Companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, and Dell are 40% more productive than the average company, according to research from the leadership consulting firm Bain & Company. You might think that it’s because these companies attract top-tier employees–high performers who are naturally gifted at productivity–but that’s not the case, says Bain & Company partner Michael Mankins. “Our research found that these companies have 16% star players, while other companies have 15%,” he says. “They start with about the same mix of star players, but they are able to produce dramatically more output.” It’s what they do with these high performers. Executives from large companies across 12 industry sectors worldwide said three components of human capital impact productivity more than anything else: time, talent, and energy. And the top quartile organized its business processes in a way that they’re 40% more productive than the rest and consequently have profit margins that are 30%-50% higher than industry averages. “They get more done by 10 a.m. Thursday morning than the others do in a week, but they don’t stop working,” says Mankins. “This difference compounds every year; over a decade, they can produce 30 times more than the rest, with the same number of employees.” Mankins explores their methods and mindsets in his new book TIME | TALENT | ENERGY: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power . Here’s what he found: The average company follows a method of unintentional egalitarianism, spreading star talent across all of the roles, says Mankins. Companies like Google and Apple, however, follow an intentionally nonegalitarian method. “They select a handful of roles that are business critical, affecting the success of the company’s strategy and execution, and they fill 95% of these roles with A-level quality,” says Mankins. “The rest of the roles have fewer star […]
Dear Job Site Administrators and Form Programmers,
As much as I can appreciate how hard it must be to vet through all resumes that come across the Internet for positions posted by companies on a daily basis, I believe the sites that collect resumes could be doing a much better job on their process. That is why I am putting out this request to all job sites and job application form administrators on the Internet (should they be reading this): Please suck less.
You know who you are: Your forms are hard to use. They are redundant. They are buggy. They are slow. They are long and ask for unnecessary information. They discourage people from filling them out. In short, they don’t work and they need to be fixed. To aid you in this endeavor, I am providing a few items that when addressed, I believe, will help your sites and forms suck less.
- Either have me fill out my job history or upload a resume, but not both. Nothing is more soul-crushing than having to repeat information you have just provided. As a job candidate I have gone through the trouble of making a killer resume which your system has requested I upload, only to have to repeat the entire thing in a series of forms. The minute I am asked for 10 years of job history, I’m gone.
- Eliminate “Country of Residence”. If I have put in my address as being in a state in the U.S., is necessary to specify that my country of residence is the United States? Is there a Texas in Germany or Uganda? If the country of residence is a must, can you please put “United States” at the top of the drop-down list?
- Single Login, please. Everybody wants their own username and passwords. I literally have an Excel file with dozens. What would so difficult about associating the logins with Facebook, or Google or LinkedIn and relieve us all of having to remember what login and password is to be used with your site?
- Make the form easy to fill out and scan vertically. Long horizontal forms that do not display information in the standard laptop view hard to fill out. I dislike being scolded for information in a field I could not see.
- Put special data format next to the field. If you want the date in the “Date” field to be mm/dd/yyyy then put it there instead of having us guess or be scolded with an error message later.
- Put related fields together. Asking for your primary email address and then having another field for receiving updates on jobs should be the same field, or at the very least, in the same area.
- Eliminate the disclaimer page. Disclaimer pages (especially the loooong ones full of legalese) come off as untrustworthy and deceptive. Just assure me that my information is secure and private and a short paragraph on what you plan to do with my information and we should be good to go.
See, that wasn’t so bad. These are simple things to fix and would be a long way to sucking less. And who knows, you might even have people completing these things for a change.
Dear Employment Recruiters,
As much as I can appreciate how hard it must be to try and match jobs with the thousands of people in the job market, I believe the way in which many of you conduct your business could be be doing a much better job. That is why I am putting out this request to all employment recruiters on the Internet (should they be reading this): Please suck less.
You know who you are: You cold-call and send out mass emails in desperate attempts to fill a position with a company that has engaged you, without regard to the people that are looking for a job. You are noncommutative, masters of the slick salesman talk and dishonest in your intentions. Not all employment recruiters are like this, but 99% of you are and the other 1% are about as common as Bigfoot sightings. To aid you in becoming better, I am providing a few items that when addressed, I believe, will help you and your way of conducting business with job seekers suck less.
- Communication: When I am filling out the information for the position that you have me in mind for, you are great with the phone calls and emails encouraging me to send it over so you can submit me ASAP. Usually, this is where the communication ends. After you have what you want, I rarely hear from you again. To get a status, I often have to reach out to you to find out the job has already been filled. A phone call or an email would be nice.
- Be Honest: Don’t tell me that you really care for me and my career goals when you don’t. It’s like having a waiter in a restaurant telling me he really cares about my diet. Like they said in The Godfather: It’s not personal, it’s business. If you have a position open with a company you are working with and you are trying to get me into this position, just say so. But don’t feed me the line about trying to match me with a bunch of positions, because you ain’t, and that you care about me getting my dream job, because you don’t.
- Don’t make me do all the work: A firm that I worked with recently had me re-do my resume, write a new cover letter, take a personality quiz, write up a few success stories and then input all this information into their custom system. Job leads from all this work? Zippo. Calls back from the agency on my search status? Bupkis. If you are working for me, why am I doing all the work? To return to the restaurant analogy, it’s like telling the waiter what I want and then having to go back to the kitchen and cook my own steak. You have all my information, you fill in the forms.
On a personal note: Please stop sending mass emails about a position with the caveat “If this isn’t a match for you, can you please forward it to any of your friends who might be interested?” Yeah, right. Why don’t I wash your car while I’m at it.
- Research my background: The positions you send over to me often are a reach for my skill set at best. Recently, I got an email from a recruiter about an accounting position. Look at my profile: do you see the word “accounting” in there anywhere? I am guessing that a more focused search on my skills would gain you more positions filled than the Johnny Appleseed approach: “He knows how to use a computer, I’ll send him a job for a Analytics Intelligence Director!”
Job recruiters, these are simple fixes; a little courtesy and effort on your part would go a long way to sucking less. Gain a good reputation and these job seekers will beat a path to your door: I guarantee it.
I’m going to tell you a secret. There is a skill you can master which will guarantee everything you do will improve by at least 50%, but probably more like 100%, and more over time.
The best part about this skill is that it’s easy. Anyone can obtain it. You don’t need to have any particular natural talent. You don’t need any resources or teachers to master it. Once you have it and it becomes a part of your every operation you will begin to achieve at an accelerating rate. Your success will compound and your reputation will bring you more opportunities.
In the words of Morpheus, “Do you want to know what it is?”
Getting sh*t done.
That’s it. Read it again. Let it sink in.
What does it look like in practice? Responding to emails immediately, and never taking longer than 24 hours to do so. Showing up for everything you’ve said you’d show up for. Finishing everything you’ve said you’d finish and on time. When you say “I’ll read that book,” or “I’ll check out that website,” or “I’ll send my resume,” doing it. Immediately. If you can’t or won’t, don’t say those things. Every time you say you’ll do something and don’t, you’ve missed an opportunity to be better than the majority of your peers and build social capital.
In 90% of situations I’d take someone with coherent same-day responses to all communications who always delivers as promised and when promised over someone with mastery over just about any skill I can think of. I’m not alone in this. The desperate need for hard working, reliable people who communicate immediately all the time is off the charts.
If you make people wait for responses or wonder if you’ll ever follow through, you’ve cost them, even if only psychologically. People don’t tend to want to work with people who cost them — they want to work with people who they never have to expend any mental energy worrying about. They want to work with people who pleasantly surprise them by over-delivering.
Anyone can be the person who always follows through, always communicates, always delivers, and never leaves anyone hanging or in the dark. It’s only a matter of will and discipline.
Just get stuff done.
A few years ago, I was called into a meeting with my supervisor and two of my management colleagues to discuss a lack of productivity on our teams; deadlines were being missed, work was not being checked and was shoddy, and projects were off track and disorganized.
She suggested that everybody come prepared with a few items that we could implement to help get this production issue under control. My first colleague came up with the idea of a “committee” that would hold weekly reviews of all the work going on, to ensure that work was up to standard. Excellent!
My other colleague came up with a series of forms that would have to “signed off” by both the person doing the work, the supervisor and the client, to ensure that the work was being done and on time, and that it was up to our standards. A paper trail! Greatness!
I came with one suggestion: Stop having meetings.
Gasp. They looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Stop having meetings? How will we ever know what is going on? How will we ever communicate to our teams what we want! Terrible idea!
When the collective panic subsided, I stated my case:
The reason that work was being done late, missed or turned in under-standard wasn’t because our employees were incompetent or did not understand their jobs, it was because they weren’t spending enough time at their desks doing actual work. I laid out some of the calendars of some of the members on my team and showed them that on the average, each member was spending at the minimum, two hours a day in meetings; 10 hours of prime productivity every week. I was spending 4-6 hours a day in meetings; even though myself and my team members came in early, stayed late and spent time in the office on weekends, there still wasn’t enough time in the day to concentrate on the work at hand with all the meetings on our calendar (the meetings were often scattered throughout the day). Any communication could be handled by email, or if urgent, a phone call. I concluded: If you want production, timeliness and quality to go up, cancel these meetings unless it is an emergency; a very last resort.
We went with the committee option. Things didn’t get much better.
When I began with my current employer, they were faced with many of the same problems: shoddy work, missed deadlines, etc. I suggested cancelling meetings and to my delight and surprise, they agreed to try it out for a month. Also to my delight, something started to happen with the members of my team:
They stopped missing deadlines and started getting shit done.
As a result of this, we have perhaps 1-2 meetings a month, and the results continue to speak for themselves.
Meetings, in a word, suck. They are like the office dress code: a business dinosaur of another era. They are the killers of innovation and creativity. In this day of enhanced communication, there is really no reason to have a meeting unless you absolutely must. Meetings should be the absolute last resort.
As Peter Drucker points out in his book The Effective Executive, “one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”
Nobody wants to go to them anyway
Cancelling meetings, while seemingly a radical idea, is in reality what all workers secretly hope for; everybody hates going to meetings. A recent survey by Microsoft of roughly 38,000 people worldwide found that U.S. workers spent 5.5 hours in meetings each week—and 71 percent said those meetings weren’t productive. This non-productive time ain’t cheap either: some estimates put the national cost in lost time and wasted talent as high as $200 billion every year.
For management it is even worse; according to the same Microsoft study, some CEO’s and upper-management spend about 60% of their time in meetings. Because of this, they are unavailable most of the time during business hours to make key decisions, or monitor the work their employees are producing.
So, we have established that meetings are a waste of time, nobody wants to have them and nobody is getting any work done, yet it begs the question: Why are we still having so many meetings?
The answer seems to be for the same reason your company has a pointless holiday party every year: Because that’s the way it’s always been done.
Culture changes, especially with an old rock like meetings, are hard to change. Some methodologies, like the darling of development Agile, are based upon having (gawd) daily meetings (even if they disguise it with terms like “Standup”, it’s still a meeting). People will resist this approach, but in order to show that killing meetings is a good idea you will have to produce:
– Hand in that report early
– Be on time with every assignment
– Have your work be flawless and beyond expectations
– Add some extra items to your task list
-Get your emails to inbox zero.
An increase in productivity at your job and not on Facebook is the goal here: the chance for showing that your time is being better spent at your desk instead of in a conference room is in your hands. Change is hard for people to accept, but you can’t argue with results.
Oh sure, you’re thinking: “This sounds great, but how do I keep from being dragged into the countless meetings that bombard my inbox on a daily basis?”
For starters, you could use this powerful word: No.
“No” is tough for most people to swallow, but it goes down a lot easier if you follow it up with options: Let everybody know you are not having meetings, even project status meetings, but let everybody know that you are available for them to come see you, call or email. Communication through email means you are going to get tons more and you might actually have to answer it in a timely manner, but it is still a more efficient option. For your projects, send out a status report with action items to get done. If anybody has questions, they can reply back. For your direct reports, have them make a brief status report or fill out a status on the items they are working on in some online tool like Asana (free), Basecamp or AtTask.
Or you could negotiate, as Leo Babauta demonstrates in his great book The Power of Less: always ask people if they really need you for a meeting. If they say yes, ask if you couldn’t give your input via email, via telephone, or in a 1:1 talk. Or maybe they only need you for 10 minutes during that 4-hour meeting, so how about you only show up to give input during that slot?
Whatever works for you, make sure it ends with the same goal: no meetings unless it is an absolute, unavoidable crisis. And even then, keep it short (I’m not going to waste bandwidth on tips for holding meetings; Google is saturated with suggestions).
So there you have it: hold less meetings and get shit done. Seems simple right; well, it is. After all, I was able to find time to write this article because…I have no meetings.