not contribute to that success..