“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend,” said Greek philosopher Theophrastus. Unfortunately, not everyone got this premodern memo – people can sometimes be careless with their time and productivity at work. Often times, there are lapses in how an employee’s working hours are recorded. This can be due to human error, or in some cases, time theft or fraud, with people appearing to spend more time at work than they actually do.

This lost time can add up pretty quickly. According to studies by the American Payroll Association (APA), companies could potentially be losing up to 7 percent of their gross annual payroll to time theft. This is mostly a consequence of how employee time, absence, and overtime is tracked. Without adequate security measures to track errors while inputting time data, artificial inflation of working hours and overtime, punching in for other coworkers, it’s difficult to understand when your organization is losing valuable productivity.

So, how can your organization balance the need for a non-intrusive time tracking system with a system that can comprehensively record employee time information for payroll and compensation actions? Automated timesheets are a great way to eliminate inconsistencies, but there are organizational measures you can also implement to ensure an airtight system.

1. Use electronic timesheets.

Taking advantage of electronic systems, which include online, mobile, and bio-metric timesheets, makes time tracking, overtime control and data analysis simple. This helps employees accurately log times themselves as necessary through self-service functionalities. Most often, lost time is a consequence of employees finding it too complicated to log their time. Electronic timesheets cut out the tedium from this work.

 2. Identify the points where you’re losing time and how you can fix them.

This is where an electronic system can be of most use. You can uncover discrepancies by observing when timesheets have been filled out erroneously or modified. It’s also easy to discover possible fraud by comparing payroll data against biometric data on employee attendance, user engagement metrics from work tools, or by studying team-wide time clock trends that point to employees colluding to falsify time records.

3. Make sure your employees have easy access to your payroll and overtime policies.

Sometimes employees don’t clearly understand how they should account for their work. They tend to overlook time that they haven’t actually worked and keep track poorly. It’s hard to call this fraud, but it could result in timesheet edits and padded entries. Configuring timesheets through an online system so employees can log their hours according to established policies can also be useful.

4. Involve the managers in staying updated of their employees’ time.

While HR may be able to handle data discrepancies and note larger trends in the timesheets, they’re not always able to detect errors on an individual or team basis – a skill that comes from first-hand exposure to employee behavior. With easy access to timesheets, managers can report these discrepancies between worker attendance and recorded time data.

 5. If you do detect time fraud, nip it in the bud.

Look into any seemingly minor lapses. Communicate with the employee about their mistakes so they won’t have to deal with more serious issues in the future. Learning from the lesser instances of time theft or fraud will also help you implement safeguards against more widespread malpractice.

Keeping up with the pace of work in organization requires employees to make the most of their time. Given that working time records are usually integrated with payroll, any time that employees lose translates to lost money for the organization. These issues are often easily fixed, and their consequences easily minimized. Automate your timesheet processes, fix the cracks, and save your organization’s valuable time and money.

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