Time registration and management
7 December 2022
Time registration and management are almost naturally part of the ‘control paradigm’ and as a consequence of that it takes away people’s ownership and autonomy over their own time and what they do where and when. It is meant to push everyone into a ‘nine to five’ straitjacket, possibly with some degrees of freedom in the form of sliding hours and variable schedules. As time and place independent work is becoming more common, you see that the classic time clock is being replaced by other control systems. We ask these four questions:
The following practices are (still) being used :
What stands out here?
What is the Theory in Use here?
The theory in use behind a decision to ‘check people’s working time’ and linking this to sanctions (loss of wages, for example) is routed in the initial transactional character of work during the industrial revolution. “You work for me for an hour, and then you get paid and so if you arrive late I deduct that from your pay. It was not about knowledge, expertise and innovation… but just about ‘do what I ask you to do’. The properties of the underlying paradigm are quite clear:
And what is the impact ?
Much will depend on how the registration and control is applied on the ground and what ‘consequences’ are attached to the measurement. Communication around this can also make a big difference in terms of impact and of course it is also 1 element in an ‘organizational culture’ and so it could be that such a registration actually has no effect on the intrinsic (autonomous) motivation of people. But if perceived as a ‘means of coercion’, a big stick, it will have counterproductive consequences. A few specific elements:
What is trending on HR websites ?
According to the European Court of Justice, the absence of a time registration system leads to the impossibility to record, in an objective and trustworthy way, how many hours the employee has worked and when exactly. Moreover, it makes it impossible to determine how much overtime the employee has performed and, the fact that employers are not obliged to introduce such a system, finally also leads to insufficient protection for the employees (https://www.klaw.be)
Attendance management is the process of preventing employee time theft by tracking employee working hours, login time, departures, breaks, and time off. Organizations use a number of methods, from punching cards and spreadsheets to automated attendance management systems and biometric devices to manage employee attendance. (https://kissflow.com/)
Billability objectives have very specific consequences
Everything that is not ‘billable’ comes under pressure:
What can you do differently?
The simple answer is: stop doing it! There are many indications that getting rid of ‘time control systems’ increases productivity (exactly the opposite of what most people think) and that people do not abuse that responsibility. Of course, this does not mean that one is not responsible for what one does and whether one contributes to the organization. So in fact it is mainly a matter of converting the attention on TIME to attention for CONTRIBUTION to the further development of the organization. And doing that in a way that supports mutual trust, sense of belonging and motivation for the shared ambition in the organisation. This can be done in many ways.
A short (not exhaustive) list :
Dan the world (in this case the organization) is a different place :
These are a few links with articles and research available on the internet. There are of course also good reasons to defend time tracking or worktime control. But, we do notice that those arguments often belong more to the contain / control paradigm
- Beckers,D. Kompier,M. Kecklund,G. & Härmä,M., (2012). Worktime control: theoretical conceptualization, current empirical knowledge, and research agenda. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 38(4):291-7 LINK
- Mc.Kinsey., (2013). Making time management the organization’s priority LINK