- Complacency. Those that are complacent don’t care about what happens to the organization. They believe their life is good and can’t see outside their own shells to notice that the organization is struggling. They don’t care to make a positive difference in the organization – they are content to keep the wheels turning just as they are and just for themselves.
- Self Interest. Like the complacent, those with self-interests will never speak up on behalf of the entire organization. These people only care about themselves. They will sit on the sidelines instead of speaking up, or they may even side with the bad leader if it serves their interest. Those that work for their self-interest are not individuals in whom one could place any trust for the benefit of the entire organization.
- Fear. Those afraid of “rocking the boat” are another problem in the organization. For whatever reason – perhaps it’s fear of change or fear of losing their jobs – those that fear speaking up may stand behind someone who will speak for them and they don’t particularly care where they’re standing. However, when it’s their turn to speak, they never will. These people grumble, but not when it matters or to whom it matters.
- Incompetence. Sadly, there are incompetent people in any organization (starting from the leader and downward). The incompetent will try to sound smart, but one can easily see through their veils. Sadly, a lot of people can be duped by an incompetent leader’s BS.
- Talker. The long-winded gas bags take up too much time, and even if they may say something useful in the end, because they talk so long, people lose interest in listening to them. Gasbags need to learn to get to a meaningful point quickly if they expect to be taken seriously.
- Inability to Walk the Talk. Those that spout off a myriad of things that need to be fixed in the organization but when it comes time to fulfill their promises and get things done, they do not follow-through. Eventually, others realize that these people are full of hot air and can’t be relied upon for any positive change in the organization.
How is your work day going? What have you learned from your job, from your peers? If you aren’t learning at work, how rewarding is your job, really? In addition to working to maintain a satisfactory standard of living, informal learning at work adds to an individual’s work satisfaction.
Various reports hold that informal learning in the workplace accounts for about 90 percent of everything that employees learn. This may be an accurate number if we consider Albert Bandura’s social learning theory positing that we learn through observing others’ behaviours and attitudes as well as the outcomes of those behaviours.
In his book, Social Learning Theory (1977), Bandura explains that there are four conditions for modelling behaviour. These are:
Attention. Different factors can increase or decrease the amount of attention paid to a particular behaviour. This includes the behaviour’s distinctiveness, its effect on your emotions (positive or negative emotions are more likely to be remembered than a behaviour that did not evoke an emotional response), prevalence and complexity of the behaviour, functional value (e.g., how important is the behaviour to your job?). An individual’s characteristics also affect attention to the behaviour (e.g., sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement, etc.).
Retention. This refers to remembering what you observed. This is impacted by symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, and motor rehearsal (i.e., practicing what we observed).
Reproduction. This is about “doing” what we observed. It includes attention to our physical capabilities to reproduce the behaviour as well as feedback mechanisms through our own self-observation of the behaviour. How well are we reproducing the observed behaviour?
Motivation. To imitate behaviour, we need to have a good reason to do so. This may include motivators such as history (e.g., perhaps past behaviours did not result in good outcomes, so a new behaviour is desired) or it may involve promised or imagined incentives.
Like many social and cultural theorists, Bandura believed that the world and a person’s behaviour cause each other – we behave based on our environment, but we also create an environment based on our behaviour. Either way, organizations should take heed of the role that informal and social learning have in the workplace and encourage appropriate learning to maximize efficiency and performance. Following are five ways to increase informal learning in the workplace (adapted from: Growth Engineering).
Mentoring. Coaching and mentoring help improve training and learning. Knowledge sharing is also a great way to retain knowledge in the workplace and prepare for succession.
Sharing. Social learning flourishes when people get into the habit of sharing their knowledge. Having a center of learning available on the corporate intranet or some other internal forum will go a long way to help employees collaborate and boost their learning.
Experts. Provide expert resources for employees – knowing who to turn to when you have a question will go a long way to helping employees learn from each other.
Rewards. Some companies reward an employee’s hard work with accolades such as “Employee of the Month” or “Top Contributor,” etc. This makes learning more fun. Another way to make learning fun is through gamification – who doesn’t love a good game of Scrabble for Business?
Mandatory Learning. Ensuring that employees complete one level of learning before they can advance to the next level is a good way to ensure that they are reading the corporate handbook (so to speak!). This can be done readily through an online learning platform. This ensures that collaboration and social learning become part of the employees’ learning journey.
Would you like to know how you can learn better from work? Check out the Learning Innovations Laboratory report about the “three stances that make a difference” at work.
Productivity doesn’t just happen. It takes focus and sustained effort to accomplish work tasks. However, the amount of focus and effort varies, depending on the difficulty of the task.
The opposite is also true. That is, non-productivity does “just happen.” It is so easy to be non-productive – that’s why many of us can slide into a weekend of rest and relaxation without any effort!
But while at work, it is important to do our best to be as productive as possible. And in order to do that, it is equally important to respect our bodies and not use substances that can inhibit our work performance. Ever.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually.
As well, workers who report having three or more jobs in the previous five years are about twice as likely to be current or past year users of illegal drugs as those who had two or fewer jobs.
And, an astounding 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in 2003 estimated that legal substances (tobacco and alcohol) account for 79.3% of the total cost of substance abuse, while illegal drugs account for 20.7% ($8.2 billion) of costs.
With the recent explosion of “medical marijuana” retailers, these numbers are estimated to increase. Employers now find themselves in a situation where they need to consider even more so the impacts of once-illicit drugs on their workforce. The impacts on work productivity are difficult to ignore.
I continue to be in awe and amazed at the silence of the medical community about the ill effects of cannabis (usually termed “marijuana”). In terms of the workplace, however, cannabis has an immediate and ongoing effect on productivity.
It has been documented that cannabis causes the following side effects (this is not a complete list):
Decreased memory and thinking capabilities
Decreased motivation – as such, this affects the employee’s ability to relate to their colleagues, clients and customers
Increased risk of developing dependence
Increased risk of respiratory illness
Increased risk of mental illness
Diminished relationships – think about how this impacts teamwork in the workplace with added pressure being placed on non-users including poor collaboration on projects (as an example)
Increased risk of injury of self or others (resulting in loss of time and potential workers’ compensation)
Decreased driving performance
Of note is that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in Canada, with 10.6% of Canadians reporting past-year use in 2012. As well, Canadian youth have the highest rate of past-year marijuana use (28% in 2009-2010) compared to student in other developed countries.
While governments are starting to “give in” to the demand for legalizing marijuana, this legalization has put the onus on organizations to conduct their own workplace drug testing. In addition, organizations need to ensure adequate workforce training in identifying potential drug use.
Human resource departments are now even more critical to the organizations’ functions to ensure the business’s bottom line is not being impacted by drug use.
One of the ways in which HR can help is to build relationships with managers and employees. When you know someone, it’s much easier to identify changes in behaviour and productivity and to provide proper intervention.
In addition, implementing policies and procedures will help all workers be aware of the signs and symptoms of drug use. Much like personal issues or inter-staff and management issues, keeping substance use/abuse top-of-mind helps to identify the problem, so it can be addressed quickly.
Do you feel “stuck” in a job? Even before the workday is done, can you hardly wait to get out of the office? If so, you may be in the wrong job.
Feeling stuck may be a sign that you are not using your strengths on the job. If you aren’t using your strengths, resentment builds and frustration ensues. Not only that, you are not being productive on the job – think “deadwood” and you’ll get the idea! Let me explain.
Let’s say that you’re a decision-maker by nature. But you find yourself in a job where you neither contribute nor make organization-wide decisions. As a result, you second-guess the organization’s decisions and you start resenting its decision-makers. On top of this, you start to dislike your boss and co-workers because you see them as part of the problem.
You might say that you can’t help it – you need to work somewhere. Fair enough – most of us end up in temporary jobs that are nothing more than a way to pay the bills. But for long-term career happiness and productivity, you need to understand your strengths.
In addition to identifying our strengths, we need to understand how we work best. And how we work best depends on our personality.
Our personality determines how we perform, no matter what it is that we do – from how we organize our breakfast in the morning to how we process our daily tasks to how we relate to people. Each of us has an inherent capability of how we manage our “to-do’s.”
But consider this fact: While our habits can be modified, few (if any) people can outright change either their strengths or habits. Instead, what we can do is identify our strengths and habits and then choose to improve both in a way that moves us further in our careers.
Here are five ways that you can improve your strengths and use them to catapult your career to the next level.
- Pay attention to feedback. What do others say about your strengths? What do they notice about you? Sometimes, we instinctively know what we’re good at, but for whatever reason, we become blind to our strengths. It may take several people to point out your strengths before you start to pay attention.
- Tune in to your performance. How do you produce your best work? Is it by working alone or in teams? Do you prefer to learn through reading, listening, or viewing? What time of day are you most productive and why at that time? By understanding “how” we work, we will be able to understand the unique characteristics of what comprises an ideal work day for us and when we are most productive.
- Notice what gives you energy. When working on a task, does it make you feel tired, bored, overwhelmed, interested, or is the work challenging? Does the task motivate you to work even harder to get the job done? Do you feel alive? If the work makes you feel so energized (even if you’re physically tired), then that’s the type of work you need to be doing.
- Do not comprise your values. The place where you work must reflect your own values. The organization’s policies should be in line with their practices. In other words, the organization should practice what it preaches. If your beliefs are in line with the organization’s culture, then you have a match made in heaven.
- Contribute like there’s no tomorrow. Based on your strengths, work on improving the organization’s systems, processes, methods, policies, and other practices. This will serve to not only make a positive difference to the organization, but also to help you feel a sense of accomplishment. If you can feel as if you have accomplished something, you know your strengths are serving you well.
Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Substitute “career” for the word “luck” and you can see how our strengths can be used to build happy and productive careers.
How do you save time? This depends on who you speak to and their age. Each generation has an affinity for different efficiency tools and techniques.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, tend to opt for multi-tasking because they believe that doing more than one thing at a time saves time. Truth is it doesn’t. Multi-tasking is counterproductive and decreases efficiency. Perhaps Boomers’ nonconformist ways make them stick to their beliefs. In fact, Boomers labels of themselves range from “self-obsessed” to “stuck in their ways” (Jane Holroyd, Sidney Morning Herald).
To improve efficiency, Boomers are unlikely to put in the effort to change their habits at this stage – unless they can buy it and it’s easy to assemble.
Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1976, are often labeled as the “slacker” generation. They appear to be uncommitted, unfocused and disorganized. They tend to move between jobs frequently, preferring a balanced lifestyle over the financial comfort that their parents craved.
Gen Xers, you can improve your efficiency by:
Closing all applications on your computer other than the one that you’re working on. This will help you maintain focus.
Do work in small manageable chunks, rather than tackling the whole project at once. This will help you reduce overwhelm.
When something needs doing, do it right away. If you think about it for too long, you may procrastinate and not get the job done properly (or on time).
If a task is boring or frustrating, think of something else that you might be doing that may be worse. Then use that comparison to start working on the task at hand that now does not seem so bad!
Every hour, take a ten minute break to refresh. When you do, you will have more energy and focus to attend to the task.
Generation Y (also called “Millennials”), born between 1977 and 1994, are the largest cohort since the Baby Boomers. They are labeled as lazy, debt-ridden and programmed for instant gratification. They are portrayed as demanding and unrealistic in their career aspirations. They also tend to be Internet-addicted and lonely.
Millennials don’t mind working hard, but they want to be judged on their output and results, rather than the total number of hours they put in. Their time efficiency hack is leveraging technology to help them gain greater work-life balance. In other words, whatever can be automated to save time, should be!
Here are some efficiency hacks for millennials by millennials:
When not in a mental state to work, hit the gym or go running. Don’t forget to shower before returning to work!
Return phone calls while waiting for the bus, taxi, airplane, or ferry.
When you have an idea, chase it until you figure it out. If you don’t, the idea may drive you nuts and lead you to procrastinate and be overwhelmed.
Instead of a computer, use an e-reader for reading books – the lack of multitasking actually helps you maintain focus because you cannot switch between windows with a browser.
Make friends that can save you time – for instance, if your friends love to browse online for the best deals, get them to tell you when they find a great deal. Then, all you have to do is “click” to buy. The homework has already been done for you.
Allocate one hour each and every day to handle e-mail and other “to-do’s” that you need to clear off your list. This can be either at the beginning or end of the day. This is a must for saving time!
Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2012, grew up with the Internet. They are incredibly technology-savvy and can be labeled as the iPad generation. These kids are just entering the workforce and you can bet that whatever efficiency hack they use, it will involve technology.
Generation Alpha, those born from 2010 onward, will likely be the most formally educated generation in history. They began school earlier (think pre-school or daycare at the age of two or three) and will be studying longer. These children are from older, wealthier parents with fewer siblings and they are already being labeled as materialistic (Baby Boomer déjà vu?).
Regardless of which generation defines you, the best way to be efficient is to rest when you need to, get over overwhelm, don’t procrastinate, plan your days in advance, and use your “to-do” lists to monitor your progress toward your goals.
Does working from home improve productivity? A Stanford University study of a Chinese travel agency concluded that it does.
The study found that employees working from home:
Were 13% more productive (9% worked more hours, taking less breaks and fewer sick days and 4% had higher performance rates per minute – hypothesized to be due to quieter working conditions).
Had 50% less attrition.
Reported higher feelings of work satisfaction.
Total factor productivity increased between 20 and 30 percent (the increase was due from two sources – efficiency in calls per minute and capital input). In addition, the company estimated annual savings of $1,900 per employee.
The learning from the experiment included the following:
Working from home improves performance.
Allowing employees a choice generated a far greater effect than requiring employees to work from home.
A large sample of treatment and control employees allowed the firm to evaluate the impact on different types of employees.
Management was surprised by the dramatic drop in attrition.
In addition to benefits to employees and employers for working from home, society as a whole sees benefits. These benefits include people choosing where they wish to live (instead of close to the employer’s office), less pollution and traffic congestion from work commutes, and an overall better family and community life because of the flexible hours.
However, improving productivity and saving money by having employees work from home does not work (pardon the pun) for everyone. People need to be able to recognize in themselves whether they have the discipline to perform as well as, or better than, working in an office environment.
Also, some individuals need the socializing that comes with working in an office – these individuals cannot thrive in isolation. For others, a careful balance must be struck.
As John James Jacoby (proclaimed lover of naps) writes: “For me, home was always where cool stuff happened, and the office was where I spent time waiting to go home to make more cool stuff happen.”
Self-control and pride in one’s work is mandatory for working from home. An ability to complete tasks and communicate effectively with others is also a requirement. Trust is also a big element when working from home – employers need to trust that their employees are doing their best, but they also need to respect schedules and expectations.
I work from home most of the time and I cannot be happier about this arrangement. In fact, my most rewarding client work is done at home. This is likely because I am disciplined and have the necessary self-control about my work. It also helps that I love what I do.
Many people experience boredom, but did you know that there are different types of boredom? And that each of us usually experiences a specific “type” of boredom consistent with our personalities?
According to 2006 research published in the journal of Motivation and Emotion, there are five different types of boredom (a follow-up study in 2013 identified a fifth type – apathetic). Here is a summary of each type:
- Indifferent – These individuals appear to be calm and withdrawn. Sometimes, they can appear to be very relaxed. Jessica Leber of Co.Exist also uses the term “cheerful fatigue” to describe this type of boredom.
- Calibrating – These individuals have wandering thoughts. They are willing to engage in almost any activity that will get them out of the boredom inducing activity. Calibrating boredom usually stems from engaging in repetitive tasks.
- Searching – These individuals experience negative feelings and unpleasant restlessness. They actively search for a way out by focusing on alternate activities.
- Reactant – This boredom is the most mind-numbing. Individuals experiencing this boredom may be highly aroused and hold a lot of negative emotions. They may also be restless and aggressive. Their way of escaping this boredom is to blame others for their situation and escape from them by thinking of places and situations where they would rather be than in their current surroundings.
- Apathetic – This boredom is similar to helplessness and may be a contributor to depression (according to researcher Thomas Goetz and his colleagues). “At least 36 percent of high school students in the survey reported it.” People with this type of boredom generally show little arousal and a lot of aversion.”
Boredom does not have to be, well, so boring. It can be turned into a powerhouse of productivity with just a few little tweaks to our day. Here are seven things you can do right now to turn your humdrum into a welcome main attraction:
- Take a break. Get rid of your world-weariness by removing yourself from your current environment and do something engaging – something that makes you happy. Use a “Happy App” to help you get into a better headspace that will, in turn, help you defeat your feelings of boredom.
- Listen to music. Or tune into your favourite radio station while at work. When experiencing a monotonous task, listen to the radio for uplift before returning to your task.
- Schedule your day to work in 25 minute spurts. Those who work 25 minutes, then do something else for five-to-ten minutes are more productive than those who do not divert their attention from their work. For instance, during your five-to-ten minute shift away from work, e-mail a friend, surf the Internet, plan your weekend, or call your mother-in-law!
- Get more involved in your work. While the work might be boring, think of a new way to approach the task. Perhaps reviewing your past activities at work and researching how to improve your job overall might be a way to re-do your job completely. In the process, it may even result in a raise and high praise for a job well done.
- Make a change. Evaluate your work environment. Maybe you need a new chair? Does your desk need rearranging or decluttering? Make yourself aware of things around you that you can improve. And improve it/them!
- Learn something new. There is nothing more monotonous than doing the same old thing in the same old way for days/weeks/months/years. Defeat tedium by expanding your mind. Read a good book (educational or not), ask your co-worker to teach you their job, take a night class, or go finish your Master’s Degree.
- Don’t stew. If you feel you have tried it all, but you just can’t get rid of your boredom, talk to your boss. Together, you can figure out how to improve your job, so that you and your organization will experience maximum productivity from your efforts.
In the end, don’t let monotony control you and your day. It’s much better to have multiple tasks to juggle than it is to suffer in joyless work.
In short, if your situation is suffocating your happiness, then change your situation! We all have the power to change our own circumstance.
What’s your competitive edge? What makes you or your business the “one” to beat?
If you’re like most businesses, you probably say that you’re good at what you do or that you’re better than anyone else in your craft. That’s all well and good, but why should clients care?
Here’s the thing: Clients don’t actually care about you or your business. They only care about themselves and what you or your business can do for them. This makes sense, since clients want as much value as they can get, but they don’t typically care where they get it.
What can you or your organization do to position yourselves to be the best? Here are four considerations:
Cost. Reducing operating costs will provide you with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Relentlessly pursue the removal of all waste in your organization to reduce operating costs. Look at the entire cost structure of your organization for all potential cost-reduction areas. And don’t forget to pursue Lean production in all you do.
Speed. Make sure you are able to deliver on your promises quickly and by no later than promised due dates. You can improve speed of delivery by improving your organization’s communications capabilities (think: Technology) and using equipment that is reliable and right for the job. Ensure you have knowledgeable workers to assist with your projects. Also, use just-in-time production to reduce inventories and reduce risk.
Quality. While some companies employ quality as a reaction to the marketplace, to compete on quality means that you and your organization use it to please the customer and not just a way to avoid problems. Since quality is different for each customer, you and your organization need to understand your customers’ needs, wants and requirements, so that you can translate them into exact specifications for the customers’ desired goods and services.
Flexibility. Competing on flexibility means that your organization is able to adjust to changes in the marketplace relating to its product mix, volume or design. This means being able to produce a variety of goods or services within the same facility to meet customized requests. Multi-skilled workers and excess capacity in the business can help an organization compete on flexibility.
Most organizations should start positioning themselves in the market by focusing first on quality. Once quality is perfected, then focus on speed of delivery, then cost-cutting in operations and, finally on flexibility.
If your organization is not as competitive as you believe it should be, improving on all of the above competitive advantages may be in order. You will find that as you become more competitive, you will reach a point where a trade-off will be required between being better in one or another area. This will ultimately set you apart from your competition.
According to Kevin Roose of the Daily Intelligencer, Black Friday is “a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.”
It’s hard to disagree with Kevin’s assertion!
The problem with Black Friday is not so much the consumer irrationality (although that really should be a concern for society!); it is more about how suppliers both anticipate and succeed in increasing their inventory turnover by taking advantage of the irrational consumer. Is that such a bad thing?
I think it is and here’s why – first, sales days like Black Friday evoke erratic behavior and, second, these types of frenzied sales force consumerism to take a back seat.
Black Friday sales are not necessarily big sales, but they are a super opportunity for suppliers to unload their burgeoning warehouses. This speaks to poor management of inventory and too much inventory, at its core, implies (and typically masks) big management issues with the company.
Excess inventory may mean that a company is placing inaccurate inventory orders. When this happens, the company holds more inventory than the market demands. That’s why sales like Black Friday are a welcome opportunity to unload the excess, even if it is at a discounted price.
Too much inventory creates other problems for the company, as well. For instance, too much inventory takes up valuable floor and shelf space. If the item does not sell quickly, then other more valuable inventory does not make it to the shelf. This is a double whammy, so-to-speak. Not only is the poorly moving inventory not selling, but neither is the good inventory.
And when companies aren’t able to sell their inventory, this hurts their bottom line. Black Fridays and other types of sales days provide an opportunity for the retailer to drastically cut costs to sell its inventory – even if the sale is a net loss.
A major concern for companies is not only the space taken up by slow-moving inventory, but the associated carrying costs. These costs are typically about 30 percent of the value of total inventory. For instance, if the value of all television sets at your favourite store is about $1 million, then the cost to the company to carry (store) that inventory is another $300,000 on top of that. Carrying costs include things like rent, utilities and labour.
And let’s not forget about waste. In a worst-case scenario (and we know that this happens more often than not – even in Victoria!), companies throw out their excess inventory. This is why it is so critical for companies to ensure that their inventory turnover is high – to reduce carrying costs and waste – both of which cut into profits.
Ultimately, the question we should be asking is: “Why do we need so much stuff?” And, why do suppliers need to meet this demand?
It’s true that consumers drive demand, but it should be a corporate social responsibility on all suppliers – from the acquisition of raw materials to the end seller – to help everyone curb excess. But who will start first? Will it be the consumer who refuses to engage in sales like Black Friday; thereby not helping companies move their inventory? Or will it be the smart supplier who decides to stop stocking whatever the consumer wants (and, therefore, risks going out of business)? It’s a difficult question indeed.
For my part, I bought a new iPhone today. Who do I blame? Me for buying a product that I did not need? Or the store that stocked it and enticed me with a good price?
When you’re in line waiting for service, how long is too long?
Studies show that on average, waiting more than three minutes is too long. And customers that wait more than three minutes? There is a strong likelihood that they are dealing with the only available service provider. If customers have choices, they will leave.
This is not good news for providers of service.
How good is your company at providing top-notch customer service? STELLAservice, an online customer service rating company, found that DisneyStore.com ranked among the top ten for both speediest e-mail support (1 hour, 47 minutes, 40 seconds) and phone support (12 seconds). For the full survey, click here.
In addition to speed (or time), customers are also looking for the following qualities in service (source: Evans and Lindsay, The Management and Control of Quality).
Timeliness. Is the service completed on time? For example, is an overnight package delivered overnight?
- Completeness. Is everything the customer asked for provided? For example, is a mail order from a catalog company complete when delivered?
- Courtesy. How are customers treated by employees? For example, are catalog phone operators at Sears nice and are their voices pleasant?
- Consistency. Is the same level of service provided to each customer each time? For example, is your newspaper delivered on time every morning?
- Accessibility and convenience. How easy is it to obtain the service? For example, when you call Sears, does the service representative answer quickly?
- Accuracy. Is the service preformed right every time? For example, is your bank or credit card statement correct every month?
- Responsiveness. How well does the company react to unusual situations (which can happen frequently in a service company)? For example, how well is a telephone operator at Sears able to respond to a customer’s questions about a catalog item not fully described in the catalog?
When working with customers, service providers are in a more precarious situation than are producers of manufactured goods. Because service can be intangible (unlike a product or good that is tangible), it is sometimes hard to know a customer’s expectations. A service’s “fitness for use” is often in the eyes of the customer.
By building quality into every dimension of service, organizations will not only attain excellence in service, but happy and loyal customers – and a healthy bottom line.