How to Get Time Sheets Filled Out

An employer is looking for ways to motivate employees.

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Suzanne Lucas

We have a long running problem of employees not logging in their online time sheets. We've gone so far as to put reminders on their outlook calendars but they still forget. I'm looking for ideas of how to motivate them to do this, and explain why it is important as well as a part of their job. Any ideas?

Yes. Don't pay them.

OK, it is illegal not to pay someone for time worked, and in some states you can get in big trouble for delaying a paycheck, but (check with an attorney in your state) why not just set a deadline and if they miss it, they don't get paid for that week until the next round of paychecks?

[See why Brad Pitt might be working in the next cubicle.]

A couple of missed paychecks and this problem will go away. (Unless, for some strange reason, your employees don't need the money.)

But, I suspect that my answer won't be very popular with either the masses (who aren't filling out their time sheets) or the powers that be (the people who make these kinds of decisions). So, let's talk motivation.

Think about what you are trying to motivate them to do: fill out time cards so they can be paid. Hmmm. Why would I need to motivate someone to do a final step for a paycheck? You shouldn't have to. It shouldn't be difficult. But it is. And that might suggest that the problem lies not with unmotivated employees, but with a time sheet process that disheartens.

[See why management is so hard.]

Is the time sheet simply time-in, time-out or does it involve documenting each and every day in 15 minute (or smaller!) increments? Does it have some other feature that is a big pain? Can you get rid of this problem-causing system?

I realize that if your company bills clients by the hour, you need documentation of how many hours were worked on each account. But thousands of companies do this, without issue, so take a look at how you are doing it.

One thing that I'm sure of, it's easier to change our own behavior than to change someone else's. So, first take a look at your processes and see if there is room for improvement. If not, start a contest in which everyone who submits their time card on time gets entered into a drawing. Draw a winner at the end of each quarter, and award an extra vacation day. But first, see if you can fix the problem from your side.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.