How to Make a Painless Switch from Paper Time Sheets

by ClockShark

This article was originally published to the ClockShark blog in February 2016.

People don’t all like it when things change. Some resist. They’re looking for reasons to stay the same, since change involves uncertainty, and uncertainty is uncomfortable. [construction employees adopting software]

As those running the business, we know that tendency to stay the same is bad. After all, we’re trying to innovate and keep a step ahead of competitors, right? The last thing we want is to be the company using the fax machine while the rest of the world uses email and snickers.

When you’ve made a decision to move forward with an innovative technology (like time tracking), prepare for resistance. But how much resistance should you expect?

Since we’ve worked with nearly 1000 companies to onboard them to ClockShark, there’s a lot we’ve learned about what works to onboard employees successfully.

Since most of ClockShark’s customers are either construction or field service companies, these experiences are based on that context. I believe these tips can also be applied to employee situations outside these industries. However, construction and field service companies have a certain gritty quality to the people and work that is hard to understand unless you’ve worked in one. That grit makes the things I am about to mention particularly relevant.

So what’s the first thing that happens when you try to introduce electronic time tracking (or any new software)? Some employees are ambivalent. Some pretend to not hear what was said. Some nod, but fail to take action. Some downright whine or argue.

Others comply happily. They may understand the wisdom of the move. Or maybe they’re just your “Yes men”. But regardless they are on board. [yes man]

What are the typical percentages? That seems to vary. The good news is that in most companies, those that happily comply are in the majority.

What I’ve found is that it’s helpful to just ask, based on what you already know about how your employees, how likely am I to get push back?

If you have a workforce of old timers who’ve worked for the company for 20 years, you’re more likely to experience a headache than if your workforce is made up of 20-30 year olds.

What seems to be the most successful way to present it? There’s nothing to hide. Your employees aren’t stupid and you shouldn’t be ashamed of your motives.

So be honest. Share that it’s important for the business to be able to control labor costs. You need to know where labor dollars are being spent, so that the cost can be properly assigned. Many field staff have no concept of the back office part of a construction or field service business. Try to help them understand that time tracking is important to being profitable, being profitable is important to staying in business, and important to continued employment for them.

You may be thinking, you’ve had these talks with your employees and they don’t change things. Most of them will look at you and nod. You’ll wonder if what you told them even registered. But you still need to tell them. Their job on the front lines turning wrenches is hard work. But they need to be shown that being an owner or manager in a construction or field service business is hard work too. Losing money is no joke, and it’s easy to do. You have a right to make sure that you are paying fairly, and conversely the employees have a right to not miss out on any rightfully earned pay.

So the exact percentages vary, but what’s most typical?

In a company of say, twenty employees, expect to have 2-3 employees that do one of the following:

  1. Refuse to use electronic time tracking
  2. Say it doesn’t work right on their device
  3. Claim they are punching in correctly but aren’t
  4. Express concerns over being GPS tracked while clocked in
  5. Express concerns about using a personally owned device for work (can be related to data use, battery drain, or just the principle)
  6. Say they will quit

So you may have more or less resistant employees. If you have 2-3 employees out of twenty, that’s not too bad. You can win these people over by showing them:

  1. Electronic time tracking is actually easier than time sheets once you get used to it
  2. It does work fine on their device
  3. They weren’t using it right before, and when shown how to use it, they see how easy it is and how well it works.
  4. The GPS is only active while they are clocked in for work, and isn’t any different than the fleet GPS tracking modules in trucks that have seen widespread use over the last ten years.
  5. Using personally owned things for work is commonplace. There’s a growing trend in business of personally owned work computing devices, termed BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Not to mention, your employees likely provide some of their equipment already, such as PPE and hand tools.
  6. Anyone who wants to quit because you are trying to improve the way you run your business, is probably not an asset anyway.

Regarding company owned devices, we really don’t recommend you issue them unless it’s something you already do. Company owned smartphones or tablets can be a nightmare. They’re expensive, and they tend to get beat up much faster than you’d expect. There’s also usually problems with certain employees using too much data or running up other charges on the company plan. So unless you already issue them, stick to using employees’ own smartphones. The majority of employees now own one.

What about employees without a smartphone? The best strategy is to cover them using the CrewClock feature. That works well as long as you have a trusted foreman or supervisor to clock in for them.

An important thing to know is that the resistance you’ll get in the first couple weeks is a test. It’s to see if you’re serious. They’re hopeful you’ll get frustrated and go back to the old way of doing things.

So, you’ll need to be strong during this short test.

What seems to work well for on-boarding is to get everyone together in a meeting. Setup the mobile app on everyone’s device, get them logged in, have them clock in and test things.

Ask for questions. Ask for objections. Make it clear that this is now the new way of doing things, not an option. Let them know that paper time sheets are no longer accepted.

Make sure your managers are on board. Without the support of your managers, foreman and lead people, you’ll have a harder time getting everyone else to buy in.

Talk to your admin staff. Make sure they know that they are not to accept times over the phone or accept paper time sheets. It’s common for the resisting staff members to try to keep turning in the old paper time sheets or call staff with explanations of why they failed to clock in. Don’t accept the excuses. Draw a line in the sand.

If you’re still in a trial of ClockShark, use this time to run through a real world test run of the system with at least a couple of your employees.

If you have a particularly large group, say 40 or more, then it might make sense to on-board a crew or department at a time. That approach seems to work successfully.

When your employees realize that it’s not just an experiment, they’ll get on board. Give it 1-2 weeks, and make sure you support them but also don’t go too easy on non-compliance. Everyone will get on board, and then they’ll go on with their lives.

Sometimes I’m talking with a company, and they don’t seem worried about whether they’ll succeed with on-boarding employees. They say things like “Look, if they want to get paid they’re going to do it, or they can work somewhere else.”

That sounds a bit harsh, but going back to the gritty nature of construction I mentioned earlier, it’s really a pretty effective mindset. The companies I see that have this mindset, get the implementation done successfully.

The reverse unfortunately is a company that is being run more by the field staff than it’s management, and that’s a really bad situation. The field staff are valued and should have a voice, be respected, and even form committees to work on different improvement issues. But in the end, management needs to set the direction the company is moving and employees need to follow the newly established policies.

When I hear from the small percentage of companies that fail to onboard their people, (yes, it’s really a very small percentage), they talk differently. They say things like “we just couldn’t get everyone to use it”.

So, I guess the question is, if you wanted to succeed, why did you make it optional?

Another common thing we hear, is that the guys who complain the most are the ones that were already under suspicion of time theft. That makes sense when you think about it. Why would an honest employee take issue with making time tracking fair and accurate?

Furthermore, we hear that most employees like using ClockShark. They don’t have to mess around with filling out paper time sheets at the end of the day (or end of the week). They don’t have to worry about bringing in their time sheet or figuring out how to send it to you.

Admin folks (those working with the time sheet process), also love ClockShark. Their lives are typically a lot easier, since they can stop hassling with chasing time sheets and trying to decipher them.

So, by approaching the transition from paper time sheets to electronic time tracking with the right mindset, right communication, and right conviction, the only path is forward. It’s the successful path.

Don’t let the fear of change and resistance that comes with it derail your efforts to run your company. One of the biggest challenges to implementing electronic time tracking is people. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. Keep your head down, and get it done. You’ll be glad you did.


To learn more about ClockShark's Construction Time Tracking Software System and get a free 14-day trial visit www.clockshark.com