Productivity is about systems, not people, says the Harvard Business Review.

Sure, there are hacks and techniques each of us can use to filter out the noise, but in the end, writes Daniel Markovitz, “The most effective antidote to low productivity and inefficiency must be implemented at the system level, not the individual level.”

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“94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual,” he says, citing the case made by W. Edwards Deming in his book Out of the Crisis. “I would argue that most productivity improvements belong there as well.”

This is a particularly telling point for human resources professionals who are often tasked with providing training on time management. Markovitz says there’s nothing wrong with teaching techniques like Pomodoro, Inbox Zero or one of the many others. What’s necessary is to also address system inefficiencies.

That’s where he focuses his article, offering what he calls “four countermeasures.”

Tier your huddles

Whether you call them stand-ups, check-ins or huddles, Markovitz shows us how to use these meetings to avoid the inefficiency of “scattershot emails about a variety of problems.” Instead of kicking problems up the hierarchy, address problems at the lowest possible level. Problems that can’t be resolved at the staff huddle are the ones, and the only ones, to escalate to the next level huddle.

Make work visible

Because so much of office work is done by individuals working alone, it becomes invisible. Implementing a physical or virtual task board where every task is represented along with who is handling it not only makes a more equitable distribution of work, it also eliminates status check emails and the need to cover that topic in meetings.

Markovitz suggests making downtime equally as visible. Instituting “predictable time off” allows workers to know when someone is unavailable and react accordingly.

Define the “bat signal”

Pointing out that Batman knew flashing the symbol of a bat in the sky meant a crisis, Markovitz suggests companies adopt something similar to indicate when an issue is a real emergency.

“With no agreement on what communication channel to use, workers are forced to check all digital messaging platforms to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. That’s toxic to productivity. Companies can make work easier for people if they specified channels for urgent and non-urgent issues.”

Align responsibility with authority

“If an employee is responsible for an outcome, they should have the authority to make the necessary decisions without being forced into an endless string of emails, meetings, or presentations,” writes Markovitz.

“The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile,” he agrees, though the value is limited because of all the pulls and tugs by others.

“To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level.”

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl | Image by Gerd Altmann


Thank You Team For All You Do!

In the press of business, while we’re rushing from one meeting to another, answering emails, hustling to get another report done by the deadline, it’s easy to forget to say “Thank you.” That’s why 25 years ago today was declared Employee Appreciation Day.

We all know how important it is to recognize each other for the contributions we make. It’s especially important for managers to acknowledge not only the special efforts employees make, but their day-to-day performance. Because it’s what people do each day that make a team, a department, a division and ultimately the entire organization successful.

Dr. Bob Nelson understood this when he wrote 1001 Ways to Reward Employees in 1994. Realizing that managers too often neglect offering even a simple thanks for a job well done, he came up the idea of a day to encourage bosses to recognize their team.

“I’m a big advocate of using recognition on a daily basis,” Nelson told Business Insider. “By no means is Employee Appreciation Day meant to be this one day to thank people or this one day to bring in doughnuts… But I did want to have one day where we could call attention to the topic and have conversations about its importance.”

As you can tell by reading this blog post, he was successful. Appreciation and recognition have become indispensable parts of good management. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of studies tell us recognition is as essential as a fair wage to a motivated workforce.

At Green Key Resources we try hard to remember to say “Thank You” and to show appreciation for the good work everyone does.

In honor of today, we want to publicly take the opportunity to say

Thank You everyone!

We appreciate your hard work, dedication and loyalty. The contribution of each team member is what makes us the organization we are.

Thank you for all you do!

Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash


Don’t Let Cupid Be the One to Manage Office Relationships

With Cupid making his annual appearance in just a few days, this is a good time for HR professionals and managers to remind workers that the rules about relationships among co-workers apply as much on Valentine’s Day as on any other day.

Far from rare, romantic relationships in the workplace are common and become more so as careers progress. A Vault survey last year found 58% of all workers have had an office romance. Among workers over 50, it’s 72%. Another survey found 14% of married couples found their significant other at work.

However, for every success story, there are many more relationships that end uncomfortably. Even under the best of circumstances, these entanglements affect the rest of the office, fueling gossip and, should a manager be involved, charges of favoritism.

“Workplace romances can adversely affect employee morale and productivity by distracting the romantic partners and their co-workers,” Dana Chang Dikas, an attorney with labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips, told BusinessDaily. “They also may lead to conflict and claims of disparate treatment or sexual harassment.”

Employers may not be able to keep romance from developing, but having a clear set of policies and reminding employees what they are can do much to mitigate the negatives. Valentine’s Day is not, workers should be told, an opportunity to make advances or express desire. Sending a card, flowers or other gift to a co-worker may be seen by the recipient as an unwanted sexual advance.

A smart company policy is to require couples involved in a romance to disclose it to HR. More and more employers are also requiring these co-workers to sign “love contracts.” These contracts typically require the individuals to acknowledge the relationship as consensual, waive employer liability for the consequences of the relationship and require them to refrain from inappropriate or amorous behavior at work. They also incorporate the company policy on such conduct as well as the anti-harassment policy.

While it’s impractical to impose a blanket “no-dating” policy, it is appropriate to expressly prohibit supervisors from becoming involved with a subordinate. Some companies enforce the policy by termination; others by reassigning. In all cases, experts say, the hammer should fall more heavily on the supervisor.

Whatever your specific policies are about office romances, be sure all employees know what they are. They may be in the handbook, but taking the time now to spell them out clearly will make sure Friday that Cupid hasn’t suspended the rules about appropriate workplace behavior.

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay.