Remember when video killed the radio star? OK, so you’re not old enough to remember that one, but the point is, new technology / behavioural change has a way of killing off what came before. Often this is a good thing, but sometimes the new way of doing things is not the best way of doing things.
Let’s talk about our insatiable drive for the NOW. I would like to know this NOW. I would like to have this NOW. I am interested in this, give me everything you have on this subject NOW. We so often whinge about the Millennials and their sense of entitlement, but honey – they have learned it all from us. And our demands on them, on ourselves, on our systems and our processes – our obsession of needing everything we want right NOW, is killing the very thing that makes the business profitable – our productivity.
Productivity is the measure of a person’s efficiency (average output per period divided by the total costs incurred). Where you, as a business, make the most money, is when your people can produce the most number of products for the least amount of cost. If you are putting more demands on your people and distracting them from their core work, then YOU are decreasing the productivity of your people with your demands.
Now, I am a HUGE advocate for technological efficiencies and I look for lots of ways I can use our systems to do certain tasks, provide certain data or to respond to certain situations automatically so that these demands are not put on our staff. I have to do this because the demands on our consultants’ time and attention has only got more intense in the past few years, and if consultants continue to have to stop what their core job is to answer questions, provide insight/data/reports, they are being pulled away from their work and their productivity goes down.
As managers and business owners, we have also blurred the lines between work and life outside of the office. We email our people after hours. We call them. We DM them on Saturday afternoons and we ask them to be on the ball 24/7. In return, employees now demand more flexibility. More and more people ask for flexible hours, the ability to work from home, the right to work anywhere. And we fall over ourselves to give it – because if we hand over that company phone and laptop, we know we own them. For sure, you can work from home – but this now gives me an even greater sense of entitlement to demand more from you when you are not sitting at your desk in the office.
But giving people more flexibility so we can demand from them, doesn’t necessarily make them more productive and it can drastically affect our own productivity. Because, Lord help me, there are managers who now stress obsessively about what their employees are or are not doing when they are working from home. Our fear that they are taking the mickey out of us and being paid to work but actually spending all afternoon at the beach overwhelms us. Instead of focusing on what we should be doing, we are wasting far too much time worrying about what they are not doing.
And yet people wouldn’t even demand flexibility if we just left them alone to get on with their job in the office. If they weren’t all so overwhelmed with ad hoc demands or ridiculous deadlines, they could just get on and do what they do best. Their job. They could be productive and profitable. They could feel a sense of achievement in getting things done. And then they could walk out the door at the end of the day and head home knowing that for the next 12 hours they don’t have to think about work for one minute more than they want to.
So the next time a grand idea comes to you at 2.30am and you pick up your smartphone and send messages to your people asking them for a new report, new analysis, a complete change of direction, remember this: Video killed the radio star and your demand for instant gratification is killing the productivity of your business.