Agencies have needs and employees have needs. Why is it so difficult to align those needs successfully?

The agency's needs are very operational, like needing accurate data on who's working on what, for how long, for which client so they can bill that client and make the money to pay their employees. Other needs include knowing who's going to be in the office, when and on which days so they can make sure they have enough people to get the work done. The agency also needs to make a profit so it can stay in business.

The employees' needs are more complex because they're human, but at the end of the day, all they really need are the tools to do the job they're expected to do, a safe work environment and some sort of work/life balance so they can stay sane.

Let's break those down and show where things go awry...

Getting Accurate Data (aka Who's Doing What)

The baseline tool agencies use for determining who's doing what is the timesheet. The timesheet is also the most hated part of employees' jobs according to recent surveys. So we have a problem. The agency needs the beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves_a-G-12360801-13198931data and the employees need a better way to provide that data.  Unfortunately, instead of recognizing this as a simple tool disparity and looking for a resolution from that perspective, most agencies turn instead to enforcement - cutting off the employee's internet access, shutting down their email or taking some other draconian measure if they fall behind on their timesheets. This approach is pointless. It pisses the employees off and makes it impossible for them to do their job. Does it "get the job done"? Oh sure, you'll get data into the system. That pissed off employee will sit at their computer and throw pretty much anything into their timesheet without the least bit of concern over how accurate any of it is. Why would they do that? Because you shut off their email. They need their internet connection back on. Or whatever else has disrupted their ability to do their job. At this point, their mission is to get data into the system, regardless of how accurate it is.

Does that help the agency?  No. In fact, the agency would probably be better off without that bad data in the system because now agency management can't trust any of the reporting coming out of the system. There's no telling what deliverables actually cost, no telling which clients are actually profitable vs sucking the agency dry, no telling which departments actually need more people vs those that are overstaffed. It's all pointless.

What's the solution?

The answer is to correctly identify the problem. The problem isn't that the employees don't want to give the agency accurate data on what they've worked on. The problem is that the agency hasn't given them the tool to do so. Once the agency realizes that, solutions start to emerge - solutions that actually work! Solutions like the Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 2.56.33 PMRecordTime app; an app specifically designed for agency employees, that enables them to record their time throughout the day by simply speaking to their phone. The app does all the work. It uses their phone's Notifications to ask the employee at intervals throughout the day (so the employee doesn't have to remember) and it uses Speech Recognition technology to translate what the employee says into text that can then be synced into the employee's timesheet. It even gamifies the experience so employees can have fun using it.

The result: up to a 70% increase in billable time recorded by employees and a huge increase in accuracy of data going into the timesheet system. Everybody gets what they need. The agency gets accurate data to work with and the employees get a tool designed for them so they can give the agency that data quickly and easily.

Achieving Work/Life Balance While Making Sure The Work Gets Done

This is a two-part issue, but both parts are tied to the tools the agency is using.

Everybody in the agency world knows that it's not a 9 to 5 job. Long nights are not unusual, but nobody signed up for 70 or 80 hour work weeks. That's how you burnout your employees and attrition goes through the roof. This isn't a question of employee commitment, this is a question of whether the agency has a competent Resource Management system or not. The best systems are integrated with the agency's timesheets so it can automatically track employee bandwidth and balance the loads of each team member to make sure nobody winds up with excessive amounts of work on their plate. That's how you keep employees working instead of quitting. And that's also how you make sure projects are adequately covered so that everything gets done.

Which brings us to the second part of the issue; where things get done. More and more agencies are realizing that some employees do their best work at the office, while some do better at the local coffee shop or even at 8home. The question the agency should be asking is; "Are we getting all the work done and done well?" instead of "Where is everybody?".  There are absolutely many benefits to having people in the office - some of the best brainstorming and idea generation comes during the unscheduled times and interactions between people in the office - but there has to be flexibility to allow employees to do their best work wherever they do their best work. Again, this is a tool issue. The best agency management systems provide employees with complete access via their mobile device, laptop or tablet wherever they are, whether they're in the office or not. That flexibility helps deliver the work/life balance that employees need to stay happy and productive at the agency.

Are you getting what you need? Is your agency getting what it needs? Are your employees getting what they need?

90% of the time it comes down to the tools the agency is or isn't using. Start there first.

If you're looking for a better solution, it's worth your time to check out Advantage's AQUA agency management solution. It's a comprehensive, fully integrated software solution that encompasses Project Management, Media Management and Accounting. It's mobile, fully integrated with the RecordTime app, automated for maximum efficiency and can power your agency to the next level of success and productivity.

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