Why do you hire new employees? OK, this seems like an obvious question, and no, it isn’t a trick.
We hire people because we have assignments that need to be completed, sales to be made, and products to be created, manufactured, shipped and billed. We hire people to be productive; to get work done. Yet, that is too often not how we judge them. Too often, we judge them based on hours worked. Let me explain …
A person seems to be at his desk every day when you arrive and is there most of the time when you leave. What is your first thought about this person? He's a hard worker, right? And if he puts in weekends when needed, you see him as dedicated, willing to go the extra mile and committed to his work, correct?
Both things may be true, but without another piece of information there is no way to be clear on these assessments. How much is he achieving? Is he getting the right things done with the right level of quality in a manner that meets the organization’s needs? Without the answers to these questions, you have no clue how successful, hardworking or dedicated that employee is.
Consider this situation: A person is at his desk early and late, but what you don’t know is that he's getting his work done in about half the day. He has figured out that people view him as hardworking if they are present, so he either glides through the work more slowly, or finishes and spends a lot of time reading, surfing the internet or doing other time-consuming, low-value activities. He realizes the weekend is a good time to get extra face time with the boss, so he makes sure he has a little work to do during that time to make it look like he's dedicated.
Or this situation: A person is struggling to get her work done. She doesn't really understand the goals and makes lots of mistakes. Because of this, she needs as much time as possible to complete her work – so she comes early and often leaves late. She gets her work done, even if it sometimes takes the weekend to finish.
Aren’t all three of these scenarios potentially describing the same person? If you are judging based on hours worked, do you really have a clear picture about the relative success, competence and dedication of these people? Not so much.
Changing Our Viewpoint
How do we re-assess our mental model of employee success?
- Change your personal perspective. Don’t let hours worked be your benchmark for just about anything. Focus on results and productivity.
- Set clear expectations of what success is. What are the benchmarks for productivity and quality? When will people know they are done with their work? If you want help with this process, consider reading more here: http://blog.kevineikenberry.com/communication/seven-steps-to-setting-clear-expectations/#
- Measure, measure, measure. Once expectations are clear, we can measure progress and results. Measuring will help you see who is coasting, who needs to be challenged, and who needs coaching.
- Provide the bigger picture. When people see the bigger picture, they can put their work into context. This will lead to better decisions, more engagement and higher productivity.
These are just a few of the steps you can take, but it starts with you and how you choose to assess others. When you focus more on production and productivity than you do on time at work, you will be helping your organization – and your team members – more effectively.