Monday, 15 April 2013

How to Achieve a Tenfold Return

I once had an Archivist working for me, let’s call him Arthur, who used to arrive at work at anywhere between 9.15 and 10.00; work till around 2.00 then roll out his ‘swag *’ on the floor of his office and catch 40 minutes shut eye; go back to work and then head home anytime between 17.00 and 20.00.

ISQua staff members here in the Dublin Office arrive at work anytime between 7.00 and 9.30 and leave between 16.00 and 18.00. Over the course of a week average hours worked by staff is more than is normally expected and it varies very little for each member and from member to member.

In Arthur’s case, one day I was approached by a delegation of other staff who asked me how it was that I tolerated his behaviour. My reply was in the form of a question being ‘Does he do what is expected of him?’ to which the answer was ‘Yes – and more’. The realization on the part of the other staff that productivity rather than adherence to specific start and finish times is the more relevant measure of worth had a transformational effect on that workplace (in hindsight it would have been better had I made this clearer to all staff at the outset – but I excuse myself on the grounds that I was a young CEO who was still discovering these things myself!)

In the case of ISQua staff, the productivity individually and collectively is higher than I have known in the many other workplaces with which I have been associated – both public sector and private sector.

Perhaps the more subtle lesson in this is that the benefit of a staff member to an organisation is inextricably tied to how the organisation benefits the staff member.

It is the benefiting of the individual for her or his own sake, because that is a good thing to do, AND because inevitably it benefits the organisation, which drives the philosophy that the Deputy CEO and I try to bring to the ISQua workplace. One way of doing this is to understand what motivates each person and to work with that. Another is the active professional development programme we pursue and in which the staff are pleased to participate. And adding CPD to the end of a working day is not always easy. After a full and busy day at work it can be difficult to get motivated by the thought of three hours of ‘college’ work which might mean ultimately arriving home at midnight knowing an early start is required the next morning for another day at work (so – why not come in at 10.00!). This is especially unappealing if it happens to be one of Dublin’s less than pleasant winter evenings and you are relying on public transport.

All these things, the flexibility, the CPD, the recognition that at the end of the day a staff member’s family is the most important part of his or her life (so, yes take time off to meet a family need), all these things are a way of saying to staff that we respect you, we trust you, we believe in you and we are prepared to invest in you. An organisation’s efforts to do this will be rewarded tenfold. 

However, swags are not about to become standard issue to ISQua staff!

Peter Carter
April 11 2013

* In Australia and New Zealand, a swag is a portable sleeping mat or blanket sometimes with other possessions rolled up in it.

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