Are you trying to improve efficiency in your company? So is probably every other business owner and executive out there. And there’s nothing strange in this - working faster means being able to take on more clients and projects without the extra cost of having to hire more staff.
And just like with so many business metrics, the first step to improving efficiency is measuring it. A very easy and accurate way to do just this is using a task timer such as Insightful.
This kind of time tracker works by detecting apps and websites that employees use and tracks how much time they spend on these tasks. The same can be done for projects. Insightful, for instance, has a functionality called automatic time mapping which assigns time to specific project based on the names of the files that employees are working on.
By now it should be obvious that a task timer is a powerful little tool that can measure time very precisely and requires next to no effort on your side. However, pure time tracking is just one dimension of work efficiency. If time tracker tool was all it took to estimate someone’s performance and make decisions on how to improve it, there would be no need for managers and HR department.
Yet, here you are.
Estimating time is a big part of gauging how efficient your workers are and there’s no better way to do it than by using a task timer, but using it without looking at any other factors can lead you towards serious misconceptions.
We’re going to look at four cases when the first impression upon looking at time tracking data is wrong.
Case 1: Taking too Many Shortcuts
Don’t get this the wrong way - shortcuts can be a great thing! Employees who know how to do a task in as few steps as possible while achieving the required outcome should be considered very effective. It’s those who skip the important steps you should keep your eye on.
Let’s take an example. For instance, you assign three developers similar tasks. Your task tracker shows that two of them completed it in 4 hours and one of them managed in less than 3. On top of that, everything works as it should. Logical conclusion? The fast employee is better than the others.
But you take the time to look at the whole process and the code, and you realize that the code isn’t commented, most of it is copied from online resources, variable names make no sense in the larger context, the task didn’t go through official testing channels and so on.
These are the things that don’t really affect whether or not something will work or even its quality. But they do affect compliance.
An employee can finish a task fast, but if they use workarounds that don’t comply with standards, they will very likely have to go back to that task or, even worse, the next person handling their work will.
Gauging this aspect of efficiency can be tricky to get by relying exclusively on task timer data.
Case 2: Sloppy Work
Another factor that time tracker programs can’t measure is the quality of work.
Even though taking quality into consideration is pretty intuitive, it’s not difficult to get carried away with all the precise data that a task time tracker can offer and forget about such a fundamental aspect of someone’s performance.
Even though an employee finished a task in half as much time as their colleagues for a similar assignment, if their work turns out to have serious shortcomings and mistakes, speed isn’t equal to better performance.
Don’t sacrifice quality for better task timer results. Efficiency shouldn’t be an excuse for sloppy work.
But does this mean that extra time dedicated to a task always leads to higher quality?
Case 3: Perfectionism
Taught by the previous two cases, you decide that quality is everything you should focus on and if you see someone who’s super slow according to your time tracker for work hours - well, that just means they pay more attention to details and therefore their work will be better. Let them take all the time they need.
Hate to break it to you, but you shouldn’t throw time out the window and forget about it just yet. An employee taking their time might as well be a case of being overly detailed.
Double-checking your work is commendable but triple-checking it is very likely a waste of time. Similarly, manually going over the data collected automatically is a good practice but collecting the data entirely manually is simply inefficient if there’s an automatic solution for it.
So, in case hours time tracking detects someone who’s particularly slow, make sure they’re not wasting some of that time on unnecessary details and processes.
Case 4: Out of Their Depth
Our final case will deal with a phenomenon that should be easy to spot, but nonetheless deserves a mention as another example of how keeping a tight focus on an hour tracking system while disregarding everything else can be extremely misleading.
To illustrate this, say you have a bunch of junior designers. You give them all a similar task one day and most of them finish it in 2 hours, while one or two do it in three and a half. You think ‘They must have done an exquisite job with a lot of intricate details’ but when you open their files all you can see are very basic designs very much like those of their much faster colleagues.
This could be an indication that they’re not very proficient with the software they’re working with or the kind of task that was assigned to them. Either way, they need more training and additional support. Detecting this need early will improve efficiency in the future, so that’s another reason why you should consider the actual work done along with the time needed for it when measuring efficiency.
Task timer is a mighty little piece of software that you’ll no doubt find extremely useful because of its ability to measure time very accurately. However, if you rely solely on it and disregard the quality of work, you’ll very easily be misled. The answer to the question from the title - is faster always better or does more time mean more quality - clearly demonstrates the importance of critical thinking in your management.
And the answer? It depends.