According to a study of nearly 1,300 mid-level managers around the world by consultancy Proudfoot, vast amounts of the average manager's working day are spent on unproductive activities.
The Global Productivity Report found managers spent 34 per cent of their time on administrative tasks and just a tenth of their time on training and active supervision of their workers.
Their workers, too, were not exactly buzzingly productive. More than a third of their time – 34.3 per cent – was spent on unproductive activities, up from just over 32 per cent recorded the year before.
This meant workers were spending 1.7 days a week on unproductive workplace activities, it concluded.
Managers spent in total 18.5 per cent of their time on unproductive activities, or the equivalent of just under a full working day per week, it added.
Yet, for every five point increase in the share of time managers spent on active supervision, the productivity of their workers, or at least the amount of time they spent on unproductive activities, improved by one point, the survey also found.
The managers were also asked to list their top six barriers to improving productivity.
Topping the list was a shortage of skilled workers, followed by a lack of good internal communication, red tape, rules and regulations, poor employee morale, high staff turnover and, lastly, the quality of their own supervisors.
Chickens, Eggs, and People Who "Get It"
Let's assume that the survey results are valid and that the 1300 managers represented a scientific random sampling with an acceptable +/-% margin of error.
1. The quality of their own supervisors. Productive workplaces are all about effective bosses. If this a universal problem then there is a systemic management issue at work globally.
2. Assuming the data are true, managers often aren't required to manage and develop people. They are administering the businesses instead.
3. An emphasis on paperwork would be consistent with red tape and rules and regulations.
4. I never know what good internal communications really means. I've written about it before. "Communications" is a catch-all phrase and one needs to ask probing questions to find out what is really underneath.
5. Well, if there is too much paperwork and not enough management it's not a stretch to see that employee morale would be down, prompting thoughts of leaving the company.
6. I intentionally saved 'skilled workers' for last. The skilled workers thing pops up constantly (think, "war for talent"). There are gazillions of talented people graduating from universities each year along with gabillions of experienced workers looking to make a move (see the research above).
Would someone please tell me:
a. What skills are absent to the extent that there is a seemingly universal crisis?
b. If these skills are in fact absent, what are companies and educational institutions doing--individually and in concert--to impact the situation.
All of the above are so behaviorally interrelated that one has to ask the, "What came first, chicken or egg?" question.
BTW: The answer is good management. In organizations, everything flows from that. If managers can't or won't manage, then one would expect to see this kind of survey result.
What I Am Seeing
Finally, an observation based on daily experience in organizations.
I'm not seeing a shortage of skills. I'm seeing a shortage of people who "get it."
- People who come into work, scan the horizon, and say, "What's happening and how can I be most helpful?"
- People who look at the bigger picture and the connectedness of themselves to the whole.
- People who ignore the fine print in their job descriptions and look at "all other duties as may be assigned" as the operative part.
What's going on in your working world?