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This Piggy Did No Time Sheet.

Time sheets

We are certainly not the first organization to struggle with getting everyone to fill in their time sheets.

We’ve tried a variety of methods. Among other things, we implemented a very sophisticated project management software (AtTask, which we are very happy with). AtTask makes time tracking very easy to do. And yet, this little chore seems to run utterly counter to the natural inclinations of creative people, so it still finds a way NOT to get done.

We have tried asking nicely, “Have you done your nice time sheet today?” We have tried telling regularly, “Time sheets everyone?” We’ve tried assigning a person to go check & cajole each and every day, “You did your time sheet today, right?” Through all this, somehow, consistent compliance has always eluded us.

Enter the piggies.

This piggy did no time sheet

Rewards and punishments

The reward: We established a company-wide goal (the details of which we will reveal when we have achieved it). With the achievement of that goal comes a reward for everyone. We are all contributing to its accomplishment.

We have furthermore all agreed that not filling in time sheets is an inhibiting factor for the achievement of our stated goal. So it was proposed not long ago that we institute a token—but still real—punishment for not doing what we all agree we should.

The punishment: If someone has not completed the previous day’s time sheet by the time of our regular 10AM status meeting, they publicly (voluntarily) and at that very moment put $5 in the “This piggy did no time sheet.” piggy. (The other one is for being late to the same status meeting.)

The punishment seems to work not because it’s big like, “You will be fired if you don’t do it.” but rather because it is small and concrete.

Sad to say it, but this actually works. I find it interesting that the punishment seems to work not because it’s big like, “You will be fired if you don’t do it.” but rather because it is small and concrete. It’s simply the public act of sticking a five-dollar bill into the piggy each and every time you do not do what you have agreed to do. No excuses.

Time sheet compliance has dramatically improved (holding at 100% right now), and most importantly, it seems to be seeping gradually into the behavioral culture of the organization. Soon vanished will be the once upon a never time sheeters. And one day not too long in the future, the piggy’s services will no longer be required. Time sheets will just be part of what everyone does every day.

Is there something in your organization that you’ve found hard to implement, and that has required a “creative” solution? Do tell.


If you want to read more about how to motivate people, check out these posts:

Mixing Motivation: Danger of Extrinsic Motivation
Museums and Motivation (Part 1)

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  1. Dana says:

    James – good idea. I think that for many organizations, asking people to put their own money into a work event may run contrary to HR policy. But, another spin that I have heard work is to allocate tokens or company play money to your staff on a regular basis. Monthly, quarterly, etc. Then the employee has to put the play money in the jar if they don’t do the requested task. They also use the play money to buy into regular outings such as staff lunches at a local restaurant or other rewards. If they don’t have enough play money to buy into the lunch, they can’t go. You get the idea.

  2. James Heaton says:

    Thanks Dana. Our lawyers are actually checking the legality of doing it this way, and we may need to rescind our two week old practice, refund the $20 collected so far, and then switch to something closer to your version. Interestingly, this idea came not from me, but from the employees involved. They felt the need for the extra real-world incentive to make compliance a habit.

  3. Mark says:

    Interesting idea, but like redlight cameras only works if people value the 5$ more than the time and effort to do the timesheet. Myself, I’d gladly pay 5$/week to not do my timesheets. 🙂

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