Time-management invariably focuses on self – how you organise your day, your papers, your workload. But how well do your staff members use their time to benefit the organisation, you, and themselves? Do you really know whether they, and you, are getting full value? Your staff can save your time and theirs if you take the initiative and encourage them to be time-conscious…

1. Watch for the indicators of a disorganised staff.

Watch for messages indicating that the time of the human component in your organisation is not being used to best advantage:

  • You are frequently interrupted by staff seeking assistance, instruction, or direction.
  • Your staff practises reverse delegation – referring tasks back to you.
  • Deadlines are often missed or postponed.
  • Staff assignments often need to be redone because of their poor quality.
  • Your action tray is overflowing and you seem to be taking home more and more work.
  • Staff morale is low; work is no longer challenging.
  • Employees seem to spend time off-task – chatting and socialising.

2. Find out how they spend their time.

Before staff can manage their time more effectively, it is important that they, and you, know how they are currently using their time. You might keep a time/task schedule, entering an employee’s name, the task assigned, the date assigned, your estimate of the completion date, actual completion date, and comments on unexpected interruptions. Or have staff keep an accurate record in their diaries; or construct a simple matrix indicating times and tasks. All this is valuable information for future discussions with individual employees.

3. Help staff to organise their work areas.

By observing what staff do and how they do it, you can identify efficiencies that can be introduced. Consider office layout, for example. Proximity to essential equipment like photocopiers, computer printers, and telephones is important. If employees have to walk the length of the office to use a photocopier, you will have detected a real time-waster. Office landscaping, too, improves productivity by not only enhancing visual appeal, but by reducing distractions as well.

4. Compile a skills index for staff.

A skills index for staff can be easily calculated using the many commercially available measuring tools – or you may prefer to construct your own. You may find, for example, that clerical staff use their word-processing package to only 40 per cent of its capability. Training in that area will significantly improve individuals’ confidence and productivity. Employees with the skills necessary to complete their jobs will be less likely to interrupt others by asking for help.

5. Provide the right mix of resources.

The right mix of people and other resources is essential if staff are to complete the jobs assigned to them. Allocating too few resources not only reduces productivity and profitability but also means that idle people use their spare time to interrupt others.

6. Implement procedures and work instructions.

ISO 9000 certification will ensure that you adopt procedures for all work practices. Because staff will be involved in the certification process, ISO 9000 and its associated training will help staff to become organised. Documented procedures and work instructions will serve as common sources of reference for all staff.

7. Teach staff time-saving techniques.

Never assume that ‘everyone knows that’ about time-saving techniques. Teach staff about your time-savers, which might include:

  • allocating tasks for periods when you’ll be most productive
  • setting daily priorities and sticking to them
  • handling each piece of paper only once
  • continuing to ask, ‘What is the best use of my time, right now?’.

8. Make sure you’re not part of the problem.

Compile a list of time-wasters identified by employees. If ‘the boss’ appears on that list, find out what aspects of your behaviour need attention. It could be that you need to:

  • communicate more clearly or more frequently.
  • avoid interrupting staff unnecessarily.
  • ensure that staff are not kept waiting for an appointment with you.
  • stop being indecisive.

9. And don’t forget to:

  • Set deadlines for staff. Without them, projects tend to take more time than is really necessary.
  • Keep their work challenging – then employees will be enthusiastic and time-conscious.
  • Build interdependencies. When employees rely on colleagues, they realise that their actions affect others. Time-wasters (the office gossip) and time-wasting habits (arriving late or leaving early) are soon brought under control by peers.
  • Keep communication lines open. Blocked channels or slow-flowing information can waste valuable staff time.
  • Set an example. By your actions, demonstrate that you disapprove of time-wasting.

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