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10 Rules for Employee Timecards

There is basic information that must be tracked on your employee timecards, whether it's a daily or weekly task, done on paper or via mobile device. Timecards can also be important legal documents.

When most of us think about timecards, we envision laborers filing into a giant factory, or even Homer Simpson or Wile E. Coyote might come to mind. But the reality is that every custom integration company should be using some form of a timecard, whether it’s mobile or paper.

And that timecard is still one of the most essential ingredients to track employee productivity and job status, and it’s even a valuable legal document.

Those are just some of the key message delivered by Leslie Shiner, principal of The Shiner Group consulting firm, during one of CEDIA’s monthly Business Toolkit series of webinars.

Here are the basic essentials of thorough timecards:

Job Info (Name/Address/Number): Some integrators solely use the homeowner’s name to identify a job. That has pros and cons. On the plus side, it certainly ingrains the client’s name into the minds of the technicians, programmers and others on the staff. On the negative side, at some point you are likely going to encounter jobs where the homeowners have the same last name, especially if you consistently get referrals among family members.  Therefore, it’s best to make sure the timecard includes not only the client’s name, but also address and an assigned job number.

“Whatever terminology you use to identify a job, it should be the same,” notes Shiner.

Date/Start Time/Stop Time: It sounds obvious, but since this is a “timecard,” it should have time information on it. Instead of just having a single entry field that lists the number of hours, however, it is better to have technicians fill in their actual start and stop times. This allows you to better track them on the job.

Tasks: Shiner advises integrators use timecards to track job tasks in general categories, and to get much more granular when you are initially trying to do job costing upfront. For example, her sample timecard includes the following tasks:

  • Design/Documentation
  • Project Management
  • Prewire Labor
  • Trim Labor
  • Finish Labor
  • Programming
  • Service
  • Other
  • Total

Definitions of each of the tasks should be written on the back of the card as reference. During job costing, integrators should be more detailed, breaking down specific tasks, such as mounting TVs, installing in-ceiling speakers, etc.

Change Order Time: Shiner recommends integrators set up a separate field on their timecards to track time spent on Change Orders, since this labor presumably will be billed separately from the initial bid.

Equipment Used: A simple box the technician lists which pieces of equipment he installed that day (or week) will help track components for future inventory.

Accident Notification: Shiner recommends every timecard include a simple checkbox on accident notification where the technician indicates: “I was injured today” or “I witnessed an injury or accident today and reported it to my supervisor.” This serves two purposes, says Shiner. First, it makes employees more aware about jobsite safety. Second, it helps track injuries to avoid potential worker’s compensation fraud.

She noted the example of the technician who shows up limping on Monday morning after snow skiing all weekend and says, “Oh yea. I got hurt Friday on the job.”

“The timecard actually becomes a legal document in this case,” says Shiner.

Signature: If timecards are being collected electronically, the timecard needs to state that inputting their name and emailing the document constitutes a signature. Likewise, some CE pros have their techs snap a photo of their completed timecard and email it to make it easier.

Daily vs. Weekly: Some integrators ask technicians to fill out a timecard every day. Shiner thinks this is a good idea if you want to get the most accurate information, noting that weekly timecards can lead to errors. “If I asked you what you had for breakfast last Tuesday, would you remember?” she asks. She says many CE pros compound the problem by having technicians fill out their timecards on Monday mornings for the previous week. She has witnessed crews trying to fill out their timecards and having little memory of the previous week’s activity. 

If you insist on having technicians only fill out timecards once a week, Shiner advises to do it on Wednesdays or Thursdays, so employees will have better recollection. But even if a technician is being asked to complete his timecard at the end of every week, he still should be indicating his hours, tasks, etc. for each day of the week. Shiner believes salaried employees should also fill out timecards, not just those who are paid hourly because all employees’ time needs to be tracked directly to individual jobs.

Mobile Timecards: Among the attendees of the webinar, half still use paper timecards. But there are several quality mobile timecard apps available, including: Exaktime, mJobtime, Timeforce and Daylite. Shiner notes that whichever system you choose, make sure it works on all types of mobile phones, including iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

Software Integration: Having a timecard system that integrates directly with your payroll system is an added bonus to save time and reduce errors. A simple Excel spreadsheet can work fine.

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About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.


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