The Myth of Multi Tasking
Who are we kidding?
Those of us of a certain age were raised on commandments such as, THOU SHALT FINISH WHAT YOU START – NOW!
THOU SHALT CONCENTRATE AND COMPLETE ONE THING BEFORE YOU START ANOTHER.
Somewhere in the last two decades a movement arose to change the tempo of life and that change then became the rule of the land. A new word developed to describe this phenomenon – multi-tasking. Employers wanted people who had this process because that meant more work would get done, thus increasing productivity, thus increasing the all important bottom line.
Recent articles suggest that multi-tasking isn’t the ‘end all’ process. The trending advice right now is to stop multi-tasking—it’s just another form of distraction.
Multi-tasking can actually decrease your productivity. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. Tony Wong, a project management blackbelt, whose clients include Disney, is an expert in keeping people on task. He commented for Inc.com. writer, Ilya Pozin, that changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multi-task, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes men are three times as bad at multi-tasking than women). That analogy seems a bit strong and I’m wondering at the research criteria and control and non-control groups.
Birmingham Business Journal contributor, Karen Sladick, explained that productivity and efficiency depend on your ability to conclude one activity totally, and correctly, at a time. When you focus on the task at hand, you are thinking about the process not just working the process.
Think of a simple task you may have completed while watching TV. If the end result was to stuff A into B, not much focus was required. If some envelopes get A and C unless they are out of state and then they get A & D, now the lack of focus can compromise the success of the mailing. Focused concentration results in high levels of productivity. Multi-tasking leads in the other direction.
A study performed at two west coast high tech firms logged how many interruptions employees had in one day. How many minutes would you guess it took for a worker who had been distracted to return to the task?
It took an average of 16 minutes to return to the task at the previously fully engaged level.
If you find you’ve accomplished a fraction of what you’d planned for that day or that your employees haven’t hit target goals, chances are that multi-tasking is the culprit.
When you’re talking on the phone and opening the mail you think you are doing two things at the same time.
NOT SO. Think of the sentence “As I entered the house, I wiped my shoes on the mat.” No you didn’t. You entered, and then wiped your shoes. Or depending on the placement of the mat, you wiped yours shoes and then entered. The difference is subtle but noteworthy.
When we think we are doing two things at once, we are really switching quickly between the two tasks. And something will be lost in the shifting. Think of talking on the phone while you are checking boxes on a document and then signing and dating them. Then add listening to someone in your doorway who is telling you who is on the other line. Then your email beeps and you take a quick look to see if it’s urgent. You are not doing these tasks simultaneously. You are in the ‘start, slam on the breaks, start again, stop hard’ mode that you wouldn’t do to your car.
Ban the word from job descriptions; instead ask for a person with focus. This is not synonymous with “attention to detail.”
Focus is a state of mine; a conscious attempt to rein in the clarity of thought and shut out the inconsequential in order to complete the task at hand.
At a recent workshop the facilitator asked a volunteer to recite the alphabet from A-J and then recite the numbers from 1-10. She timed both exercises. The person recited each series in three seconds. Then the volunteer was asked to recite the first letter of the alphabet then the first number in the sequence, then the second letter than the second number and so forth until the end. It took her fourteen seconds.
People tout the ability to multi-task as a godsend to the work place. What we really need is the ability to “do one thing before you start another.” Going back to the workshop example, if working sequentially completes four tasks in fourteen seconds and working concurrently completes one task in fourteen seconds, where is our efficiency and productivity?
Look then for SOLO-TASKERS who diligently and thoroughly complete one task after another, after another. Sequential-style work flow doesn’t mean everything grinds to a halt as each project is completed. The work flow is more even with less stops and starts.
Who populates your office, solo-taskers or multi-taskers? Do they start with a pile of papers stacked neatly in the middle of their desk and complete one item at a time working down the pile? Do they spread out the papers in piles on their desk and pick at it piece by piece, working down the individual piles? Which tasker suits your company’s needs?
Business is now at the next stage of recession recovery. Companies have waited years re-tool, re-vamp and re-hire; all the while re-inventing themselves to stay afloat, to appeal to a new market, to keep their share of an existing market.
Economists use algorithms and charts, plotting financial goals and predicting outcome. Hiring new staff doesn't require algorithms and charts...or at least it shouldn't.
There are three points to focus on when you begin to wade through the sea of applicants.
Consider three questions and be diligent about them. Interview with these questions in mind. Check background with these questions in mind. Do not settle for less than all three. Each question may be asked using different words, but every question, is a merely a variation on:
ABILITY Can they do the job? Do they have the strengths (technical and inter-personal?)
BUY-IN Are they going to love doing the job? Is there strong motivation?
CHEMISTRY Will you love having them on the job? Is there an organization cultural fit?
It is as easy as ABC, but only if you are totally honest in your evaluation and assessment.
Testing can evaluate the level of knowledge and skills.
Assessments can evaluate compatibility/engagement.
Personality profiling can measure/reveal personality styles and people skills.
If you like them and they are capable and motivated your customers will most likely like them too. 68% of customers leave because of indifference, unfriendly people, lack of attention, or rude service.
In reviewing CareerBuilder's annual job forecast, employers expect to add new jobs but are waiting for the economy to take an uptick before they open the gates on hiring. Nearly one in four hiring managers plan to hire full-time permanent employees this year.
If you are one of the four who will be hiring, remember the importance of that 'click' between you, your staff, your corporate and your new hire. Without that click, a new hire can become the clunker that pulls down productivity, impairs morale and destroys customer relationships. Use the ABC's of hiring and give yourself the best possible chance of hiring the Absolute Best Click.
1/3 of your employees are looking to leave!
Is it something you've done or haven't done?
Take a look around your office. A third of the people you see, think a new employer is the best thing 2012 could bring. This year's annual What's Working study just released by Mercer, a global HR advisory firm, might be more aptly named What's Not Working. It reports that almost a third of U.S. employees are seriously eyeing the exit. And the survey found that more than half of senior managers are among them.
If your hope is to replace retiring boomers on your staff with some of your up and comers, thinks again. More than 40 percent of employees 34 and younger are tweaking their resumes, too.
Who's leaving and why
At the depth of the recession, employees were grateful just to have a job. Tired of having to do more with fewer resources, suffering through salary freezes, watching layoffs, while worrying about their own fate, employees have drawn their line in the sand. The stress has taken its toll. Despite economic uncertainties, employees are now driven and confident enough to make a move.
The cost of losing a trusted employee is estimated at between 75 percent and 200 percent of an employee's annual salary. That's not including the drain on organizational memory or the cost of customers and co-workers that may follow them.
Are larger companies at higher risk to lose their talent?
Surveys say, Yes!
Smaller companies actually have a better chance at keeping employees because by nature their size, top management is more closely involved with employees and projects. This proximity has a better chance of producing the number one answer to how to keep your best and brightest...
Engagement, according to Mercer is something it calls the Holy Grail of the 21st century management. An engaged employee, according to Mercer, is one who feels a vested interest in the company's success and is motivated to exceed their job requirements.
The 2011 study points to 13 factors that influence engagement (listed in order of importance):
1. Being treated with respect
2. Having a work-life balance
3. Quality of organizational leadership
4. Working in an environment where they can provide good services to others
5. The type of work
6. The quality of people employees work with
8. Base pay
9. Long-term career potential
10. Having flexible work arrangements
11. Learning and development opportunities
12. Opportunities for promotion
13. Incentive pay and bonuses
Why engagement matters
Mercer and other HR experts have shown that the effects of an engaged workforce go far beyond employee retention. Employee engagement translates into these benefits.
· Increased productivity
· Greater levels of innovation
· Improved service quality
· Higher customer satisfaction
· Reduced absenteeism
· Lower health care costs
· The ability to attract talent
· Increased competition
· Higher shareholder value
While employee preferences and motivating factors differ across industry and location, Mercer found the following four factors consistently have the highest impact on engagement:
The work itself. In particular, employees need to understand how their individual contribution fits into the larger scheme of things.
Confidence and trust in leadership. Managers should act on a way that's visible and transparent.
Recognition and rewards. Most importantly these should be internally fair and externally competitive.
Organizational communication. It should flow smoothly up, down and laterally throughout the organization. Managers should recognize that not everyone communicates in the same way.
Interestingly, other research shows that merely paying attention to what employees have to say - through surveys, focus groups and active listening - can have a marked impact on engagement. The engagement level changes when employees feel heard, even without any real change in organizational behavior.
People want to feel that they matter. They want to have some say in where, what, when and how they work. Work accounts for the largest chunk of time they'll spend during their entire lives. They want to be treated like thinking adults. And increasingly, if they don't get what they want, they'll find it elsewhere.
So is engagement in any of these forms something you do, or don't do?
Employers Expect Uptick in Hiring
The encouraging news regarding the economy may be easing hiring fears, as employers signal an increase in their plans to hire this year, a CareerBuilder survey reveals.
Twenty percent of employers plan to increase their number of full-time, permanent employees this year, up from 14% in 2009. Nine percent plan to decrease headcount, down sharply from 16% in 2009. Sixty-one percent don't plan to change staff levels while 10% say they are unsure. "There have been many signs over the past few months that point to the healing of the U.S. economy, especially the continued decrease in the number of jobs lost per month," comments CareerBuilder CEO Malt Ferguson. "Although 20% of employers plan to add headcount in 2010, up from 14% lastyear, they still remain cautious in regards to their hiring. We're headed in the right direction but should not expect to see actual job growth until at least Q2." Eleven percent of employers plan to add part-time employees this year, up slightly from 9% in 2009. Eight percent plan to decrease their part-time help this year, down from 14% in 2009. Sixly-nine percent don't plan any change in part-time headcount while 13% are unsure. Twenty-four percent of employers in the West plan to add full-time workers, compared to 21% in the Northeast, 20% in the South and 16% in the Midwest.
Hiring is expected to increase in information technology, manufacturing, financial services, professional and business services, and sales, Thirty-two percent of IT, 27% of manufacturing and 230,'a of financial services employers plan to add full-time, permanent employees this year, followed by 221 (1 of employers n professional and business services and 21% in sales, twenty-one percent of healthcare employers also plan lo add staff, followed by 1S°/o of transportation employers and 15% of retailers. Even as companies continue to watch their spending, they still plan slight salary increases this year. Fifty-seven percent report their companies will increase salaries for existing employees, down from 65% in 2009. Thirty-six percent expect to raise salaries by 3% or more, while 11% anticipate increases of 5%or more. Twenty-nine percent of employers plan to increase salaries on initial offers to new employees, down from 33% in 2009. Eighteen percent expect to raise salaries on initial offers by 3% or more while 7% anticipate an increase of 5% or more. si
Employee Discontent Expected to Reach Crisis Level
Employee turnover is expected to rise this year, as a survey shows many workers are unhappy with their present jobs. Sixty percent of employees intend to leave and an additional onein fourare networking and updating their resumes, a Right Management survey reveals.
"The study provides a barometer of employee engagement in the workplace, with results that might alarm and surprise many employers," comments Douglas J. Matthews, Right Management's president and chief operating officer. "Employees are clearly expressing their pent up frustration with how they have been treated through the downturn. While employers may have taken the necessary steps to streamline operations to remain viable, it appears many employees may have felt neglected in the process. The result is a disengaged and disgruntled workforce." si
Nearly a Quarter of Employers Rate Employee Morale as Low
Workers have endured increased workloads, longer hours and strained resources during the recession, taking a toll on workplace morale. Twenty-three percent of employers polled in a CareerBuilder survey rate their organization's current employee morale as low. Additionally, 40% of workers report they have had difficulty staying motivated at work in the last year and a quarter, and 24% do not feel loyal to their current employer. Workers revealed a variety of factors that could be contributing to low morale levels. Two out of five said their stress level at work is high, and 47% said their workload has increased in the last six months, One in five is dissatisfied with their work/life balance.Thirly-eight percent of workers said they felt there was departmental favoritism at work, and 28% don't think their department is important to senior leadership. Sales (1 ?/0), human resources (11°/o) and accounting/finance (6%) topped the list of departments workers believe are primarily given preferential treatment at work. When asked what type of preferential treatment workers thought the favored department received, they cited higher salaries (51%), more recognition by senior leaders (47%), more flexibility in work arrangements (43%), more funding/resources (27%), greater career advancement opportunities (26%), more training and leadership development opportunities (19%), more casual dress code (15%), and trips that people in other departments are not allowed to take (15%). » Succession in the C-Suite Lagging the majority of companies are not prepared for succession in the C-Suite, a Korn/Ferry survey reveals. Fifty-nine percent of executives polled said they don't feel their company has a defined succession plan m place. The survey also suggests that most companies are not adequately prepared should their CEO resign sudden~. When executives were asked if they knew who would assume leadership of their company, just 56% said yes. Sixty-eight percent of executives said the departure of their current CEO/president would be extremely or somewhat damaging to the company. Only 21% said it would not be damaging, while 11% said it would be beneficial, "C-suite succession planning is one of the most important charters of any organization and its board of directors," comments Joe Griesedieck, vice chairman and managing director of Korn/Ferry's Board and CEO Services. "In the wake of the economic downturn, many companies have been focused on preserving the franchise and have reluctantly put off the critical succession planning process. A clearly defined plan, put in place well ahead of a CEO's departure, not only mitigates risk, but thwarts off counterproductive leadership struggles stemming from lack of clarity." a U.S. Employees Seek the Skills to Thrive in a Global Workplace The majority of vrorkers believe the experience they gain in a globally oriented workplace will be important to their careers, a Kelly Services survey reveals. However, many report they are not being adequately prepared. The survey finds GenV employees (aged IBto 29) are driving the trend toward globalization. GenY employees also feel more confident about working in a multinational environment than their GenX and Baby Boomer colleagues. In deciding where to work, the opportunity for exposure to international skills and a globalized workplace is becoming more desirable, especially for younger workers. Yet few employees receive formal support from their employers, like cultural or language training, which would help them develop the expertise needed to thrive in a global setting. "As business becomes more global, workers at every level are recognizing career advantage in their exposure to the language, culture and protocols that characterize cross-border engagement," comments Michael Webster, executive VP and general manager for Kelly Services. "A hallmark of international business and commerce today is to work collaboratively in global teams, and this trend is growing." Key findings of the survey from across the United States include:• 76% of GenY believe it is important to their career prospects that they become more globally oriented, followed by 74% of GenX and 68°/o of Baby Boomers. • 67% of GenY have recently experienced working closely with colleagues from a different country or culture, followed by 62% of GenX and 62% of Baby Boomers.* 821/0 of employees in the West say they possess the skills to operate in a global environment, followed by 73% of employees in the Northeast. • £7% of employees in the South receive formal cross-cultural or language training from their employer, followed by 25°'o in the Northeast, 24% in the West and 23% in the Midwest. * In deciding where to work, exposure to a global environment is considered "extremely important" by 24% ofQenY, 21% of GenX and 19% of Baby Boomers. Says Webster, "Rapid economic advancement in developing economies will lead many more skilled employees to seek international opportunities, and those workers will be very attractive to employers no matter where in the world they are located. It could potentially transform industries where standard practices allow employers to tap into a vast global talent poll, In such areas as engineering, science, finance and healthcare." «
Strong Work Ethic Most Sought-After Soft Skill
A strong work ethic is the most sought-after soft skill today, an Express Employment Professionals survey reveals. Twenty-three percent of respondents said a strong work ethic is the most important soft skill required In a job seeker, white 17% cited a positive attitude, and 11% cited communication.
Other soft skills cited included: being a team player (10%), flexibility (9%), being a problem-solver (7%), being self-directed (5%), working well under pressure (5%), being a quick learner (4%), organizational skills (3%) and creativity (1%).
"Having a strong work ethic is very important in today's job market due to increased staff and tighter budgets," comments Bob Funk, one of the founders of Express. "As the job market begins to turn and employers start to hire again, employers are paying closer attention to these skills in addition tobasic Job requirements, education and experience. While having these types of soft job skills has always been beneficial to job seekers, employers are especially taking these skills into consideration when determining the right candidate for a job today."
Talent Management a Priority for Executives as Economy Rebounds
With the economy cautiously turning the corner, senior leaders are focused on hiring and developing talent, a survey of senior executives on Linked In by Right Management reveals. Ninety-four percent of execs said talent management is a top priority for 2010, One-third of execs said they will be hiring new talent in 2010, while 36% said they will focus on developing current talent. Twenty percent reported that increasing employee engagement is a top priority. Career development opportunities and efforts to Increase engagement typically improve retention, which may explain why only 4% of senior leaders indicated they would be focusing efforts on retention. Leaders in finance functions are the most focused on developing current talent (44%), followed by information technology executives (36%), the survey found.
Business development executives, as well as operations, acknowledged skills gaps and information technology leaders, who will ail be mostly focused on hiring new talent next year. A survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting also reveals hiring new workers will be a priority for many employers. When senior executives were asked where they most likely would boost spending when the economy recovers, nearly one in three (31%) said they plan to hire additional staff. Twenty-one percent plan to increase salaries for current employees, 15% plan to increase or reinstitute bonuses, 9% plan to invest more in employee training and 5% plan to enhance employee benefits. Sixteen percent said they would not increase spending.
Skills Senior Execs Need to Improve Most: Leadership, Strategic Thinking
Two-thirds of companies feel that senior-level executives need to improve their leadership skills, while more than half say senior management must sharpen their strategic thinking and communication abilities, a survey by outplacement and executive coaching firm ClearRock reveals. Nearly half of companies polled say senior managers must improve their team building, vision and motivational capabilities. However, employers are supplying their senior-level management with plenty of help, including outside and in-house coaching and training. Three-quarters of companies poNed said they provide their senior-level leaders with outside coaching. Nearly half give them outside training and education, and about four in 10 coach them within lhe organization. "Companies want their senior-level executives to succeed in a more intensely competitive environment," comments Annie Stevens, ClearRock managing partner. "Employers are hiring outside coaches to help senior managers further develop leadership, strategic thinking, communications, motivational and employee engagement skills to better run the business side while keeping employees engaged in their jobs in a tough economy."