Public Humiliation: A Surefire Way to Guarantee Timesheet Compliance

Or: Yet Another Use for YouTube

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Tom Martin Tom Martin
I hate timesheets. They are a pain and our employees often forget to do them. But alas, they are (for now) a necessary evil. And if we want to get paid, we need our employees to accurately fill them out in a timely fashion. But how do you force compliance in a fun and friendly way?

During my nearly 20 years in this business, I've had the opportunity to watch how very smart agency presidents have tried to solve this vexing problem. From the catastrophic withholding of the paycheck to the peer pressure of dividing the entire agency into "time-sheet teams" and rewarding team compliance (reminded me of pledging a fraternity in college), different firms find different ways to get their employees to fill out timesheets.

Sadly, none really worked and, come to think of it, one may have been downright illegal. But I could be wrong.

So upon joining Zehnder Communications here in New Orleans and seeing that we too suffered from this calamity, I was challenged by our CEO to think up a solution.

Now you have to know, our firm has a very fun culture, and poking fun at our fellow employees is ingrained into our very DNA. So the idea of using public humiliation is very "on brand." So that is what we did.

We introduced a very simple program and gave folks a one-week grace period to get with it. On Monday mornings, our HR folks check for timesheet compliance. If someone missed a day or a few hours here or there, a friendly reminder is sent to the person to correct the oversight. However, if he misses more than a day, or it is just quite obvious he didn't bother to fill out anything, he is invited to sing, "I'm a little teapot" at our next weekly staff meeting. We record the stunning American Idol-wannabe performance, digitize it and commit it to internet history via YouTube. Then of course, we send the link to everyone in the agency and encourage them to send it to all of their friends, post it on their Facebook and MySpace pages, blogs, etc. In short, we promise to do everything in our power to make the timesheet offender the next [insert your favorite viral video here] of the internet.

I'm happy to report, problem solved. Compliance went from about 60% to 100% overnight. And it remained that way for most of the last year.

But a funny thing happened. We stopped our weekly staff meeting in favor of a monthly staff meeting. I got busy and didn't focus as much on compliance reports and folks got a tad lazy with their timesheets.

Then a few months ago, one of our CDs skipped an entire week. Poor chap. This just happened to be a week where I checked the reports and decided that we needed to make an example of someone.

Luckily for him, he managed to schedule "photo shoots" on the same morning as the next two staff meetings. But on the third, he showed. So we taped.

And here is the result. Do me a favor, watch it. Then post it on your MySpace, Facebook or blog page. Send it to your friends.

He actually was a great sport and it is pretty funny. Our goal is to get him on the "Today" show -- which seems to fancy showing the latest viral video stars. We're hoping they'll ask him to reenact it live.

But seriously, in the day-to-day running of an agency, there are things like timesheets, showing up on time, etc., that are not fun rules to enforce. But with a bit of creativity, you can do it and not have to act or feel like a party pooper.
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