It's close to five in the afternoon, Carlos just finished his working and wants to go home. He looks around and his colleagues are still concentrated sitting at their stations, his boss is still at his desk and seems to have no intention of getting of his chair. Thirty minutes before the end of the working day, and so as not give the wrong impression, Carlos decides to go online, catches up with the news, checks his e-mail and has some document open in Word or Excel just in case someone approaches his desk. Even though Carlos has performed all his daily tasks to his best, he does not feel free to leave his workstation and go home, because if he leaves ahead of schedule, his boss and colleagues would think that he " lacks real commitment ".
This reality which happens to be quite common in most companies, is a legacy of the industrial era, where the absence of one worker would affect the entire production line. Today however, with the conveniences that we have, thanks to technological advances, this perception of how things should be done, applies little or not at all. In fact, those companies that measure performance based on worked hours, create an organizational culture that inhibits productivity, creativity and the ability to innovate, all of which are skills necessary to compete in today´s market.
There is no point in having a workers at the work station if surfing the web, watching videos, checking e-mails, or playing Angry Birds is the only concern. Blocking access to certain sites such as Facebook, YouTube or Gmail is an option, but someone will always find a way to access these, evading the policies of the technology department.
Which is the solution that would keep the employees motivated and avoid a lack of productivity during working hours?
The solution is theoretically simple: instead of keeping track of the working hours, companies should measure the performance of their employees in terms of results. How many new clients were made during the month? How many contracts were signed? How many potential customers were visited during the week? Was there a new product or service launched? Working based on results will bring competitive advantages to companies and, in the end, this is going to result in significant economic returns.
The question at hand is: how do we do it? The first step is to create indicators. Which are the most important goals of the assignment or the area? What activities should be carried out to meet those goals? Having Answered these two questions clearly, the bosses and the employees will be able to develop (quantitative and / or qualitative) indicators that will enable them to evaluate the final results properly, in accordance to the established goals. Once the indicators have been clearly identified, the following step is to perform continuous follow ups, reporting any problems that may arise and putting forward possible solutions.
On the other hand, it is of utmost importance to create an organizational culture focused more on results and less on the need of an employee just being on the job for eight hours. Encouraging teamwork, self-monitoring, autonomy, nonconformity and the drive to succeed is a good start. Make no mistake, these results are not achieved just by sending an institutional mail; there must exist clear strategies to support this new culture. One of the ways of doing this is through the design of physical spaces that go hand in hand with the new values: environments that allow employees to meet and work as a team, places where they can look for inspiration or be at ease, individual working areas where they can develop tasks that require concentration, among others. One thing is clear, and that is that the typical distribution of the eighties style offices ( separate cubicles, closed offices only for managers, little or no social space ) does not provide answers for the current needs of employees and accordingly, to the companies.
Undoubtedly, it is no easy task for any company to go from keeping track of working hours of the employees, to measuring performance in terms of results. However, once the changes have been set into place, companies will notice that their employees are more productive and these in turn, will have more time to invest in activities that are not job related; a balance that will keep anyone motivated, both personally, and professionally. A bet that many companies will not want to miss.