Carrot or Stick: which timesheet approach works best?

How do we get staff to do timesheets?” – it’s a common problem for most agencies. When attempting to solve the problem, there seems to be two distinct approaches – the carrot or stick. But which one works best? 

Like it or not, timesheets are a fact of agency life therefore, they are usually part of an agency job description. So when it comes to getting those timesheets done, there are plenty of agencies that operate the stick approach. As they see no need to reward staff for something they should already be doing.

Razorfish NYC has in the past, applied a name and shame policy. Where repeat timesheet offenders had their photos posted on a big screen in the company’s reception, including a caption stating their timesheet crime. Ouch!

There’s the large agency network in Shanghai, who lock timesheet offenders out of email. While other agencies adopt a three strikes rule…three strikes and no pay rise, three strikes and no bonus, three strikes and you’re out!

None of these sound very pleasant, however they are great motivators for getting your timesheets done!

A well known example of the carrot approach comes from JWT Brazil, with their famous, Drink Time Sheet. The carrot in this instance is beer, and the beer fridge doesn’t open until timesheets are 100% complete. Everyone’s a winner. Management get the timesheets and staff get the beer!

Despite the recent debate on whether agencies should move away from hourly rates to value based pricing – which could potentially see the end of the timesheet discussion – for now, it looks like timesheets are here to stay.

So if your agency is having trouble with timesheets, you could try the carrot or stick approach. Or, if that seems like a lot of palaver, you could follow the very sound advice of our client AKQA. They get results by “asking people nicely”. Now there’s an idea.

For more information on making the pieces of your business work better together, contact us

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Helen Johnson 
+61 404 458 797


Christian Arpe-Hansen
+45 31 36 66 03