Employee Time Clocks = Bad Idea

graphic of man standing on glass hourglass
Wait! Come back Time! I’ll save you!

Time clocks are a big mistake. Here’s why:

In 2007 I purchased a technologically advanced  swipe card time clock system for our medium size manufacturing plant which employed around one hundred and fifty people.

At the time it seemed like a good idea as we were experiencing many problems with employees adjusting their time sheets without approval and our payroll administration was becoming a nightmare.

Unfortunately for anyone “on the clock”, the scary, time munching monster we just unleashed was about to elevate many blood pressures while voraciously chewing through more LIFE than anyone dared measure.

All Aboard to Frustration City

Employee time tracking problems increased unmanageably immediately following our time-clock implementation and as time dragged on (no pun intended) continually required more supervisory / administrative involvement AFTER we installed the system.

For example:

Late Employee

Prior to time clock: attempted to manually alter time sheet.

After time clock: has a buddy swipe him in or out.

Missing Employee

Prior to time clock: supervisor noted absence

After time clock: a buddy swipes employee in and out.

Amount of Time Wasted

Prior to time clock: only time required was to record start / finish

After time clock: hundreds of visits to payroll office by employees questioning hours

Employee Morale

Prior to time clock: saw time keeping as a necessary evil

After time clock: overall feeling was that we didn’t trust employees so they trusted us less

Time Theft

Prior to time clock: 3 or 4 percent of workforce was a continuous problem

After time clock: 95 percent of employees negatively affected by waiting for swipe in, payroll problems or technical glitches.

Misconception of Advancement

graphic of man pulling on hair
First pull the hair. Then pull out a weapon…

One of the most baffling challenges I had with the time clock system is that once I alerted top managers and owners about the fact that the system was costing us dearly, I could not get them to reconsider the decision and remove the system. The managers were so sold on some remote process improving production that they feared admitting a mistake and opted to continue frustrating employees and administration staff alike.

I soon learned that time was not the aspect of our business we should have been tracking. Nope, we should have be focusing on results rather than start and quit times.

Please don’t measure your employees by how much time they put in.

Instead, measure them by what they accomplish, that’s a better yardstick and it requires less tracking.

Time is gone either way – it’s what’s left that matters.

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

Sheeoot brother, they even have a name for what we did!


Barry Williams http://barry-williams.com/blog

Much of what I write will be quite understandable to insane folks.

The rest will be, uh, less understandable...

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  1. 1

    “Maybe it’s time to lose your clock, too.”

    That’s so true! many employers grant benefits to employees according to their time independantly of their workload. I’ve always found this system unfair. Since I got rid of my watch (many years ago), I’ve been more productive. I can accomplish alot more without being pressure by the time clock.

    It’s an interesting post. keep the good work.


      • 3

        are you the only thinking manager alive in the world?
        wow, i have been saying this as an employee for years,
        when will the rest of the world wake up?

        • 4
          Barry Williams

          Thanks Kelly. Managers are hired to solve problems and once those solutions are implemented its dang near impossible for them to be seen as problems.

          Unfortunately, as often as not, most solutions become problems which have to be solved. Some sooner than later.

          Keeping track of time is easy. Keeping track of results is harder. That’s why these silly beggars do it.

          That’s also why they treat almost everybody the same way, too. Crazy.

          Have a good one, Kelly.

        • 5
          Barry Williams

          @Kelly, Just wanted to ad to my previous post that constraint theory describes how easily solutions become problems. Just not where you live.

          There can be no other way. If every “improvement” led to things improving, we’d be implementing better methods every day but that’s not how it works, is it.

          This improvement unbalances the next process and this affect continues until everything gets good and wobbly. (which is normal if we accept universal conditions… 😎 )

          Managers are like marriage licenses – if that is what is keeping the whole shebang together, you’ve got trouble for sure.

          If every manager had to create value like most employees, how much more value would we have in the world! (could be lots…)

  2. 9
    Alfonzo Campisi

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