The Most Common Leadership Styles, and How to Find Yours

The Most Common Leadership Styles, and How to Find Yours

While we’ve explored ways to boost accountability in your workplace and assess your organizational health, it is important to realize that these efforts can be much more difficult, if not impossible, without a well-defined leadership team. Having a team that understands their leadership styles, and that fits well together in complementing each other’s strengths and opportunities, is critical to driving the results of a business.

Leadership has been studied as a component of both business and psychology for many years. Kurt Lewin is known for carrying out the first major study of leadership styles. As a result of his study, Lewin classified types of leadership into three major styles, which are still widely referenced today, known as autocratic, participative or democratic, and laissez-faire. These styles are described in the Leadership Styles Today section below. Over the years, many other researchers have continued this study, refining and adding leadership styles based on their own continuation of leadership research.

Leadership Style

Leadership Styles Today

Common Leadership Styles

Today, Lewin’s three major styles of leadership have been expanded into many more; an often-cited number is ten. The ten commonly described styles of leadership as researchers have classified them today are:


Coach: As an empathetic and patient leader, coaches improve staff performance by providing valuable coaching and mentorship to their employees.
Visionary: Visionary leaders communicate a new vision for the future, and are skilled at bringing along the staff to the new shared vision.
Servant: Servant leaders operate with a people-first mindset, and prioritize taking care of their team, encouraging collaboration and engagement.
Autocratic: Autocratic leaders are commanding, driven to achieve, and results-focused. While this can be useful at times, staff may find the approach demotivating if used on a regular basis.
Laissez-faire: Laissez-faire leaders are typically charismatic and promote autonomy among their staff, but at times may cause confusion or uncertainty when support is needed.
Democratic: Democratic leaders work well in a team, and consistently engage their staff in decisions.
Pacesetter: Conscientious and achievement-oriented, pacesetter leaders are often inspiring, but can also be exhausting to work for if not moderated.
Transformational: With good communication skills, these leaders are skilled at supporting staff in moving forward and making decisions.
Transactional: With a focus on performance, transactional leaders drive their teams to hit specific metrics and achieve goals, and are typically practical and pragmatic.
Bureaucratic: Bureaucratic leaders are tradition-focused rule-followers who value structure and have a commitment to the organization.

Identifying Your Leadership Style

What is essential for your organization is ensuring that your leaders know how to identify their leadership styles, and that you can identify yours. First, there are a couple of important attributes of leadership that are worth keeping in mind.

1. Leaders are not born, they are made. Leadership evolves over time, and the best leaders became so by listening to feedback and practicing their skills. Understand your team’s natural strengths and opportunities, and help them develop into the best possible leaders they can be.
2. Leadership is situational. The styles above are not meant to be in use by any individual 100% of the time. Certain situations call for certain leadership styles, and at times, this may require an individual to flex outside of their comfort zone. Again, understanding one’s natural leadership style can help to connect the best ways to do this flexing outside of the natural domain.

That said, there are many tools available to help leaders self-explore and understand their own leadership styles. While a simple internet search will return many ideas, here are two to start with:

Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow from Gallup: Strengths Based Leadership is a popular leadership book that includes an assessment tool for leaders to identify their own leadership strengths. The book reviews four domains of leadership strength: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Throughout the book, real life leaders with strengths within each domain are described.

Five-Factor Model of Personality (McCrae and Costa): While many “personality tests” have been found to be invalid, the five-factor model of personality is widely accepted across psychologists as an indicator of adult personality, which tends to be consistent across situations. While different leadership styles can be applied in different situations and by different personality types, having an understanding of your own personality can be a good indicator of your natural leadership style preferences. The five factors assessed are:

○ Extraversion, a measure of a person’s natural ability to be outgoing, sociable, friendly, assertive and
○ Neuroticism, a measure of a person’s natural ability to be anxious, hostile, self-conscious, insecure, vulnerable
○ Openness to experience, a measure of a person’s natural ability for curiosity, flexibility, vivid fantasy, imaginative, artistic, unconventional nature
○ Agreeableness, a measure of a person’s natural ability to be sympathetic, trusting, cooperative, modest, straightforward
○ Conscientiousness, a measure of a person’s natural ability to be diligent, disciplined, well-organized, punctual, dependable

Strengthening Your Leadership Style

Just as was discussed in our Organizational Culture article, it is important to first have a full understanding of your starting point. In discussing organizational culture, we recommended observing your organization and chatting with employees to see where your culture strengths and weaknesses stood. Similarly, you can strengthen your leadership style by asking for feedback to understand your current strengths and weaknesses.

You might start by talking with employees at multiple levels of the organization, but especially your direct reports, and asking some of the questions below:

● What do I do that makes you feel supported?
● What do you wish I did differently?
● How can I help you to achieve your goals?
● What do you wish was different about our team’s interactions?
● What is your favorite part about working on our team?

After collecting a few answers, review the trends. Then, compare back to the leadership styles we discussed above. Where do you think your natural leadership style falls? Where do you think it might be helpful to stretch your style based on situational or organization needs? How can you craft situations to practice those styles?

Remember, this is a skill, and it will take practice. Since you’ve already boosted accountability in your workplace, you’ll have a great forum to ask for feedback and continue improving as you continue to refine.

Four Strategies for Leading Your Organization’s Next Change

Four Strategies for Leading Your Organization’s Next Change

As the leader of an organization, you likely feel inundated by change. It is, as they say, the only constant. Some change is unplanned and unavoidable, and you’re left reacting to the fire. Other change is planned years in advance, but may still have unexpected twists and turns that the most experienced leader could not have anticipated. Planned change or not, skilled organizational change practitioners know that there are strategies to help ensure that your organization makes it through the change to tell the tale.

What is organizational change management? Organizational change management is the support for the people side of the change. While project and technical managers plan meticulous detail around the product, workflow or personnel change being implemented, the people impacted are oftentimes left out of the plan until much too late in the process. In many cases, project leaders view organizational change management purely as training, and they do not begin to consider a plan for engaging end users until the product or change is ready for go-live. This, oftentimes, leads to the change failing.

Some compelling statistics support the importance of this:

● The typical organization has undertaken 5 major changes in the past 3 years.
● 75% of organizations expect to multiply the types of change initiatives they will undertake in the next 3 years.
● Of the changes reported, 50% are viewed as clear failures, 34% as clear successes, and 16% as mixed results.

Involving an organizational change management strategy from the very onset of the project is an effective way to ensure that the individuals affected by the change will be appropriately prepared for, and ready to move forward with the organizational transformation at the time of implementation.


Organizational Change Strategy One: People First

The mission of an organizational change management strategy is to focus on the people. This does not mean simply bringing the change to the people, it means involving the people in the change. Prosci, a leader in change management training, research and methodology, provides a model for assessing impacted end users throughout the course of the change, known as the ADKAR model:

● Awareness: the individual’s awareness of the need for change
● Desire: the individual’s own desire for the change
● Knowledge: the individual’s knowledge on how to change (for example, training and resources)
● Ability: the individual’s ability to perform the change (for example, actual practice and performance)
● Reinforcement: The individual’s willingness to remain adapted to the change

A key factor in the ADKAR model is the understanding that while for some individuals the journey may be linear, for most, it is not. An effective leader will have an understanding of where their team is throughout the course of the change, with an acceptance of the fact that an individual showing “desire” one day may shift back to “awareness” the next. Regularly assessing end user engagement and involving them in the change early on in the process is vital to a project’s success.

Ultimately, this is part of an organizational change management team’s readiness work, which aims to ensure that all affected end users are ready and prepared for the change in advance of implementation. Readiness work begins far in advance of training, but continues even once formal training begins.

Organizational Change Strategy Two: Align Your Teams


Organizational Change Strategy

While it is essential to ensure that you are monitoring your impacted end users’ status and engagement, it is equally imperative to have a healthy project or change planning team. A project team that is out of alignment will quickly create issues project-wide which may impact the success of the change.

One approach is to envision leadership/sponsorship, project management, and change management as three equal parts of a triangle. The Prosci Change Triangle model helps to clarify the essential role played by all parts of the project team. Setting up regular check-in meetings involving these groups will help to solidify this model, strengthening the health of the project team, and thus strengthening the likelihood for success of the change.


Organizational Change Strategy Three: Communication is Key

This strategy applies both to within the project team and across the organization: communicate widely, early and often. Within the project team, eliminating the possibility of individual teams working in silos is critical to the success of the change. Bridging together cross-functional teams by offering regular meetings and opportunities for communication will enhance the health of the team and the success of the change.

Across the organization, transparency and involvement in the change increase the likelihood of the transformation’s success. The more prepared the organization feels in advance of the change, the better. Truly leaning into the work described in Strategy One will help ensure that this communication is happening throughout the course of the planning period, rather than waiting for immediately before implementation of the change.


Organizational Change Strategy Four: Reinforce the Change

After a successful change, it is important to celebrate – but also to continue reinforcing the efforts. Many organizations experience failures shortly after large transformations because they feel they’ve made the necessary shift, and they pause. It is critical to not only continue reinforcing the change, but to continue considering the next improvements to be made.

Additionally, to truly reinforce the transformation just completed, be sure an effective sustainment system is in place. This is oftentimes an investment that can be overlooked, but is an important one to consider. After the time, effort and money spent on a full organizational transformation, continuing the investment to ensure the change is reinforced is well-worth reviewing the budget to find the funding necessary to support a sustainment plan.


What’s Next?

As mentioned in the introduction, changes can be planned or unplanned. Luckily, these strategies can be applied to both types of change.

For planned changes, implement an organizational change management strategy at the same time you begin scoping the project. While this can seem like an expense you may be tempted to cut, it is worth finding the budget for. Having a focused plan to keep your team involved and engaged from day one will increase the likelihood that the change will stick.

For unplanned changes, ensure that you’re utilizing the strategies as you react to the change. First things first: keep your people informed and engaged, as much as you are able to. They likely are hoping for any shred of information that you can share, and will greatly appreciate transparency. Then, ensure that your primary affected teams are aligned to respond to the change, that communication is regularly occurring without obstacles, and, once the change is resolved, that reinforcement is in place as necessary.

As organizational change management becomes a regular part of your culture, it will come naturally for future planned and unplanned changes, and will further improve your organizational health.

What is Organizational Culture and Why Does it Matter?

What is Organizational Culture and Why Does it Matter?

What is Organizational Culture and Why Does it Matter?

We’re nearly halfway through 2021. Congratulations! As a business leader, you likely have earned a moment or two to pause and reflect on the last 15-18 months. If you are like most, it has likely been a tough period.

Worldwide, we have been through a lot. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Here in the US, we’re encountering a social reckoning that has changed lives and spread awareness to issues previously undiscussed. Simultaneously, businesses have collapsed, full industries have changed economic position, and individuals have suffered the consequences.

How has your organization endured? It is likely a loaded question. Economically? Culturally? Philosophically? Would you receive a different answer if you asked your frontline employees than if you asked your board of directors? If so, why?

While COVID’s economic impact targeted some industries more severely than others, its cultural impact was industry agnostic. People across the world have lived through tremendous change in this past year and a half, which consequently means so have their organizations. Truly assessing how your organization has fared may be an indicator of your organizational culture and organizational health.


What is Organizational Culture?

Simply put, organizational culture is what your employees live, breath and feel when they come to work each day. In this article, we’ll be focusing on a well-known theoretical model known as the Competing Values Framework, developed by Drs. Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn. According to Cameron and Quinn:

“An organization’s culture is reflected by what is valued, the dominant managerial and leadership styles, the language and symbols, the procedures and routines, and the definitions of success that make an organization unique”

Organizational culture is important because it provides your employees their connection to the organization, and their sense of meaning and understanding for how to relate to others within the organization. It is especially important in times of change. Organizations with a strong and stable organization can be more resilient, more quickly returning to the status quo.


Types of Culture

In the Competing Values Framework, Cameron and Quinn developed and researched four dominant culture types, which we’ll describe below. According to Cameron and Quinn, most organizations have one dominant culture type. The framework also includes an assessment tool, the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), which can provide you with an indicator of your organization’s dominant culture type.

You’ll note that the framework, pictured below, has four quadrants, each separated across two competing values. On the horizontal axis, the competing values are “Internal Focus and Integration” and “External Focus and Differentiation”. On the vertical axis, the competing values are “Flexibility and Discretion” and “Stability and Control”.


Competing Values of Leadership


Clan Culture

In the upper-left quadrant, the Clan Culture values Internal Focus and Integration and Flexibility and Discretion. With these core focuses, the Clan Culture is similar to a family, with shared values and goals. Rewards are given based on collective, rather than individual accomplishment.

  • Effective leaders: mentors, parent figures
  • Example organization: Tom’s of Maine


Adhocracy Culture

 In the upper-right quadrant, the Adhocracy Culture values External Focus and Differentiation and Flexibility and Discretion. With these core focuses, the Adhocracy Culture places focus on innovation and agile work in an organization. Employees provide support on whatever the most pressing item is at that moment, with an expectation that it will frequently change.

  • Effective leaders: visionaries, innovators
  • Example organization: NASA Manned Space Flight Center


Market Culture

 In the lower-right quadrant, the Market Culture values External Focus and Differentiation and Stability and Control. With these core focuses, the Market Culture places focus on the bottom-line, with an emphasis on competition and production. Market refers to a type of organization that functions as a market itself, oriented toward external consumers rather than internal affairs.

  • Effective leaders: drivers, competitors
  • Example organizations: General Electric, Philips Electronics


Hierarchy Culture

In the lower-left quadrant, the Hierarchy Culture values Internal Focus and Integration and Stability and Control. With these core focuses, the Hierarchy Culture values standardized rules and procedures with clear lines of authority. This culture is based on the earliest and most traditional approach to organizing.

  • Effective leaders: coordinators, organizers
  • Example organizations: McDonald’s, Ford Motor Company



Assessing Organizational Health


Organizational culture cannot be grown overnight, and there is not a magic formula to determine the correct fit for your company. Most importantly, a healthy culture requires room to grow; leaders should encourage the behaviors associated with a healthy organizational culture and allow employees to get involved in building a strong culture.

 An effective first step is assessing current culture. Take a look at the organization to determine strengths, and look for signs of an unhealthy culture.

 Since culture doesn’t only exist at one level of a workplace, start by talking to your employees at each level. What does organizational culture mean to them? What do they love about coming to work? What do they not love? How much variance is there between the answers you receive? These answers should be a great starting point for assessing what your organization’s culture is, and where you should look to make changes.

 Next, review your organization’s metrics for some quick signs of healthy vs. toxic culture.


Healthy Culture Metrics

Toxic Culture Metrics

Low turnover High turnover
Low absenteeism/tardiness High absenteeism/tardiness
High participation in employee exit interviews Low participation in employee exit interviews
High completion of employee reviews Low participation in or lack of team building activities
High employee engagement Low employee engagement
Regular team building activities Low participation in or lack of team building activities
Regular employee development activities Low participation in or lack of employee development activities


Finally, there are a few more deeply-rooted red flags that may be signals of a toxic culture. 

  • Lack of cross-functional communication: If you notice your teams are operating in silos, it may be a signal that while your individual teams have figured out a way to work effectively, your organization as a whole lacks a cohesive culture. 
  • Hypercompetitive atmosphere: Healthy competition is a great way to keep employees engaged, but if competition becomes cutthroat and prevents employees from sharing information or supporting others, there is likely a gap in the organization’s culture that requires attention. 
  • Lack of willingness to change: If you’re likely to hear the response: “that’s the way we’ve always done it” in response to a great suggestion, you not only may have a culture gap, but you also are likely to lose your top performers, and quickly. A respect for tradition and what works is great in some scenarios, but leaders in a healthy culture will feel comfortable embracing new ideas that may improve the organization. 
  • Lack of company values or vision: A key red flag is a lack of company values, or a lack of engagement in the company values. If your organization came up with values to put on a poster, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an employee who knows what they are, you likely still have a culture gap in this area.


What’s Next?


Consider our introductory questions – they weren’t meant to be rhetorical. How has your organization fared through recent turbulence? If you asked your employees, how would they respond? Better yet – ask them. Did they feel supported and connected to your organization? If the answer is no, it isn’t too late. Build an organizational culture that your employees can connect to. Not only will it help you in future times of change, but it will help you retain your employees in times of stability, and recruit employees in times of growth.

Six Steps to Boosting Accountability in the Workplace

Six Steps to Boosting Accountability in the Workplace

More than likely, you’ve been faced with a situation where you’ve had leaders in your organization who weren’t providing the coaching necessary to help their teams succeed. Perhaps this is a problem that occurs only sporadically, or perhaps it is persistent; regardless, it needs to be fixed. The good news: there is a solution. The surprising news: it might not be what you would expect. 

Many organizations feel confident in their performance management process because of its structure and rigidity. However, the key solution in the six steps to boosting accountability in the workplace noted below is to rethink those systems and opt for a more agile approach. Ask your leaders to be nimble for the sake of providing better leadership, and to start giving on-the-spot and regular feedback. 

We’ll discuss how to make this work for your organization in further detail, but first, know that this is actually what employees want, even though it may be difficult for leaders to provide. According to a study conducted by Zenger/Folkman: 

“When asked what was most helpful in their career, fully 72% said they thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.”


Negative Feedback



The key first step will be ensuring your organization’s leaders are equipped with the tools to do this effectively. However, once properly set up, you’ll be on your way to delivering real-time, actionable feedback throughout the organization, and reaping the results.


 Step One: Face the tough conversations.

First things first: remember that your team cannot do what they do not know how to do. You must implement a culture where providing feedback is the norm, and you must teach your leaders how to effectively build this culture. Give them the tools they need to start delivering feedback to their team and assist them in delivering challenging conversations. Provide them with training and coaching, and lead by example, modeling the behavior that you want them to follow.

You don’t need to recreate the wheel; there are great tools available online that you can use as resources in building training for your organization’s leaders. A great starting point is providing examples of what good feedback looks like:


Good feedback is: Good feedback is not:
●     Future focused, providing the employee with examples of what you’d like them to do going forward. ●     Past performance focused, assessing the detail of their prior work.
●     Specific and clear, providing the employee with concrete examples of the behavior you’re describing. ●     Vague or general, leaving the employee unsure of how you’d like them to proceed.
●     Constructive, providing the employee with support for how to move forward. ●     Based on opinion, rather than results.


Similarly, your leaders should know how to effectively deliver feedback. First, check in on the relationships they have developed with their staff, as the feedback likely will not be well-received if there is not a good foundation already created. Then, be sure that the leaders feel comfortable setting the stage with their staff. They should communicate that they are working together toward a shared goal, then deliver their objective and honest feedback, with support for how to move forward.

A key component in providing support for moving forward is setting timelines. Ensure that your leaders are involving their employees in this step to get buy-in but set a reasonable goal for improvement that both parties agree on. Actionable steps for change and improvement with set deadlines will allow for streamlined check-ins and leader follow-up.


Step Two: Provide feedback consistently (both to manage performance, and to praise success).

Building upon Step One: it can’t end there. After an initial tough conversation is delivered, it is critical that a leader follows through with check-ins and follow-up.

Teach your leaders to view this as an opportunity to give powerful recognition, rather than a tedious exercise in micromanagement. Following up on their employee’s progress when they said they would set the expectation that the initial ask was important, and it validates the effort that was made.

On the flip side, if appropriate progress was not made, the leader should be ready to check-in and ask why. The leader needs to offer support to clear any obstacles the employee may have encountered, but ensure that expectations remain clear and that the accountability remains with the employee.

Continue these conversations regularly, even beyond the resolution of the initial “tough conversation”. Leaders should be regularly discussing employee performance and offering feedback and recognition as a standard part of their day-to-day operations, then tying these performance conversations to forward-looking objectives to keep the employee engaged.


Step Three: Encourage leadership to be held accountable. 

Now that your leaders are trained and have a feel for how to appropriately give feedback, it is critical to model the behavior from the top of the organization. There are a few best practices top-level leaders can follow to support this culture change and help it spread through the workplace.

  • Lead by example: Set aside time for performance conversations with direct reports, emphasizing the importance of their personal development. This will encourage the next-level leadership to invest the same time with their teams.
  • Ask for feedback: At the top of the organization, leaders likely aren’t going to attract a lot of feedback-givers. However, if they ask for it genuinely, it will show their interest in change.
  • Be transparent: Most importantly, be transparent about the feedback received, and what changes will (or will not) be made. Of course, not every suggestion can or should be implemented – but an open and honest atmosphere will encourage additional feedback and more innovative and feedback-driven culture.


Step Four: Develop and implement peer feedback loops.

Although top-down feedback is great, peer feedback can have an even stronger effect. According to Gartner, peer feedback can boost employee performance by as much as 14%. Ideally, you can implement peer feedback into your organization in both a structured and unstructured manner.

  • Structured peer feedback loop: Build a systematic peer feedback loop into your regular performance evaluation process, which will encourage employees to feel comfortable proactively giving constructive and helpful feedback to their peers.
  • Unstructured, ad hoc peer feedback: After the true peer feedback loop is implemented, peer feedback becomes a regular part of an organization’s culture, leading to a more collaborative and supportive workplace.


Step Five: Plan performance in 90-day sprints.

As discussed in the introduction, rethink your performance management process – most likely, it isn’t effective. According to research, 59% of employees feel that traditional reviews aren’t worth the time spent, and 56% say they don’t receive feedback on what to improve.

Instead, switch to a forward-looking quarterly performance sprint. Use your regular 1:1s to engage in quarterly goal setting and performance planning conversations and create metrics and a plan for success. Place the accountability on your employees to own the plan and the follow-up.

Ensure that you have an actionable check-in plan with a regular review cadence that allows for easy delivery of feedback and recognition as discussed in Step Two.


Step Six: Conduct regular check-in conversations.

We’re driving this point home because it is likely the most important one. The most critical piece is ensuring that all leaders are having regular check-in conversations with each of their employees. Feedback should not be delivered on an annual basis, and it should not be a surprise. For a true feedback-driven culture to work, it should be regularly occurring and expected – and recognition should be just as common.

Ensure that leaders are having regular, high-quality 1:1s with each of their direct reports.

What does a high-quality 1:1 include?

Employee-led components:

  • Performance plan check-ins.
  • Development planning.
  • Work, task, and project management.

Leader-led components:

  • Feedback and recognition delivery.
  • Relationship building.


To an unseasoned leader, this may seem daunting. However, there are many ways to host high-quality 1:1s depending upon the style of the leader. First and foremost, the accountability lines must be again clear: the employee should be the driver of the majority of the 1:1. They should come prepared with their performance plan check-ins, development plans, and any work-related action items that require discussion. The leader’s job is simply to guide the conversation, build the relationship, and provide feedback and recognition.

Depending on the leader’s preferences, there are a few options for 1:1 planning:

  • Structured approach: Create a template or form that the employee can complete in advance of conversations to ensure all necessary items are discussed.
  • Loose approach: Keep a simple running list of action items and conversation topics that need to be covered in a less structured manner.
  • Technology approach: Use a collaboration or project management tool like Google Docs or Trello so that the leader and the employee can keep each other up to date on necessary topics of conversation.


The Finale: Continue Revisiting Each Step 

To truly boost accountability in the workplace, this cannot be a “set and forget” initiative. Implementing a feedback-driven culture must be a real and true culture change that is reinforced regularly at all levels of the organization.

For an organization that is missing many of these components, this will be a large change and will take time. Be patient, teach your leaders, and continue reinforcing the message of accountability. With time, you’ll soon be witnessing regular feedback and recognition delivery throughout the organization, and corresponding results!

5 Surefire Ways to Reduce Unplanned Overtime and Save Your Labor Budget

5 Surefire Ways to Reduce Unplanned Overtime and Save Your Labor Budget

A system is a method of solving a repeated business issue strategically and effortlessly.— Neil Patel, Forbes ‘Top 10 Marketer’ and revenue growth expert

Good systems solve business problems, including unplanned overtime. Does your company have an unplanned overtime problem? If so, you are not alone.


Unplanned Overtime Kills Labor Budgets

Costly unplanned overtime eats into profits for many U.S. employers. A recent Deloitte study of over 800 companies revealed an average of 31 unplanned overtime hours each week per company. Even if your company policy calls for no overtime without prior approval, overtime seems to sneak onto the payroll reports despite the policy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. employee works about four hours of overtime each week which is roughly 200 hours per year.

Let us do the math on the BLS numbers. If the average time-and-a-half wage at your company is $20 per hour, that is $4,000 in annual overtime per employee. If you have 25 employees, it adds up to $100,000. Ouch!


Automated Timekeeping is the Solution

An automated timekeeping system is a specialized software that tracks employee time. Employees use a physical time clock, online portal, or mobile app to punch in and out for shifts. The software manages employee authentication, captures punches, and tracks hours on ‘virtual’ timecards. Automated timekeeping systems provide time tracking data to payroll to make payroll processing easier and more accurate. Integration with a payroll system allows a time and attendance system to provide accurate time and attendance data to payroll without any manual intervention.

Automated timekeeping solves a whole bunch of business problems, but we will focus on just one: budget-killing unplanned overtime.

Let us dive into 5 surefire ways automated timekeeping reduces unplanned overtime to save your labor budget.


Automated timekeeping gives you an accurate picture of employee work hours.

Manual timekeeping systems like spreadsheets and paper time cards are wildly inaccurate. The American Payroll Association estimates that the rate of human error in time card preparation is between 1% and 8%. Employees cannot recall shift start and end times after the fact and often round up in their favor. It is human nature. Or they make math errors when tallying hours. Additionally, if they may accidentally short their hours logged, which means they do not get paid correctly.

Employees are not the only ones who make errors. Managers make mistakes when entering time card data into spreadsheets or filling in missed punches. Multiple studies, including one by PriceWaterhouseCoopers reveals an average spreadsheet error rate of 90% or more.
Bottom line? You cannot reduce unplanned over time until you have accurate hours data.


Cloud-based timekeeping fully integrated with your payroll platform prevents overtime fraud.

We talked about inadvertent errors in #1. Here, we are talking about employees who deliberately add overtime hours to their timecards. Another study by the American Payroll Association found that 75% of companies experience some form of timecard fraud. In a survey of service sector workers, the employees themselves reported an average of 4.5 hours stolen each week. If some of your employees seem to rack up more overtime than others, it could be due to timecard padding.

There have been egregious cases of overtime fraud in both public and private organizations. A few years ago, for example, the U.S Inspector General uncovered time theft at Amtrak of such magnitude that it would bankrupt most private sector companies. To illustrate the scope of the fraud, consider that a group of employees doctored timesheets to show 1,357 days in which they worked more than 24 regular and overtime hours.

While it is not likely your employees are as brazen as the Amtrak time thieves, it is a cautionary tale that exposes the vulnerabilities of manual timesheets. Now, we are not saying that all employees intentionally steal time from their employers. Whether the additional overtime is accidental or intentional, it negatively impacts the financial health of your company.

How do you protect your labor budget from overtime fraud? The answer is with a cloud-based time and attendance system. A cloud-based system captures the punches and tracks the hours, eliminating employee-managed paper timecards or Excel spreadsheets. And it gets better: with integration, your timekeeping system delivers employee hours directly into your payroll system. So, itis easier for them and easier for you!


Manager alerts keep you informed when employees reach overtime status so you can stay on top of it.

Imagine if a supervisor received an alert when a team member was nearing the end of straight-time hours. The manager could quickly look at the time system app on their mobile phone and see which employees were under 40 weekly hours.

Would overtime warnings help your managers? Many companies that use automated timekeeping with manager alerts find that pending overtime warnings help supervisors make staffing adjustments before time-and-a-half kicks in. Consider also that a manager could use a mobile timekeeping app whether he/she was at the office.

Just as importantly, the warnings would work just as well for mobile or remote employees. Certainly, manager alerts are especially useful for geographically dispersed teams.


Punch lockout prohibits employees from clocking in too early.

Schedule enforcement is critical for large workgroups. If you are not watching, some employees will punch in a few minutes early. It happens to every employer. The unauthorized work time compounds, eventually adding mountains of unplanned overtime to your payroll. Full-time employees who punch in early can easily move into overtime by weeks’ end.

An intelligent clock with a punch lockout can save your company a lot of money. Intelligent clocks sync to employee schedules. They have schedule enforcement features including punch lockout. Punch lockout prohibits an employee from clocking in before their shift starts. (Remember, though, you cannot require an employee to work off the clock.)


Scheduling rules notify you when you try to schedule an employee for overtime.

This software feature prevents overtime at the source: employee shift planning. Automated time and attendance systems have configurable rules to guide schedules. When a manager tries to schedule an employee past 40 hours, the scheduling tool can send an overtime warning. This allows the manager to schedule another employee who has not maxed out their straight-time hours.

This is especially helpful for large teams and shifts of varying lengths. Managers do not have to repeatedly tally hours for each employee in various scheduling scenarios because the system tracksit automatically. The software can also suggest employees who are available and not at risk of overtime.

If business demand requires overtime, the manager can make a conscious decision about how to allocate it–not allow it to accrue unknowingly through uninformed shift planning.

In summary, prevent payroll bloat by matching employee scheduling to demand and distributing hours evenly among team members.

Let us review the 5 overtime solutions that can make you the budget hero:

  1.  Automated Timekeeping
  2. Cloud-Based Access with Payroll Integration
  3. Manage Alerts and Notifications
  4. Punch Lockout for Schedule Enforcement
  5. Scheduling Rules

Guess what? We have affordable Time and Attendance with all these features!

Ready to learn how we can help? Schedule a 20-minute information call with us to learn more!


Download our Free eBook on: 5 Surefire Ways to Reduce Unplanned Overtime and Save Your Labor Budget HERE!


Amtrak: Profile of Timesheet Data of Agreement Employees for Calendar Year 2014, U.S. Office of the Inspector General,’ March 11, 2015

‘Estimating the return on investment of a human-capital management solution for various human resources tasks,’ Deloitte, December 2020

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, February 5, 2021