Which Employee Efficiencies Most Improve Productivity?
We teach time management techniques multiple times each year through our Achieving Mastery sessions, with a wide variety of teams. Oil rig workers, executive management teams, production line managers, all need to find ways to manage a day better, and find more time for tasks and leadership functions.
Recent research done by WebTorials (find a summary here) gives us a good handle on how employees may be spending a typical day. This excellent set of insights allows a manager to focus his or her efforts on the key area where 70% of a typical employee’s day is spent: Communicating with other humans.
Note the red slice of this pie chart. Only 31% of a typical employee’s day is spent on assigned tasks. The rest of the day is dedicated to communicating with others in various ways.*
So, if you wanted to give your employees some tools to help them control more of their day, where would you focus your effort? We recommend building employee communication and collaboration skills, and adding collaborative tools that make their interactions constructive and forward-moving.
Here are a few angles that you could take using this data:
Notice that only 7% of the day is spent using online collaboration tools. Could that be improved? What tools do they have at their disposal now? Are they being fully utilized? Are there communication flows currently occurring via group text or mass e-mails that could more productively occur within the online collaboration space?
Examine that 22% of the day spent in meetings (in-person and via conference call). Are these update meetings or true decision-making sessions? Updates must move to e-mail, with questions and issues brought to the meeting. Expectations must be strongly set that the update e-mails are read in full prior to any meeting, so discussions can start immediately without “bringing people up to speed.”
Another 22% of the day is spent working through e-mails and text-based chats. What is the quality of those communications? Are there strict behavior expectations around “reply all” impulses, for instance?
To quote from the report:
“We postulate that one of the key reasons for inefficiency is not using the most efficient tool for the task at hand. For instance, email often is used for a “chat” with a barrage of short comments. And while email is great for documenting conversations and including a mass of people in a conversation, the ability to copy a large group of people on a conversation can also lead to inefficiency.”
The report, not surprisingly, found that employees self-rated various communications as about 75% efficient, which tells us that they are open to using all these tools more efficiently.
WebTorial research also highlights that the respondents to this survey averaged about $75,000 in salary, and therefore carry an organizational cost of about 1.4 times that, or $105,000 in annual expense.
If 70% of this investment in human resources is being spent to support communication activities, we see big gains to be made in improving the quality of employee interactions. Managers wanting to foster greater productivity within their team would do well to focus their leadership time on honing such skills within their team.
Finally, we should note that setting up an employee-led process to tackle this issue could be a highly engaging exercise all by itself. Raising the employee ownership quotient, whatever improvements you attempt to implement, raises the prospect of success!
*We should note that WebTorials caters to an IT audience, so these percentages may reflect the typical day of an employee in that sort of workplace. In our experience, though, even a production line worker has a significant need to be more efficient in how he or she communicates needs, issues and opportunities within the workgroup, and outwardly to the organization.