Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness Gets A Bad Rap

I know, I know.  Not everyone is focused on the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament currently underway.  Many of you probably have never filled out a bracket or watched a single game.  Well all worries aside, you don’t have to be an avid fan for what I’m about to say.

This time of year brings about countless articles, blogs, tweets, etc. about the loss of productivity that occurs over the length of the tournament.  One research study conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that about 90 minutes of productivity are lost a day during the tournament. Meanwhile, a blog in HBR reported an estimated $175 million to $1 billion in productivity lost this year alone.  The numbers have grown tremendously with the onslaught of tablets and smartphones.  People are no longer watching the games or checking their brackets on their computers.  They are bypassing IT all together.  There is more accessibility than ever before.

But for some reason, this time of year we become concerned and want to measure productivity.  But why?  Why don’t we care about productivity measurement the rest of the year?  Let’s be honest, this is not the first time you have had employees waste 90 minutes of time during a day.  We get so focused on this timeframe and forget to look at the bigger picture.  Which for some people can be a good thing and not so good for others.

Think about it for just a minute.  How much time is wasted every day in your organization?   Employees’ taking extended breaks to walk to Starbucks or the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee?  Taking an extra 10 or 15 minutes for lunch?  Checking their Facebook from their phone for 20 minutes?  Coming in late or leaving early?  Getting caught up on the latest gossip?  This stuff happens every day.  Yet March Madness initiates a tremendous amount of research and analysis to tell us something we already know.  People are not productive all day, every day at work.

There could be a number of reasons for this lack of productivity.  People could have become disengaged and “checked out”.   They could we working for an ineffective manager.  They could also just plain not be a fit for your company.   Regardless of the reason, this is your opportunity to act.  

Provide them with an opportunity to share their voice through engagement initiatives.  Provide them with tools that facilitate collaboration internally so they can engage with the people in your organization.   Conduct informal, ongoing discussions with them about their career and future.  You might be shocked to find out how easy it is to get people back into the game.

So, how will you look at this in the future?  Will you measure productivity more frequently or will you focus on the bright side. Some studies suggest engagement amongst employees actually goes up during this time of year.  Is camaraderie a bad thing?  Only when I am losing in my bracket.

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