Time Management is Illogical


Busy! Busy! Busy! We hear it out of the mouths of every worker, every boss, and every member of our modern-day society. “Busy” is for bees—we need to start talking about being productive and effective, not just busy.

Our workplaces have been battling this syndrome of busy-ness for a long time now. Here is a Time article from 2016 addressing the issue of workplace busy-ness. As we enter this new decade, busy-ness seems to be taking an even more dominant role in workplace culture. Here is a great piece analyzing why we have been taken over with this culture of busy-ness.

My own personal opinions on this topic are as follows (hopefully some HR professionals may find these opinions valuable and interesting):

  1. Busy-ness culture ramped up with the use of the fax machine in the business world.
  2. The concept of time management is illogical.

Before the fax machine in the workplace, you had time to process before you responded. With the invention of the fax machine, however, there was a new expectation that because the work request came to you fast, it had to be addressed fast.

It got worse with the invention of email, texting, and social media. Everything became instantaneous, and individuals started reacting to everything, and not responding in a strategic manner. Instead of strategic work outcomes or goals, transactional activities became the driving force behind work behaviour.

All of us need to look at Stephen Covey’s time management grid in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey stated that you should always be in control of your own productivity and be aware of where you are working at any moment in time. Click here to review Stephen Covey’s time management grid.

The time management grid has four quadrants of varying levels of productivity. According to the grid, most of your time should be in Quadrant II (QII), which is work that is non-urgent but important.

Most of us, in our working and personal life, spend most of our time in Quadrant I (QI) or Quadrant IV (QIV). To sum up these two quadrants, QI is where we respond to other’s crisis demands immediately, and QIV is where we waste our time with excessive emails and time on our smartphones. If you can move your activities to QII, you will automatically become more productive.

Additionally, the concept of time management is illogical. If you look at any HR textbook definition of “management,” you will always read these four themes of what “management” is about:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Leading
  4. Control

We have been conditioned for decades with the idea that we can manage time with time management skills. This is not true. We cannot manage time. Try to answer these following questions:

  • Can I plan time?
  • Can I organize time?
  • Can I lead time?
  • Can I control time?

The logical answer to all of the above questions is an emphatic no. One can‘t plan, organize, lead, or control time. All one can do is plan, organize, lead, and control their activities.

Everyone has the same 168 hours in a week. Most people work, commute, and have some type of family responsibility. What makes one person productive, and the other person just “busy”?

Discussion Question:

Read the following article to help you identify ways an HR department can assist its organization to avoid and overcome a culture of busy-ness? Create a summary of your key ideas that you could present to your VP of workplace wellness.

The Disengagement Gap


In many of the HRM NOW! blogs, I have talked about various gaps.

We have the pay equity gap, the PPE gender gap, and now we have a new gap for HR professionals to ponder – the disengagement gap.

But before we get to that, let’s discuss pondering.

Pondering is something more HR professionals should do. HR is good at strategizing, executing and implementing, but pondering is something to add to the HR toolbox.

To ponder is to weigh in with the mind, think about and reflect on, and with this disengagement gap, HR may need to ponder the causes. There seems to be some illogical human behaviour in the disengagement gap, and this is something HR should definitely ponder.

What is the disengagement gap and why is it happening?

An article on HRD calls the disengagement gap ‘a complacency conundrum’:

This DG or the complacency conundrum seems to be incessant in modern day workplaces. A recent North America survey showed the following:

  • 70% of employees are disengaged
  • Only 35 % are planning to leave their organization

This is a strange workplace behaviour. Employees are not happy with their work but are unwilling to change jobs.

This is especially strange when North America has some of the lowest unemployment rates in years. Low unemployment rates should make it easier for employees to leave jobs they do not like.  However, this was not happening in 2018, where 74% of employees were willing to leave their jobs, but in 2019, only 35% are.  Why the drastic drop?

HR professionals must consider why the change in employee’s attitudes. It’s not because employees love their jobs, because most do not.  All HR departments should begin a quest to understand how to engage their employees on a personal level. HR departments that start to ponder and develop some solutions to resolve this disengagement gap will see great performance benefits.

Discussion Questions

Improve your skills as a new HR professional by clicking on Dr. Natalie Baumgartner’s website. Pick one of her posts to read and review, and then ask yourself how an HR department could start to implement some of her ideas about employee engagement.

Building Experience Into Learning

In our study of training and development, there are multiple theories about adult learning.

We know that adults learn differently from children. This does not mean, however, that adult learning cannot be fun. Fun comes in many different formats.

What is (usually) not fun is a training session that is boring, disengaging, and ends up being a waste of valuable time.

This is where experiential learning can come into play. In order to counter the negative experiences of one way, lecture-based training sessions, experiential learning provides for participation and engagement on the part of the learners. Adult learning happens best when participants in training sessions are able to put into action real-life scenarios that are linked directly to their work life experiences.

The advantages and disadvantages of experiential training sessions are explored in a recent post found on trainingzone.co.uk.

Click here to read the post.

As noted, good training programs allow the participants to ‘feel, taste, and experience’ that which they are there to learn. Experiential learning can go beyond the simple exercise of a role play when it builds on the actual internal individual reactions and responses to a given situation. That which adult learners experience, adult learners are able to remember, recall, and put into practice when the situation happens ‘for real’ in the future.

Experiential learning as discussed in our textbook and in the aforementioned post through David Kolb’s theories about learning styles, is not a singular approach. Kolb’s theories rely on a variety of individual approaches to learning and reinforce the need for including different experiential techniques or components into adult training modules.

Click here to access the article on Kolb’s learning styles.

Given that individuals learn differently, we need to ensure that different approaches are used when training programs are designed. Based on Kolb’s theories, not everyone will learn from a single group work activity during a training session, nor will everyone learn from a single training simulation, like a role play. Rather than designing a training program based on only one technique, it seems appropriate to use a variety of techniques in order to build the capacity for experiential learning for everyone.

It also builds the capacity for adult learners to have some fun.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As the HR leader for corporate training and development, how will you build Kolb’s experiential learning cycle into a customer service training module for tellers in a bank?
  2. Thinking about your own learning experiences; identify a course or a program that used experiential learning as the primary mode of training for the participants. How did it impact your own learning?
  3. How does experiential learning increase the development of ‘soft skills’ as noted in the article?


Informal Learning Matters


When developing workplace training and development programs, we have learned that good training design in based on the principles of adult learning. Adult learning, otherwise known as andragogy, differs from child-centered learning, known as pedagogy. Child-centered learning is perceived as traditional education which is structured and relies on external sources for motivation. Andragogy, relies on the principle of self-motivation and the application of past experience in the learning process for adults.

As we move though childhood into adulthood one of the major markers is the transition from school to work. For many Canadians, formal education begins with pre-school, at age 3 or 4 and extends well into young adulthood and post-secondary education. Following a school based education system provides most of us with at least twenty years of structured, formal learning. As we leave childhood, pedagogy and formal education may move behind us, but the need for learning does not stop. Learning happens differently once we move into adulthood. What was once filled by structured education shifts to the application of increased informal learning methodologies for adult learners.

According to recent research, the need for informal learning for working adults is on the rise. Brian Kessel explores the relationship between formal and informal learning in the workplace based on the statistics provided by the Conference Board of Canada.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, as adults we may not have abandoned the concepts of formal learning completely.  Perhaps our need for formal learning is based on the fact that, for many of us, education was provided in a structured way for so many years and the imprint of those long-term processes are ingrained into our adult brains.

The good news is that that those brains continue to adapt and look for ways to keep learning alive both formally and informally as we progress throughout our adulthoods.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time per week do you spend on informal learning in the workplace?
  2. As an adult, which learning environment is more comfortable for you – formal or informal? Explain your rationale
  3. Why should workplaces differentiate or categorize learning as formal or informal?


Smart tips for HR professionals

Developing employees is a critical skill set for all HR professionals. But how do you know which system is the best to develop your employees?

There are many different performance management systems. Like any other complex organizational issue, there is never one right answer to an HR problem. Most of the time the right solution is dependent on many organizational factors. The best an HR professional can do is to learn and analyze many systems, and then make a judgement call on what is the best intervention for their organization at that moment in time.

You may want to start looking at what is happening in performance management trends. It seems that many HR professionals and organizations are rethinking their annual performance review systems.

Jason Averbrook in his new book called, the Ultimate Guide to a Digital Workforce Experience – Leap for a Purpose, shares this thought with us: “Employees don’t want feedback, they want attention.”

The once-a-year performance review does not give the employee enough attention. Averbrook goes on to say that 60 percent of companies are beginning to reshape their performance review systems.

Click here to read more about Jason Averbrook’s ideas. 

For decades, organizations have been using the traditional annual reviews that rate and rank employees. These annual rating and ranking systems seem to be of less value as time moves on and as organizational needs and employees’ values change.  Traditional performance review systems focus on the employee’s past behavior, and not their current behaviour. Today’s organizational deliverables are changing rapidly; looking back over the last year of an employee’s behaviour adds minimal productive value to the HR equation and therefore adds little to the employees’ or organization’s performance.

If the annual employee performance review systems are no longer viable, HR departments must begin to implement new modern day performance measurement systems that meet the needs of the employees and the needs of the rapidly changing business world.  Here is a list of the some of the recent trends in performance management:

  • Frequent real-time feedback instead of one-shot annual reviews
  • Decoupling performance reviews from administrative practices such as annual merit pay or bonuses
  • Dropping the ranking systems: think of what an employee can do, not what they have done

Employees want more frequent and focused attention to help them develop and perform. HR needs to investigate these new trends in performance management, and then begin to implement new methods to keep improving performance results.

Discussion Questions

Research and identify three large organizations that are moving away from the annual performance review system, then discuss what they are using to replace it.