Tracking Time: Eye-Opening Insights Into Productivity
September 28, 2015
Here at the haus, we are always looking for ways to improve our systems internally and better improve the services that we provide to our clients. In an effort to streamline many of our internal processes and procedures, we recently conducted an internal audit of how employees were spending their time in order to identify strengths, pain points, and areas of improvement or potential bottlenecks that could be keeping us from performing at our optimum potential.
While we are still pouring over the data internally to better find out what the figures mean for us, there is still no shortage of enthusiasm about a project that proved to be simultaneously painless and incredibly eye-opening. Below, we’ll go over the methodology and data analysis for a project like this, along with some key takeaways from the project.
This all came about when managers were discussing some of the best possible ways to improve our product, additional steps to make part of our process, and the additional team members that would be necessary to accomplish our goals. While these goals were relatively flexible, we unearthed one major caveat–namely that we didn’t have enough information on how these items would actually improve efficiency, because we weren’t exactly sure how time was being used on both a macro and micro level.
In order to take a look at how team members spent most of their day, we did the following:
Start with the Job Description
We identified key areas that we found to be important components of the job description. These included things like email and phone correspondence, keyword research and competitor analysis, reporting, troubleshooting, development, content creation, and more. Our final list looked something like this:
Scheduling and Assigning Content
Technical / Development Projects
Technical / Working with Developers
Technical / Optimization
Technical / Link Audits
Technical / Site Audits
Technical / Crawl Errors, 404s & Redirects, etc.
These represented key categories that could potentially illuminate how members of our SEO team could be working to serve their clientele. From email and phone correspondence, to more technical considerations like link audits, site audits, and crawl errors, there is a considerable amount of flexibility required in order to successfully complete the job.
There were several other important components of the job that we felt could have been included, but this represented a key list of core responsibilities that seemed to best encapsulate what each member of our team should be working on at a given time.
Creating A Google Form
In order to capture this kind of information, we needed to find a way to be as seamless and as least invasive as possible. A form, rather than a spreadsheet, email, document, or project management system, offers the flexibility of a push-button submission. This seemed to reduce friction in the collection process, and ensured that responses remained consistent across the entire staff–a critically important factor if you want to analyze data from a top-level perspective.
We collected data over the course of period of two weeks. This allowed us to capture both the reporting side of the workload as well as the more technical and creative spaces within which we work. By limiting the data collection to two weeks, we got a significant enough response rate to notice some major trends without having to wait too long to uncover some of the results.
Once we got the data back, it was definitely a challenge to find the best ways to pick apart data from such a large number of employees in a way that effectively gave a top-level vision of how time was being used across the categories above. Some key factors to keep in mind:
Days Will Be Different
Some days will be different than others, and in this case, this was incredibly noticeable. There were several categories which many employees would not fill each individual day, as they would devote say, more time to technical concerns near the end of the week and more time to client communication and research near the beginning of the week. As a result, it was important to keep this in mind when looking at the big numbers; since certain team members simply didn’t do certain activities, it was important to keep this in mind when putting together the big report. Using Google Sheets and the COUNTBLANK function within Excel/Google Sheets, we were able to identify the amount of participants per category.
Looking at averages, to me, seemed the best way to ascertain major systemic changes that we could make. While looking at the total hours reported may provide good insights from a data sample, the idea was also to compare these against averages for each category to ensure that there were no alarming irregularities.
By looking at the total number of respondents per category in tandem with the total number of hours spent per category, we were able to obtain a better average and make adjustments to the final percentage numbers based on the number of respondents.
As stated, while we’re still getting used to what story the data tells, some facts were incredibly alarming and are already affecting change within the haus. For instance, an automated product was taking just as much time as its manual counterpart, leaving the switch back to a manually-generated, but more custom, flexible reporting interface will help.
Alternatively, we were able to realize some areas that we had initially expected to be major pain points shouldn’t be as much of a concern. For instance, while link audits always seem to take a significant amount of time, such a low number of people regularly engaged with a full-blown link audit that it was not as significant of a time drain that we once thought. Similarly, while an automated reporting system was brought in to help streamline the process, the fact that the same amount of time went in to both automated reporting and manual reporting shifted the conversation on a more automated workflow.
This was a great, eye-opening exercise! We look forward to sharing some of the results with you — but first, we need to take a closer look at actionable steps to improve work life in the Haus.