Time Management is Illogical

jesadaphorn/Shutterstock

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.

Employee Orientation from Administrative to Strategic

iQoncept/Shutterstock

For decades, the HR world has been spouting the following statements on an endless verbal loop:

  • Move all HR practices from an administrative to a strategic focus
  • Employees are our best assets
  • Develop a culture of employee engagement for success

The assumption is that if HR does all of the above, everything will be perfect; however, HR never really does these things. They usually do the exact opposite of what they believe in. Let’s look at what HR usually does during new employee orientations.

On an employee’s first day, HR inundates the new employee with administrative policies and procedures, which are nothing more than strict guidelines and rules that demean the new employee’s intelligence. Then, the HR professional is shocked when the employee does not embrace their culture of engagement. This orientation merry-go-round is happening on a perpetual loop at most organizations.

Successful employee onboarding, or orientation, is not about learning HR’s administrative rules. According to John Hilton, in his article “4 ways onboarding processes must change,” successful employee onboarding is about submerging employees in the organization’s culture, and the key to making employees engaged and productive in their new positions. This is noted by Hilton, when he states, “There’s a misconception that an intensive onboarding experience requires a high administrative burden.”

Additionally, Hilton suggests some ideas on how HR can successfully transition from an administrative to a strategic focus:

  • Engage employees’ emotions
  • Explain that organizational culture and behaviours are not just about meeting administrative goals on paper
  • Automate lower value activities
  • Focus all orientation activities with the intent to expose employees to the organizational culture

HR professionals know that onboarding sets the tone for the quality of long-term employee engagement. So, when HR creates an onboarding process with intention, it sets the tone for sparking a higher level of long-term employee engagement and productivity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research and identify if there is a difference between employee orientation and employee onboarding. State and defend your position.
  2. Research and find an organization that has an exceptional onboarding program. Summarize the main elements of their program.
  3. What would you present to your VP of HR to demonstrate the value of a strategic onboarding program?

Fast Food and Free Tuition

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has over 80,000 employees and 2,500 restaurants, and they are making a move as bold as their hot sauce. Chipotle is starting to offer its employees (who have been with the company for at least 120 days) free college tuition to earn a degree in 75 different business and technology programs in several educational institutions. Click here to read in greater detail about Chipotle’s innovative approach to valuing their employees.

This may be Chipotle’s next big move to ensure business success, because whatever it is they’re doing, it’s been working, according to their business results from the 2nd quarter of 2019:

  • Revenue up 13% to $1.4 billion
  • Net income of $91 million
  • Operating margins up over 20%
  • Expansion plan, including opening an average of 150 new stores next year

The question is why would Chipotle spend so much money on employee education? The most obvious answer is that they’re trying to improve their ability to recruit employees in a very tight labour market, but all HR professionals know that labour markets are cyclical, and there will always be ups and downs in hiring trends. This alone is not enough to sway an organization to commit to such an expensive employee educational benefit program.

Let’s take a closer look at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s organizational philosophy, and the place to start is with their mission statement:

Cultivate a Better World

What better way to “cultivate a better world” than to provide free education? There seems to be great benefit to a powerful mission statement. This can be seen on Chipotle’s company site on Comparably, where 100% of their employees said they were motivated by their mission statement.

It is inspiring to see an organization that is trying to make a difference, and is willing to spend resources to make that difference.

Discussion Question:

Research other companies in the fast food industry that are providing some type of educational support and/or benefits. Once complete, imagine you are a VP of HR in that industry; what type of educational support and benefits would you recommend to your CEO, and why?

Team Learning = Team Building

GN ILLUSTRATOR/Shutterstock

Team building is a concept that has been around for a long time. No matter how team structures in organizations have been put together, there has always been a focus on how to improve the relationships between, and the productivity of, those who are ‘forced’ to work together. Most of us have choices about who/whom we want to spend our time with, and how much time we want to spend with them, outside of the work environment. Within a work setting, however, we may not have people and time options as we have to spend a set amount of time together with workplace colleagues who have been chosen for us. Given how much time is spent together each and every day with others in the workplace, it is no wonder that organizations continue to focus on how to nurture effective teams through on-going training programs that develop group learning processes.

An interesting article from 2001 outlines the positive impact of group learning on the long-term effects of team building.

Click here to read the article on group learning and team building.

While dated, the article reinforces concepts of team training and group development that are still relevant in today’s organizational learning culture. Many companies continue to offer team retreats where colleagues can challenge each other (and themselves) through various physical activities – such as Tree-top Trekking and Rock-wall Climbing. These adventure-based sessions are used to build trust and team accountability, which should translate back into the work environment in a productive way.

In addition to these physical or traditional team building efforts, the opportunities to apply learning that develops team problem solving and brainstorming skills are on the rise. For example, creative team building options come with access to events such as ‘Escape Rooms’ where participants must work together using ‘mental capacities’ such as ‘brainpower’ and ‘logic’.

Click here to read about ‘Escape Rooms’ as a team learning program.

No matter what or how the opportunities are provided into the future, what has not changed is the understanding that good teams come from forming good relationships, sharing good learning, and experiencing good times together.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Thinking of the team you work with most recently, which type of team learning session would be more challenging for the group – ‘Tree-top Trekking’ or ‘Escape Room’? Explain your rationale.
  2. What are the cost-benefits, based on the investment of both time and money for adventure based learning, in the development of team-based organization culture and productivity?
  3. How does informal team-building impact work-place productivity? Do you agree that it is beneficial? Explain your rationale.

Virtual Training Is Real

G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock

The time for change in technology based training is here.

The evolution of technological training tools, which used to be paper based and then moved to online or computer-based methodologies, has shifted to the rapid implementation of virtual reality as the go-to tool for employee training and development.

Walmart and Amazon both announced a shift from paper-based training and assessment tools to implementing virtual reality training for their respective employees.

Click here to read how Walmart and Amazon are implementing virtual reality training for their employees.

As noted in the article, virtual reality can provide effective training for employees through workplace simulations. These include complex customer service, decision-making, motivation and problem-solving scenarios. This type of training allows employees to familiarize themselves not only with what (the tasks) they must perform, along with building capacity for understanding how those tasks are impacted by their own reactions. Virtual reality training seems to offer a relatively safe environment where an error or a mistake made by the employee in training will not have a direct impact on a ‘live’ customer or colleague as an immediate result.

The article states that the benefits of this type of technology allow for training to be offered to employees on a mass scale with low cost, provided the purchase of hardware and software development has been made. Certainly, corporations like Walmart and Amazon, have significant resources which allow for the investment of this type of technology-based training. It does seem that they are leading the way for the rest of the business world to follow them into the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does virtual reality training provide empathy training? Why is this important?
  2. From you reading of the article,
    • identify three benefits of virtual reality training that impact employee motivation;
    • identify three challenges or negative implications of virtual reality training.
  3. In your current work environment, what types of training programs could be replaced with virtual reality training tools?