Implementing a time tracking system, or transitioning from one time tracking system to another, can be a challenge for any creative company, big or small. After thoroughly evaluating multiple products and choosing the right fit for your business, next comes the account setup and onboarding process — making sure that the account is set up in a way that best fits your workflow and training your team on how it all works. Even with the help of a dedicated onboarder, this process takes time and can be difficult to fit into an already busy schedule, even though you know that time spent on implementation now will save you more time later.

As an onboarder, there is nothing more rewarding than working through the implementation process, rolling out the system to the whole team, and then watching them hit the ground running with consistent usage and daily timesheet entries. I regularly follow up with my accounts, and the really positive feedback usually comes a few weeks to a month after rollout, once they’ve pulled their first round of reports and can clearly see the value in time tracking.

The most consistent piece of feedback I get, however, is this: Everything is working great... but how do I get my team to actually track their time?

Build That Habit
Research suggests that it takes an average of 66 days to build a new habit. This might seem like a long time if you have just sunk a bunch of money into a subscription for time tracking software, and you need your team to get on board now, but the reality is that time tracking is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Regardless of how much of your time you have spent on setting up the account and getting everyone trained, no matter how simple the process or user-friendly the software, there is no magic button that will force your team to log in each day and make timesheet entries.

You have committed to the software, now you need to encourage your team to embrace the process and commit to building that time tracking habit. There are many different strategies out there, and what works will vary from person to person, but the most consistent piece of advice I have found is to start small. If your time tracking software is web-based, make the login page the homepage on everyone’s browser, to encourage them to log in at the start of each day. If the software features a desktop app, ask your team to download it and pin it to their start bar, or if not, use their desktop calendar to set up reminders to track their time - small changes can lead to big results.

Get Involved
If you want your employees to consistently and accurately track their time, you and your management team need to get involved and set the example. If you’re not willing to track your time, why should they? If management sets the standard when it comes to tracking time, the rest of the team should follow suit.

Mandatory time tracking will probably never make it onto the top 10 list of things that people love about their job but communicating why you want your team to track their time can make a difference. Tracking billable hours to improve client billing and Increase profitability? To better manage employee workload? To streamline company workflow and allow users to be as productive as possible? All of the above? Time tracking becomes less of a chore for everyone when they understand why you want them to do it, and the benefits involved.

Focus on the Positive
So, what happens when you have provided your team with a user-friendly way to track their time, communicated the benefits and reasons for doing it, and you are still unable to motivate your users to complete their timesheets by a set deadline? Some companies gravitate towards a punishment system, whether it is public shaming via company-wide email or going as far as to withhold pay. While this might be effective in the short-term, it does nothing to support long-term time tracking success. At the very least, you want your team to view tracking time as a necessary part of their day-to-day, not as something they are forced to do or else.

Rather than punishing the bad, why not reward the good? The Incentive Theory suggests that human behavior is motivated by a desire for reinforcement or incentives. These incentives can be small individual-based rewards such as a $10 gift card to the local coffee shop for the first few users to submit completed timesheets for the week, or a team-based incentive encouraging everyone to complete accurate timesheet entries for an entire month for the reward of an after-hours event or extra day off. The scope of these incentives and rewards will vary depending on the company budget and size of the team, but the goal is to provide positive reinforcement rather than punishment. However you choose to do it, positive reinforcement encourages the building of habits, while also contributing to workplace productivity and morale. Everybody wins!

Implementing time tracking as part of your business practice can be a challenge, but patience, clear communication, and encouragement will help it become a part of your team’s daily routine, allowing you to use this information to strategize and focus company workload, direction, and goals, making the most out of everyone’s time.