By Hannah Steffensen, GPS Trackit
We’ve all let procrastination get the better of us, at one point or another. Even the most ethical of your employees will occasionally linger in the breakroom a bit too long, committing what is technically “time theft.” Most of the time, these minor slip-ups are perfectly harmless. In these cases, there is very rarely a need to address the issue. When you, however, end up paying for work that was never performed, that’s when you have to draw the line.
The Dangers of Downtime
Most of us are familiar with the more malicious face of employee time theft—that which involves dishonesty, slowed productivity, and lost profits. Time theft, in this case, yields what we could call the antithesis of a successful business—expense without accomplishment.
This type of deliberate theft, when left unchallenged, could spell disaster for any enterprise.
The “Gotcha Management” Trap
Concerned about time theft yet?
Good. Business leaders should be worried about time theft, as it may be actively sabotaging their entrepreneurial efforts. This doesn’t mean they have to start hovering over their employees, watching and waiting for any little slip-up. Doing so usually means undermining their effectiveness as a leader. “Gotcha” management has a way of cultivating teams of terrified, resentful employees—employees that certainly won’t be giving one hundred percent while on the clock.
This kind of workplace environment is hardly preferable to one in which time theft occurs, as neither fosters a culture of ethics and productivity. The key, then, to successfully preventing time theft is finding a way to discourage off-task behaviors without explicitly punishing or restricting employees.
Preventing Time Theft
Procrastination is easy—by its very nature, it often involves doing nothing. We’ve all procrastinated at one time or another, which is why many of us benefit from the occasional reminder of the task at hand. Delivering these reminders to employees on a regular basis can encourage increased awareness surrounding time usage and help keep instances of time theft to a minimum.
There is always the matter of those (hopefully) rare employees whose ethical compass is less than fixed—the ones committing deliberate time theft on a regular basis. These will rarely be discouraged by anything short of a system they perceive as in place to monitor and prevent time theft.
Is GPS Time Tracking the Answer?
Time theft occurs more often in certain work environments than in others. Mobile workforces, for example, are especially vulnerable to time theft, as the physical disconnect between managers and their field teams can encourage dishonest practices. To prevent this, affected companies can use field service GPS tracking and online punch clocks to both support their mobile workforce and hold employees accountable for the time they spend on the clock. When used in conjunction with healthy management practices and a company-wide focus on accountability, the adoption of GPS time tracking technology can be an extremely effective strategy for tackling time theft.
Time tracking can prove effective for any business, especially those struggling with employee visibility. Instances of time theft are not always as black and white as one may think. Oftentimes, the perpetrators aren’t completely neglecting their work—most of the time, they’re just spending far more time than necessary completing the task at hand. A solid time tracking system can keep managers in the know as to where their employees are while on the clock. This promotes transparency and accountability within the company, leading (hopefully) to a more effective workforce.
Companies that have dealt with time theft in the past know the problems it can both create and exacerbate. The productivity and payroll losses alone can put a business in jeopardy. As long as the “gotcha management” trap is avoided, a company-wide adoption of GPS-enabled timecard verification can be as painless as it is successful. Everyone invested in the financial health of a company stands to benefit from improved accuracy and honest, sustainable timekeeping practices.
Hannah Steffensen is a software industry writer with GPS Trackit, a telematics provider that has been helping fleets monitor their mobile workforce for over 17 years.