Industry Trends

How Do You Manage Your Accounting Staff Without Timesheets?

Gusto Editors  
Three people having a discussion in front of a laptop

Are you wondering how to effectively manage work capacity and team productivity without timesheets? Believe it or not, you can manage a team without relying on timesheets. You’ll just need to expand on practices you likely already do and adopt a few new ones. 

Gusto is committed to showing you the future of business and the accounting profession. So we’re thrilled to partner with CPA Academy to bring you wisdom from two accounting pros with visionary ideas about the industry. The two discussed how to create an accounting workflow, assess performance, and provide exceptional service through capacity management, all without using timesheets.

Greg Kyte is a comedian and CPE who made Accounting Today’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the industry. With 12 years of standup experience, he brings a fresh, funny take to accounting education. Caleb Newquist is the editor-at-large at Gusto and the founding editor of Going Concern, a leading accounting news publication featuring breaking news, developing stories, and industry insights in the field.

Staff management without timesheets

Staff meeting in the office conference room

Is managing staff possible without timesheets? Greg and Caleb say yes. To put it their way, it’s less impossible than ever.

Managing staff without timesheets requires objective-based evaluation and clear communication. Greg pointed out that when managers evaluate performance based on timesheets, they’re reviewing past work. Instead of being aware of what staff is doing in real-time, managers are looking at past productivity. According to Greg, that’s not always an effective approach. It makes more sense to be aware of how things are unfolding so that you can step in before an issue gets out of hand.

Objective-based evaluation means that staff is judged by their deliverable’s quality, impact, and timeliness. Whether it’s a tax return, a review, a software migration, or a consultation, you’ll need to have a clear and distinct objective. 

Once you’ve identified the deliverable, you’ll create a timeline for it, whether it’s a month or a week. Now, you’ll want to break down that deliverable into very distinct tasks and put them in chronological order. For each task, you’ll create a deadline and assign an owner. One person might be taking on all the tasks and deadlines, while other projects may be distributed between people. 

To make all of this work, you’ll want to have good workflow management software. Aero, Jetpack Workflow, and Pascal Workflow are all excellent options that are designed specifically for accounting professionals. The great thing about these types of programs is that they offer visibility of projects from all angles. This keeps your staff accountable for what they’re doing and helps senior staff manage effectively in real-time.

Another critical aspect of this management style is having daily communication with your staff. 

“To be a good manager of people, you need to talk to your people every day. … It doesn’t have to be in depth. … A lot of times it’s just like, ‘Hey, just tell me what you’re doing? I need to know what you’re working on today,’ and if you’re set up properly, this [can be] part of your employee onboarding where you say, ‘This is part of what we do at the firm. We check in with each other every single day, just to see where we’re at with the project.’”

– Greg Kyte

Checking in with staff this often may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s an essential part of managing without timesheets. You’ll be able to gauge whether a staff member is on track to meet a deadline, whether they’re having difficulty accomplishing their tasks, and whether you should assign a task to someone who is more experienced, among other things. 

Furthermore, you’ll be developing deeper connections to your staff and hopefully building trust with them, so long as you’re approaching them in a considerate and friendly manner. Daily communication also gets everyone into the habit of communicating regularly and reduces isolation, which is good for the well-being of your staff. Emotional awareness is not always fostered in the accounting field, and this approach helps to address that. 

In addition, these check-ins provide an ongoing stream of information from which you can manage your team. 

To summarize, here’s how you can manage staff without timesheets:

  • Identify deliverables and give them a timeline
  • Break them down into distinct tasks
  • Give each task a deadline and assign it to a team member
  • Use workflow management software to track projects
  • Check in with staff daily to see their progress

Managing work capacity without timesheets

Work capacity is the degree to which your firm is able to complete work assigned. It’s the number of staff and number of hours you have available to perform the services your firm was hired to do. It’s a critical part of managing a firm, because if you swing too far in either direction, you’re either doing sloppy work or you’re struggling to stay afloat.

The first step to managing work capacity is to gauge where you’re at. This is exactly how you’d manage capacity if you were using timesheets. So, are you trying to cram twelve hours of work into an eight-hour workday? Is your staff burning out? Are you running out of steam? Or is there a lot of dead time when nothing is happening? 

Multi-ethnic group of business professionals working together and having a discussion

Most likely, you’re operating over capacity. Greg made it clear that this doesn’t serve you, your team, or your clients. When you’re at or over capacity, you’re not able to provide quality service and your team will suffer. This leads to burnout, apathy, and inefficiency.

“You just have to go, ‘Okay, are my people working at capacity or over capacity?’ If your people are already overextended then … you’ve got to fire some crappy clients—and again, you should be doing that anyways. If there are clients that you detest and that you abhor working with, get rid of them anyways. Life’s too short. The other thing is, don’t accept new clients because your people are already at capacity or over capacity. … Hire more staff. If you’re over capacity, hire more staff and don’t accept new clients until you get people below capacity.”

– Greg Kyte

Wouldn’t it be better to have a buffer zone so that you can truly give great service to your existing base? Greg thinks so.

“You should strive to be below capacity because then you have people waiting in the wings to be able to take care of anything that blows up at a client where they come to you with an emergency. [Let’s say a] client comes and says, ‘Oh my gosh, this thing happened. I don’t know what to do, and I need help right now.’ If you’re above capacity … you’ll have to say ‘Well, we might have time to help you in a month,’ or you’re going to have to shaft other clients to take care of this client. But if you stay below capacity, you’re going to be able to give exceptional service to the customers that you love working with.”

– Greg Kyte

There are a number of ways to approach this over-capacity. You can let go of clients that you really don’t like working with for whatever reason. You can stop taking new clients. Finally, you can hire more staff and continue to take on new clients. It all depends on the needs of your business.

So what happens if you’re below capacity? It depends on how far below. If it’s not too much, you can keep things as is. As Greg shared, you want to have a buffer so you can respond to last-minute emergencies with your clients. But if you’re operating at a capacity you consider problematic, you’ll either get new clients or reduce staff.

“Just like … firing crappy clients, if you’ve got crappy staff, don’t wait for capacity issues to be the thing that is your excuse to get rid of them. Just put on your adult pants and fire your bad staff.” 

– Greg Kyte

No one likes to have to let people go, but if your firm is struggling, it may be the best option. Doing so proactively, but thoughtfully, will save you from tarnishing both client relationships and your employer reputation. If all goes well, you won’t be struggling for long and will want your future hires to know that they will be treated fairly if they decide to join your firm.

Learn more about managing your accounting staff without timesheets

Many firms are apprehensive about eliminating timesheets, but most firms are already working, in some ways, like a firm without timesheets. For example, managing capacity requires you to gauge where your firm is operating and determine next steps. This is no different than if you did use timesheets.

When managing capacity, determine if staff are overworked and unable to take on emergencies versus having too much free time. You can plan from there. It’s always best to operate slightly below capacity, so you’re readily available to provide exceptional work for your clients. If you’re operating too far below capacity, however, you’ll need to either find new clients or reduce your staff.

Managing a team without timesheets requires an objective-based approach. Break down deliverables into clear tasks, give them deadlines and assign them to staff. Have regular check-ins with your team to identify and resolve any obstacles. Using accounting project management software will make this process smoother and easier. 

Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We’re here to help you evolve in ways that serve you and your clients. Don’t forget to check out our other articles based on the same webinar: “How Do You Apply Cost Accounting Without Timesheets?” and “How to Price Your Accounting Services Without Timesheets.”

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Updated: March 31, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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