Aug 2, 2007

Time Wasters in Corporate America?

Every now and then an article comes up that catches my eye. Today, an article on wasting time in corporate environments lit up - because I hate wasting time. Time is the one resource we can never get back once it is gone.

The interesting thing about this report, sponsored and published by AOL and, is the disparity between the amount of time employers (or HR) thought employees waste, and the amount of time employees actually admitted to wasting.

The report, originally published in 2006, quotes the following:

Average hrs. American worker actually wastes is 1.70 hrs.
Average hrs. American workers are expected to waste by HR .94 hrs.
Difference between expected and actual time wasted = .76 hrs.

That is 197 hrs. per year wasted MORE than HR people think is going to be wasted. Multiplying that out by the Average American worker's annual salary $16.86 per hour = $3,321 x the total number of American workers (non-farm) 135 million = $448.4 Billion cost to companies.

Wow. Okay, does it really matter? To a lessor extent, in every company, yes, it does.
Time wasted, to me, means one of three things:

1. Employee is bored, lazy, ADD, or underutilized.
2. Manager is not paying attention to how employee spends their time.
3. Employer is not structured to empower their employees.

Number one is somewhat rectifyable. Even lazy people will work harder if they are motivated. It is up to an employer to utilize their people's skillsets. Although, if you're an employee reading this and you're just not giving your best because, well, no reason at all, then shame on you. Get it together, work hard, do your best no matter where you are. But, the reality is, I think most employees actually DO want to contribute.

So, let's look at #2 and #3. #2 Manager is not paying attention to how employee spends their time. Well, if the manager is wasting time, too, this may be part of the problem. But, deeper than that, managers ought to know, at least to some extent, what employees are up to. There are ways to know: telephone reports, cell phone expenses, lunch expenses, customer reports, one-on-one meetings, etc. If a manager doesn't look at these to know that (a) the employee is actually doing work, and (b) the employee is putting the production or not, then the manager is in the wrong job. A manager who is motivating their team and utilizing their talents to the fullest will generally be the most successful manager. So, aim at ways to motivate and empower your team so they can make you the successful manager you want to be.

Last, #3 - Employer is not structured to empower their employees. This is the problem most organizations in America are struggling with today. EMPOWERMENT. Why? Well, they structure like a pyramid -- almost all of them. And, pyramid structures are great for creating an army of robots, but they aren't great for enabling people to be creative and innovative.

The solution to that problem? Structure in a new way. We're working on a structure enabling Semantic Collaboration to occur. Semantic Collaboration is a term we coined after reading about Web 3.0 Search becoming "semantic search" and relating what we're doing to build collaborative teams. Semantic Collaboration builds dynamic teams based upon skills and abilities rather than job description and title. It is a refreshing way to treat people. And, from our research, people respond with more innovation and higher productivity when semantic collaboration is embraced by an organization. So, for many organizations, structuring more creatively would allow far more innovation and productivity. I've published an article on a model of collaboration I call the Diamond-Circle model, which is the first step to implementing semantic collaboration in your organization.

The last key to avoiding waste of time is to promote an atmosphere of collaboration, contribution, and creativity. People ought to be able to waste *some* time if it is how they recharge their batteries, create friendships that allow higher quality of work, and build teams. So, that type of time may actually not be a waste, at all.

If you're in HR and wondering how to deal with these challenges, reach out to organizations focused on improving structure, process, and collaboration. If you're in upper management, avoid focusing solely on numbers. People ought to be rated for their human factor, too. But consider structuring from the inside-out, rather than top-down, to enable more collaboration and go to the "hot-hand" to meet the challenges and opportunities for your organization.

Last, if you're an employee, for pete's sake, either find a job that you love, or create one that you won't want to waste your time away -- after all, your time is your own. And, as Shakespeare once wrote, "to thine own self be true."

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