Say Goodbye to Late Timesheets

man standing hurridly filling in timesheet before deadline

No matter the industry, late timesheets can be a bane of one's existence when it comes to processing payroll and job reporting that relies on hours worked. But making it easier for managers and employees to submit timesheets on time can prevent a host of problems for payroll practitioners.

Hounding employees to report hours accurately and on time has been the task of payroll practitioners since the invention of the timesheet. Most companies resort to nagging and many have flirted with half-hearted reward and punishment programs, but improvements are usually short-lived.

If you're asking, "Why don't my employees submit their timesheets on time?" you may be asking the wrong question. The problem may lie with your system rather than your employees. Here are some methods to help make late timesheets a thing of the past.

Know where the problem lies

Don't assume that your employees are lazy or uncooperative. It's possible that your time management process is not very user friendly, making it difficult to use for your employees. Other employees may be well-intentioned but are absent-minded. Others might be juggling so much project work that submitting timesheets doesn't feel like a top priority compared to the other things they are responsible for.

Rather than blaming your workers, consider how you can help your employees to be more successful. Ask them if there are improvements that could be made to the system or procedural changes that would make it easier for them to submit their timesheets.

Keep it simple

Timesheets are notorious for being labor-intensive and tedious. Many companies put the burden of determining job rates or enforcing labor laws on the employees or supervisors, which is not ideal. The bottom line — literally and figuratively — is that if it takes half an hour or more for employees to fill out and submit a timesheet, you're wasting money each pay period could have been billable hours.

Automate time tracking

An automated system cuts a lot of manual entry out of your time-and-attendance process. Automation makes it easier and quicker to submit timesheets, so workers are less likely to put it off till later. Find a time management system that aligns with your pay policy needs. If you're currently using Excel or paper timesheets, look for a solution that's simple and quick to use. If you need to track multiple shifts and schedules or calculate overtime, your business needs a more robust time-and-attendance system.

You might also consider including automated reminders for employees. If forgetfulness is the culprit, sending an automated email reminder the morning that timesheets are due can be very effective.

Explain the benefits

Clarify the time management process and explain why accurate time tracking is integral to the billing cycle, cash flow, overall health of the company, and most of all the employee's own paycheck. When your team realizes why you track their hours and how it benefits your company — and ultimately their paycheck — they will may be more motivated.

Make timesheets fun

Gamify your timesheet submissions. Here are some ideas:

  • Give a prize to the first person to submit their timesheet each pay period.
  • Hold a drawing for gift cards for everyone who submits timesheets on time.
  • Keep a leaderboard of top timesheet submitters throughout the month or quarter. You could give point values for different achievements, such as first submitted, submitted on time, submitted without errors, etc. Reward the top performer at the end of the month or quarter.
  • Make it team-based by rewarding units. Track performance throughout the year and hold an annual recognition party.

Set goals for the company or for teams and celebrate when the goals are reached—then set new goals.

One company in Brazil made timesheets fun by installing a beer fridge that wouldn't open until everyone submitted their timesheet. Prizes don't have to be monetary. Get creative and consider rewarding employees with time off, free lunches, gift cards or a fun plaque.

Don't penalize

Some organizations withhold pay if timesheets aren't turned in on time. Many resort to public shaming or withholding privileges. Punishments for late timesheets will only hurt your company. Negative reinforcement doesn't work. With that approach, the message you communicate is that you don't care about employees' needs (timely pay is a legitimate need) and that can erode trust, leading to lower productivity and higher turnover. Penalties hurt everyone, including the company itself.

Learn more

Whether it's paying your staff most efficiently, dealing with a mobile workforce, managing complex schedules or handling a range of other details, ADP can help.

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Note: This article was originally published on the IDI Connections blog. In November 2021, ADP, Inc. acquired Integrated Design, Inc. (IDI) after 20+ years of partnership between the organizations. Read the press release here.