Digital Web Properties is a digital marketing agency based in Romania, founded by a team of five in September of 2014. The business and team grew rapidly, and by April of 2015, they’d added 15 remote workers to their team.
“Monitoring 15 remote workers was proving difficult, so we decided to give Hubstaff’s time tracking software a spin,” says Ioana Sima, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.
But Digital Web Properties’ growth didn’t stop there. By December of 2015, they’d grown to a team of 48, including 26 in-house team members and 22 remote workers. In August of this year, they’ll move into their third office space to accommodate a team that’s now composed of more than 80 members.
Digital Web Properties started using Hubstaff to monitor the productivity of remote team members, but as their team grew, they discovered another benefit.
Hubstaff wasn’t just effective for monitoring the time and performance for remote team members. It was an excellent tool for monitoring all team members, including those who work in the office.
“Hubstaff has become part of our company culture. Every member of our team—from the COO to our part-time writers—use the tool. When we conduct an interview, we let our candidates know that their work will be tracked via Hubstaff. They sometimes ask why their time needs to be tracked if they’re working from the office. The answer is simple: we want to understand how our employees work.”
Sima says that Digital Web Properties struggled with certain challenges in the beginning:
- They had difficulty setting realistic targets.
- They had a hard time regulating workflows.
- They undervalued their work.
- They couldn’t identify slackers promptly.
- They had problems meeting some of their deadlines.
Mandating the use of Hubstaff among all team members—from executives to contractors, in-house and remote workers alike—allowed the company to overcome these early challenges, improve team performance, increase company profitability, and enhance overall team morale.
Sima says that Digital Web Properties’ use of Hubstaff led to seven major improvements.
1. Learn to set realistic deadlines and make realistic commitments
Because digital marketing is a relatively new field in Romania, Sima and her business partners struggled early on to find qualified professionals to staff their team.
“Finding native-level writers was never difficult. However, filling SEO, social media, and management positions was next to impossible. You cannot begin to imagine how many SEO specialists we interviewed who couldn’t tell the difference between an internal and an external link.”
It quickly became clear to the hiring team that people were embellishing their CVs, so they made a major decision: “We decided to hire and train entry-level employees, knowing very well that it could take between three and six months before they reached their full potential.”
Training entry-level staff helped Digital Web Properties’ founders grow a team of well-trained digital marketers and specialists, but it created problems in determining how long it would take team members to complete assigned tasks. An experienced team member might be able to complete a task in half the time a new employee requires, so setting realistic deadlines was challenging.
Using Hubstaff’s reports, the team was able to compare performance levels of team members with different levels of experience and establish realistic deadlines for different team members.
“We established dedicated Hubstaff projects (e.g. Client X – Reputation Management, Client Y – Research, etc.) with customized rates. This enabled us to compare performance levels across the department and adjust our expectations, making it possible to set realistic deadlines and targets.”
This helped to ensure that new team members weren’t being held to unreasonable standards—which improves team morale—and commitments made to clients were more likely to be met—which improves client relationships.
“Some customers think a task can be completed thick and fast, but it’s not their fault. They just don’t understand the process behind it. Instead of telling them why something takes as long as it does, we decided to show them. Hubstaff has helped our clients understand the scope of requested work.”
“Granting your clients access to tracked work inspires trust. For us, this trust has translated into repeat business and positive referrals.”Granting your clients access to tracked work inspires trust. Click To Tweet
2. Evaluate team members more effectively
Measuring employee performance for creative service team members is a notoriously difficult task—another challenge Digital Web Properties’ management team ran into after they started to grow.
Sima oversees the company’s marketing specialists who manage the social media and outreach efforts for multiple clients and sites. Their typical tasks include:
- managing and publishing on social media channels
- replying to comments
- reaching out to relevant sites for guest-posting opportunities
- networking on various platforms
- coming up with new promotion strategies
- updating monthly reports
- building relevant and diverse links
- evaluating the performance of previously built links and social media efforts
- conducting competitive analysis
It’s a lot of work, and not every task has a definable outcome to measure. “For one thing, not all links are created equal, so we have to evaluate the quantity, quality, relevancy, and impact of each. Furthermore, some sites are harder to promote on social media than others.”
Sima and her partners wanted to offer monthly bonuses to team members with stellar performance, but in order to do so, they had to form a reliable means of measuring performance. The Hubstaff time tracking tool provided several.
Digital Web Properties uses Hubstaff’s software to measure employee performance in many ways:
- By total number of hours worked – Employees who put in extra effort and work extra hours to complete work on time for clients can be rewarded for their efforts.
- By activity levels – Hubstaff allowed Digital Web Properties’ managers to establish expected activity levels for different roles. Editors, marketing specialists, and project managers average between 55-75% activity, and writers average between 60-80% activity. Higher percentages can be rewarded, and activity levels that drop below 40% (without notes) are usually a bad sign.
- By discipline and focus – Sima says that 10-minute breaks every hour are perfectly reasonable, but spending 50 minutes on Facebook Messenger during working hours isn’t. The screenshot option in Hubstaff allows her to discretely check if employees are working diligently.
Hubstaff allows Sima and other company managers to monitor the performance of their teams, see who’s putting in extra effort, and identify individuals who are under-performing or slacking.
This allows them to, again, improve morale by recognizing extra effort with regular bonuses, as well as improve client satisfaction by not charging clients high fees caused by distracted or disengaged employees.
“One of our newest employees was always thumbing his phone. His average activity level was 30%. This could have gone on for months had I not checked Hubstaff. After I confronted him about the situation, his activity level increased to 60-65%, and his performance improved significantly. He even earned the monthly bonus the next month!”
3. Identify training opportunities
Sima believes that no two employees are the same: each employee has individual strengths and weaknesses. Hubstaff helps Digital Web Properties’ managers identify what tasks employees are struggling with and where they’re thriving.
“We hire a lot of entry-level employees and use complex tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Asana, and more. For someone who doesn’t have experience with SEO or marketing, the learning curve can be problematic. Furthermore, some employees are too shy to ask for help.”
Sima uses Hubstaff’s activity screenshots to see where her employees are having trouble. After every monthly evaluation, she schedules one-on-one discussions and training sessions for employees that are struggling. This helps employees improve in areas of weakness without forcing them to ask for help.
“One great example: mining link opportunities in Ahrefs doesn’t come naturally to entry-level employees. Most entry-level employees search for guest-posting opportunities on Google, despite being trained to use Ahrefs. This results in outdated opportunities. Without Hubstaff it would be very difficult to identify and correct this problem.”
4. Increase profitability
Before using Hubstaff, Digital Web Properties struggled to provide estimates on the time required to complete tasks. This led to inaccurate estimates and disappointing profits.
“Some tasks are extremely difficult to quantify. Let’s say I want to audit a website for a client. Some websites have hundreds of pages with thousands of problems, while others only have a few issues. Obviously, one audit will take more time than the other.”
“Before we started tracking projects separately, we had very little knowledge about the time required to complete a task. Hubstaff takes the guesswork out of estimation.”
Using historical time reports, Digital Web Properties was able to experiment with different pricing models and find those that created the perfect balance between reasonable pricing for clients and profitability for the company. It also highlighted unprofitable client relationships that needed to be dropped.
“Determining which projects aren’t profitable is extremely simple. We calculate the company’s hourly expenses for every person. If hourly profits don’t balance out these costs, we renegotiate our rates or let go of the project. Hubstaff helps us determine our ROI and focus on the strategies that yield the best results.”
5. Enable employee growth (and grow your company)
Sima’s theory on management is that employee growth is key to business growth.
“I believe that a company’s greatest asset is its people. If the people within your company grow, your business will also grow.”
Using Hubstaff, Digital Web Properties can enable employee growth in a variety of ways:
- Employees can be rewarded for exceptional performance, inspiring hard work.
- Areas of weakness can be identified easily, providing ongoing learning opportunities.
- Managers can monitor employees without micromanaging, creating respectful relationships.
- Managers can identify times when employees perform best, enabling productivity.
- Strong employees can be identified and promoted, incentivizing hard work and dedication.
“Hubstaff has helped us identify key employees with the potential to become managers. These individuals are consistent with their performance, self-disciplined, and have a positive attitude towards work.”
6. Streamline workflows and create balanced teams
Access to employee performance levels has enabled Sima and her partners to form balanced teams by pairing individuals across work streams with others that have similar productivity levels.
“Our projects are managed by three-man teams—an editor, SEO, and copywriter. Every team manages between five and ten projects, each with different priorities. By analyzing Hubstaff reports and overall performance, we could pair team members with similar performance levels.”
This decreases delays and minimizes waste because it creates consistency in the amount of time needed to complete tasks. When team members are dependent on others to complete their work, but the team members that they’re dependent on are much less productive, the result is decreased productivity among your most productive employees.
This can be avoided if you can identify high performers and pair them together. Hubstaff made this possible, enabling Digital Web Properties to enhance overall productivity.
“By tracking hours for critical projects separately, we’ve also reduced time spent in meetings and gained a better understanding of project priorities and available workforce.”
7. Prioritize projects and focus efforts
When you run an agency, being overwhelmed with work is both a blessing and a curse. Of course, you want as much work as possible, but when working with clients, prioritization can seem impossible because every task is a high priority. But Sima says Hubstaff taught them that isn’t necessarily true.
Hubstaff allows Sima to focus her team on the most important tasks in several ways:
- Help employees prioritize their tasks better. Check activity screenshots regularly to see what tasks are eating up too much time. “Are employees spending too much time creating emails? Provide a few templates. Are they having a hard time finding copyright-free images? Buy some stock photography or create a shared library.”
- Eliminate distractions. Sometimes you don’t realize how much time you’re wasting until you take a step back. “By checking a month’s worth of screenshots, we discovered that our managers were spending way too much time talking to employees on Skype. We do briefings in person now.”
- Create a priority matrix, and sort tasks in order of importance. Digital Web Properties has integrated Hubstaff with Asana so tasks show up in both tools, enabling employees to receive real-time updates when priorities shift.
Hubstaff’s time tracking software isn’t just for remote teams
Digital Web Properties has enjoyed extreme growth since it was founded less than three years ago.
According to Sima: “Hubstaff has helped us transition from a slightly chaotic remote team to a real company (with a really nice office and other cool things that real companies have).
“Obviously, I’m not saying that Hubstaff is the sole reason all these wonderful things have happened, but it did play a big part.”
Do you have a unique use case for the Hubstaff time tracking tool? We’d love to hear it! Tell us your story in the comments below.