Timesheets Give You Critical Insights (2 of 2 for Office Managers)
August 15, 2022
In this post, we’ll explore timesheets. We’ll talk about what timesheets are (and what they aren’t) and how to use the insights they provide to make better business decisions. This is part five of our series on Using Reports for the Green Industry and part 2 of 2 for Office Managers and admin professionals at Lawn Care, Tree Care, and Landscape companies.
What is a Timesheet?
“A timesheet is a record of the amount of time an employee has spent at work, on a particular job, project or working for a specific client,” says NaturalHR. So, you can use a proper timesheet for payroll purposes (you know Johnny spent 10 hours at work on Tuesday) and for billing purposes (you know Johnny spent 3 hours on the Smith job last Wednesday).
So, that’s all there is to a timesheet, right? Wrong! There are several excellent ways to use timesheets for your benefit and one pitfall to avoid.
Timesheets Help with Payroll
Obviously, as I just mentioned, you can (and should!) use timesheets to help with payroll. If you’re going to require your field labor to fill them out and use them, you should try to streamline the process and make sure you’re using their timesheets for payroll purposes.
This gives crew members the added incentive to fill them out; if they know their pay is tied directly to their partnership in filling these out (accurately!), they’re more likely to assist. That takes one huge task (time clock management) off your plate.
If you have a software solution that allows crew members to clock in and out on a timesheet, your best bet is to ask them to do that and run payroll from there. Otherwise, you can use paper timesheets and enter them into Excel or Google Sheets. If you go this route, use a formula on the spreadsheet to do the math for you on hours worked so you know how much to pay people.
Timesheets Help Improve Productivity
Stuart Brice runs a PR agency. Oddly, there’s a lot of crossover between running a PR company and running a Green Industry business. Both offer a service rather than a specific product. And both charge their clients by the hour, necessitating a timesheet to track time spent on a particular job (or project).
According to Brice, “The main purpose of timesheets is to manage internal resources more effectively.” (Note: If that podcast sounds like a robot, that’s because it is; he’s written articles and dropped them into a text-to-speech program. The quote I reference is at about the 5:24 mark.)
The principle holds: if you know what your team is working on and how long they’ve worked on it, you’ll potentially find areas for improvement. If you see common roadblocks across all teams in a department, use the data from the timesheet to address it.
Perhaps you’ll find your team spends more time on paperwork than you imagined. If so, find a way to automate the process or hire someone to manage it all, freeing your team to spend more time on billable services.
Maybe you’ll discover that your team spends lots of time on manual tasks (digging, spreading fert, etc.) that are done more efficiently with equipment. You can rent or purchase the needed equipment to keep the timeline on track and profitable. You’ll discover opportunities for additional training as well. According to IceHrm, “They [timesheets] help to identify areas where an employee takes more time than expected and needs additional training.” Seeing that one team member or crew takes twice the time to complete a task as the rest of the team presents an opportunity to further develop that employee or crew. This means jobs will get done faster, making the company more efficient and profitable.
Timesheets Help You Track Profitability
How do you know if you’re making or losing money on a particular job? How would you know if the company is profitable, but you’re losing your shirt on one specific service line?
“Being able to keep track of whether you are making or losing money on a project is one of the most important benefits of using timesheets,” according to Hubstaff. I have to agree with that statement.
Lots of companies struggle to sell Maintenance work profitably. And, to be fair, I completely understand why. But many still offer it. Why? It’s a “foot in the door” to that relationship with a new customer. I don’t wholly agree with the strategy, but I understand it.
But if you have a year where your Maintenance sales are way outpacing more profitable work (Lawn Care, for example), you might find a lot less money in the bank at the end of the year.
Tracking how many hours are spent on these jobs tells you how much profit you can expect. Perhaps you need to increase the number of hours on bids (say, adding two hours to every job) to make them more profitable. Or, increase the “cushion” in your profit margins for that work to cover the potential overages.
In either event, using a timesheet to see how many hours your team is working v. downtime will give you the data you need to make these decisions.
Timesheets Help You Identify Potential Leaders
I will start with this: not everyone who does well in field labor is a good fit for actual people management. Some of the most effective people I’ve ever worked with in the field would be awful in a supervisory role.
But, timesheets can give you insights into who is a potential candidate for those open positions in your company. For example, suppose you see someone continually crushing their efficiencies. In that case, it’s probably worth starting a conversation with them about if they’re interested in a supervisor or manager position (don’t assume!) and what else they’d need to accomplish to reach that goal.
Someone on your team who is exceptionally efficient might be a great candidate for your organization’s next level of leadership. But if they’re not a great fit for a supervisory role, perhaps you create a position where they’re responsible for training your entire team. That type of move would elevate the efficiency of your entire organization.
These are actionable conversations and insights you only gain from having the data timesheets can provide.
Timesheets are NOT Weapons
Here’s the pitfall: many Office Managers or Owners want to “weaponize” the timesheet. DO NOT DO THIS.
You cannot use the timesheet to approach someone and say, “Hey! Quit screwing around! Get back to work!” Doing so will only cause resentment in your team. As a result, they’ll quit giving you accurate inputs on the timesheet. (We discussed the importance of good inputs in this post.) Instead, they’ll fill it with what they think you want to see rather than what actually happened during their day.
You can (and should) use timesheets to discuss with your team. You can ask, “Hey, I saw that the Johnson job ran way over on hours. What happened there? Is there anything I could have helped you with?”
This does two things for you. First, it gives you the understanding you need to remove “roadblocks” from your team’s workflow actively. When that happens, and efficiency improves, everyone wins.
Secondly, when you act on the insights your team provides and work to remove those roadblocks, you’re cementing great communication and loyalty from your team. If they give you feedback and you ignore it or actively reject it, you’ll lose a ton of credibility with your team. In this labor market, you really can’t afford that.
When appropriately used, timesheets are an indispensable tool for your business. They help you with payroll, identify emerging leadership talent, and help you overcome obstacles and maintain profitability.
They’re a source of mistrust, bad will, and frustration with your team when misused.
Go back and read Part 4 in this series – Receivables: What Are They and Why They Matter (1 of 2 for Office Managers)
Keep Reading Part 6 in this series – Understanding Your Backlog (1 of 2 for Ops Managers)