In my opinion, time tracking is the ultimate company culture killer. There has been no other activity that has had more impact on our company culture like a 90 degree hard turn- OVERNIGHT than removing time tracking from our day to day operations.
Our story has a happy ending, but getting there took much reflection as a team and an organization.
It all innocently started because we wanted to solve a simple problem- “no one had time”. In theory time tracking helps profitability, but for us it was bigger than that. It truly came from a place of good- how can we give our team more hours back in their day?
We launched the program and ran it for over a year. What we uncovered gave us great insight, helped us develop project scope, fine tune offerings, eliminate tasks that people were doing that they did not need to, and develop training.
So if it did so much good, how could it do so much damage?
It boiled down to one thing: it wasn’t a human approach to solving these problems.
We launched a team member survey after Christmas 2019. To sum it up, reading those responses was not the best way to spend the holidays.The answers were well, honest, which is truly all we can hope for as a business when we deploy a survey. How else can we have progressive change? Regardless, reading uninhibited responses can feel a little bit like a kick in the soul. That being said, I am so very thankful for their honesty otherwise nothing would have changed!
I’ve waited a long time to openly talk about it (2.5 years later!) not because I don’t think it's important but because it was a very humbling period in our company's history. People called it micromanaging and “big brother”, which made them feel untrusted and pressured. None of these things were our intent but it was inadvertently killing our culture of collaboration and being human.
I made an immediate decision: NO MORE TIME TRACKING. I canceled our subscription and anxiously waited for the next morning when I would see the team’s reaction to this major shift.
The next morning, upon learning of the change, the responses in our team group chat were overwhelmingly positive..Comment after comment, gif after gif expressing relief.
It was such a welcomed change and a positive experience. Just like that there was life and personality back in our chat thread.
I liken it to a balloon popping, the anticipation of the noise and the release of the air. It was an instantaneous refresh, all stemming from the ability to be transparent and open with each other.
I vowed at that moment we would never go back to time tracking EVER again and we even kept our promise when we all went home from COVID lockdown 3 months later.
It also opened the door for other company culture requests…
We know that we’re not the only ones who have stepped on the time tracking landmine.
In fact, it’s the most common complaint we hear in interviews and is often cited as the main reason they want to leave their current jobs. YUP! We too made that mistake and paid the price in losing talented people.
If you are time tracking, I promise you, there is a better way.
We use points based pricing and have KPIs for the company and team. It's not a minute by minute, second by second calculation (and it's not perfect), but it gives the overarching monthly, quarterly and annual targets that keep us in check.
The key to productivity and profitability isn’t in knowing where every second of the day is spent. It’s in proactively recognizing trends, gaps, and opportunities to become more efficient. KPIs and a solid meeting rhythm give you everything you need to know about how time is used and where it’s wasted without time tracking looming like a dark cloud overhead.
We’re not alone in our revelation:
- 10 reasons why your time tracking initiatives will fail
- DOES TRACKING HOURS SHOW A LACK OF TRUST?
- Monitoring Remote Workers: The Good, The Bad And The UglyMonitoring Employees Makes Them More Likely to Break Rules
- 5 Reasons Tracking Employee Hours Is a Terrible Idea
So what else can we do with what we’ve learned?
I ask myself this question every time we are about to do something now:
How will this affect our company culture?
We’ve learned a lot since then and we still continue to learn every day. The beauty of building company culture is that it’s never “finished” - it continues to grow and evolve as you try and fail and try again.
Here are some of the ways we’ve applied what we’ve learned and the specific steps we’ve taken. Hopefully you will be inspired on your own culture journey to take some of these steps, too!
1. Best Places to Work Certification
This certification recognizes employers who create exceptional experiences. They are an independent third party and provide your team with 100% anonymous survey questions. Your score is determined based strictly on employee feedback and their independent analysis. To top it off its a globally recognized and researched backed verification! It not only helps us keep a pulse check on how we are doing but it also helps us define areas of improvement and additional conversations we need to have as an organization to improve our score even further or discuss what made them score us so high in specific areas so we continue to do those things! And for an added bonus once certified it automatically qualifies you for consideration on over 20+ Best Places to work lists including the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list . We're proud to say we are officially certified! Here’s the process and how to get certified.
2. INC 5000 Best Places to Work Survey and Awards
This survey is very comprehensive which goes through extensive questions about the overall company, culture, management styles, benefit offerings etc. In addition to selection boxes and ratings the company is asked to provide examples in open text form as well as images.
To be considered for the best places to work you must meet these requirements:
- Be independent (not a subsidiary or division of another company)
- Be based in the United States
- Have at least 10 permanent employees
- Have been in business at least 2 years
- Have total annual revenue less than $1 billion
- Here’s how to apply.
After the surveys have closed for all applicants, the company is provided with results of how you measured up against the other companies (infographic style along with charts and graphs), as well as with quotes from your team, ways to improve, and the ability to upgrade and get an even broader report- not to mention get listed in INC Magazine. In 2022 we missed it by a couple points but have added onto our benefits program including matching 401k and sabbatical leave so looking forward to applying again this year and hope to make the cut! No one is perfect- the goal is to take feedback and continuously improve to get better!
Here’s a snapshot of some of our most recent report feedback:
3. HubSpot NPS and Surveys (Service Hub)
HubSpot has several options when creating surveys: simple NPS (Net Promoter Score), custom survey tool with a drag and drop builder and customizations, customer survey (CSAT) and customer support (CES). Leveraging the customizations in the tool allows you to ask whatever culture questions your heart fancies, here’s the high level steps to get it out and moving!
I’ll leave you with this…
Our business went 100% remote in 2020 and closed our physical office. Since then we’ve hired remote teammates in 13 states and are continuing to expand. Despite no time tracking- our business grew (for that period we reached the #109 spot on the INC 5000 regionals list!) Giving our team the freedom to focus on delighting clients, driving results, and being amazing team members (and humans) allowed our company culture to flourish. Cheers to continuing to reflect as a team, accept and act on feedback and develop an amazing culture worth fighting for!