Timesheets: What they are and how to use them
Timesheets are an integral part of business. Learn everything you need to know t...
For most managers, timesheet reminders are a necessary evil. They ensure that all team members submit their time cards on time and that the person or persons conducting payroll have everything they need to complete the process accurately and on time.
But are timesheet reminders absolutely necessary? Is there a better way to gather all the data before payday?
In this article, we discuss some of the best timesheet reminders for your business and introduce you to a solution that can streamline the way your team and your business operate.
At their most basic, timesheet reminders are prompts that encourage team members to fill out and submit their time card (or other record of hours worked) for the last pay period.
As we’ll discuss in more detail later on in this article, timesheet reminders can take many forms, including:
Before the mid-2000s, hard copy and face-to-face timesheet reminders were pretty much the only options available. Yes, HR might leave a voicemail on a particular employee’s phone, but this was still a long way from being a common practice.
With the advent of email and other digital forms of communication, HR could now send a message to everyone in the business at the same time. No more making multiple copies of the memo or walking around trying to talk to each employee.
Texting added another method of reminding team members to turn in their time and eliminated the possibility that someone might not check their email in time.
More recently, push notifications — messages that pop up on the main screen of a user’s smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop device — are streamlining the process even more.
Timesheet reminders are important because they motivate your team to turn in their work hours for the current pay period.
Without that information, you can’t perform the calculations that keep your business on the road to success.
The most important calculation you’ll have to conduct with your timesheet reminders is payroll. Even if you disregard the other two on this list, you’re legally obligated to run an accurate and efficient payroll.
Without it, your employees will be unhappy and your business will suffer hefty fines and even substantial legal trouble.
Timesheet reminders are the best way to ensure that your business remains in compliance and that you have all the necessary information to write checks and pay your team.
Timesheet reminders actually help you plan for the future. How so? They bring in the records (the time cards or the timesheets) that indicate the total number of hours each employee worked every day.
In some cases, your team’s time cards may also break down work activity even further to include each employee’s time on task. Those numbers contribute to the planning process.
An analysis of time on task and total time worked helps you answer such questions as:
With that information in hand, you can implement processes that improve efficiency, productivity, spending, and a whole host of other variables — both now and in any new projects your team
The data you get from team time cards can help you answer all kinds of project and management questions that relate to maximizing profit, including:
While profit does depend on a wide variety of factors, when you can control labor spending and adhere to your budget, you’ll be in a better position to manage the other variables involved.
Email was one of the first modern methods for distributing timesheet reminders quickly to a large number of employees.
It’s still a viable way to stay in touch with your team, but some employees don’t check their messages regularly and might miss the reminder you sent.
Text messages are one of the most effective ways to send out timesheet reminders because everyone checks their phone, tablet, or mobile device at least once a day.
The one issue with sending reminders this way is that your business doesn’t always have access to mass-messaging tools. Because of that, sending a text to a large group of employees may take more time and effort than most of the other methods on this list.
Without a doubt, distributing timesheet reminders through your business’s time-tracking software is the most efficient way to reach everyone on your team.
Modern time-tracking software can be set to display a message whenever an employee uses the system (e.g., clocking in, clocking out, and recording time on task).
If your business uses a team communication app, like Sling, Inch, or Slack, a great way to distribute timesheet reminders is via direct message (DM).
In some cases, you can even set the software to send out reminders automatically on specific dates and at specific times so that everyone is sure to see the information.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, notifications (sometimes called push notifications) are another way to distribute timesheet reminders digitally without a lot of extra effort.
Notifications pop up on the main screen of a user’s phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer — often accompanied by sound to get their attention — even if the device is locked.
What’s more, those notifications stay there until the user acknowledges that they’ve read them.
This is the first of several old-school methods for reminding your team to turn in their timesheets.
Whether you leave a voicemail on their company landline phone or their personal mobile phone, it’s still an effective way to get the word out.
The poster timesheet reminder has been around for a long time — mainly because it works well.
If you choose to use this method, take some inspiration from these tip jar ideas and be sure to display copies in places that get a lot of traffic (e.g., at the coffee machine, in the break room, near the time clock).
Timesheet reminders, no doubt, started out as just a few words or lines of text (something like, “Please turn in your timesheet by noon on Tuesday.”).
Eventually, payroll managers got creative and included images with those words. This kicked off the meme trend that seems to be everywhere these days.
If your business has a public address system, you might consider making an announcement for everyone to hear.
If you’ve got the time and wherewithal to do it, write out a memo and post it somewhere obvious on each employee’s desk.
Talking to your employees directly is certainly the most personal of all the timesheet reminders on this list. But, depending on the number of team members your business employs and when they work, it can be difficult for you to reach everyone in person.
On top of that, delivering a reminder face-to-face can be one of the most transitory methods of them all.
Of course, you could bump it up a notch, pull rank, and ask them to fill out their timesheet while you wait, but that can be extremely disruptive and stressful for the employees you approach — not to mention time-consuming for you.
To make talking to your employees more practicable and effective, you could try pairing a face-to-face reminder with one of the other methods on this list.
For example, you could hand deliver a memo — perhaps a sticky note — to each employee and tell them to post it beside their computer for future reference. That way, they won’t forget all about the reminder the moment you walk away.
Offering an incentive to your employees for turning in their work hours on, or even before, the due date can be a very effective way to streamline the entire payroll process.
The addition of an incentive is what’s known in psychological circles as positive reinforcement — a reinforcing stimulus or feedback following a certain behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future.
Positive reinforcement operates on the theory that people are more likely to do things that bring them positive results, and this is certainly true for your team members.
Rewarding your employees with something they enjoy if everyone submits their timesheets before the deadline can be a great way to motivate improvement.
Consider such incentives as:
As you think about the incentives that would work best for your employees, take into account their personality types and which types of motivation they respond to.
This will help you find the reward that inspires everyone on your team.
Feel free to get as creative as you want with your incentives — perhaps combining two or more ideas to really motivate your team — but make sure that the option you implement is sustainable for your business over the long haul.
Have you ever been in this situation? You’re working intently on some project when, all of a sudden, your company’s calendar program displays a notification reminding you of a meeting you have scheduled in 10 minutes.
Of course you have — we’ve all been there.
It’s easy to get so involved in what you’re doing that you forget about your other responsibilities. The same is true for your employees.
Company-wide calendar reminders may be just the thing they need to prod them into action (i.e., to turn in their timesheet).
To make use of this kind of timesheet reminder, first set an appointment during the least busy time for your team (perhaps first thing in the morning before the work gets started or at the end of the day when things are winding down).
Within that appointment, encourage your employees to use the time to compile their work hours for the week or month, and then turn in their report to you.
Then, set a reminder for five or 10 minutes before the “appointment” is supposed to start. If your team needs lots of prodding to get things going, you may even want to set up multiple reminders for the upcoming task (e.g., at 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, and five minutes before).
That way, you’re sure to get their attention and help them not to forget.
With this type of reminder, you may be tempted to set the appointment and reminder for everyone on your team whether they’ve already turned in their timesheet or not — in some cases, it’s simpler that way.
But take the time to only include the appointment and reminder on the calendar of those who haven’t turned in their hours yet. Interrupting the workflow of someone who has already made the effort to submit things on time is counterproductive and may do more harm than good.
Earlier, we discussed how you can use your time-tracking software to distribute timesheet reminders to delinquent employees. In some cases, you can also use that time-tracking software to fill out the timesheets for your team.
With an app that incorporates scheduling, time tracking, and task management into one program, your employees may be able to track their work time as they go. Then, the app can automatically create and submit their timesheets according to the parameters that you set.
This is, perhaps, one of the easiest ways to ensure that you receive all the timesheets when you need them.
As long as your team members remember to track their work time as they go, they won’t have to take time out of their busy schedule to go back and try to remember when they worked and what they worked on.
With this type of time tracking in place, your team will have one less thing to think about as they go about their workday.
Automatic timesheet acquisition is by no means foolproof, though. An employee may still forget to start tracking their time on a specific task. This can lead to gaps in the timesheet that render it incomplete for the purposes of payroll.
Even with such automation, you may still need to send out timesheet reminders in order to get certain team members to fill in the blanks.
Still, the number of delinquent timesheets may be significantly lower than it would be if you didn’t have automatic acquisition in place — making it easier to track down the missing information you need to complete the payroll process.
While not necessarily a method for distributing timesheet reminders, gamifying the submission process is certainly a great way to keep the activity at the forefront of your employees’ thinking.
There are many ways to do this, so get creative and come up with something that your team will enjoy striving for. You may even want to combine this process with some of the incentives mentioned earlier.
Here are some ideas for transforming your team’s timecard submission process into a fun game that everyone will want to play.
Survey your employees to find out what they think an appropriate “jail” would be.
Then, announce that the suggestion they submitted will be their own personalized “punishment” should they neglect to turn in their work hours on time.
Assign one employee the task of being the timesheet hero. When it’s their turn, task them with the responsibility to make sure that everyone completes their time card before the due date.
If they’re successful — or even if they’re not — designate a specific reward, such as a free drink, a gift card, or lunch out for their efforts.
Organize a pizza party for your entire team at the end of the pay period.
For every day that an employee forgets to turn in their timesheet, they receive that number of dashes of hot sauce on their slice.
As the due date approaches, compile and display a timesheet leaderboard. But, instead of tracking just one variable every time, switch it up without telling your team.
For example, you may choose to track:
Get creative with your leaderboard for a fun way to keep timecard submission top of mind.
Another great way to motivate your employees to turn in their work hours on time — and avoid the timesheet reminders altogether — is to connect submission to one big bonus.
You may choose to hold the competition for three months, six months, or a full year, and award points for the order in which you receive the timecards or for the person who submits their timecard with the fewest gaps.
There are many ways to format this type of competition so get creative and find what works best for your team.
Though timesheet reminders may be necessary on some occasions, you don’t want them to be a regular part of your workweek. Tracking down all the delinquent time cards can take up a lot of valuable time that you could dedicate to other, more important, tasks.
If you want to eliminate timesheet reminders altogether and streamline the payroll process, Sling is the answer.
The Sling suite of tools comes with a built-in timeclock, automated reminders, exportable payroll reports, and much more. These features give you access to all of your team’s work hours when you need them and provide complete control over the employee payroll process.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.
Last Updated: February 2023
This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.
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