by Ray Adler, BTI Growth Advisors
We call these crazy times the “information age,” but it might be more accurate to call this the “age of information overwhelm.” We have reached the point where our ability to receive information far exceeds our ability to process it.
What specifically does this mean to bank employees? As alternative delivery channels continue to grow in popularity, much bank-related information still remains paper-based. Alternative delivery systems help banks reduce transactional costs. Yet increased volume and changes in workflow keep bank employees struggling to balance the demands of their job with the need to have a personal life.
When these factors are in conflict, employees experience stress, burnout, and significant losses in productivity.
These productivity losses are insidious. They never show up as a single line item on your bank’s monthly operating statements. Yet you’ll find the effects of a workflow disorganization, poor planning and implementation, and office clutter hidden in nearly every line item. The following will identify and offer solutions to two of the biggest productivity killers in your bank.
Productivity Killer #1 – Lack Of Vision, Purpose, And Core Values
A recent survey of 800 corporate executives showed unhappiness and dissatisfaction at rates double those found four years ago, with 4 of 10 surveyed saying they hate what they do. When nearly 40% of variability in corporate performance is tied to personal satisfaction of the employee, it is essential that bank leaders give employees a greater stake in the process. Many banks have vision or mission statements, but few truly use them as a powerful compass for achieving institutional objectives.
As a simple test, casually ask employees if they can recite your bank’s vision or mission statement. Most won’t be able to, senior managers included. That’s a strong clue that your bank lacks unifying vision, purpose, and core values. To remedy the situation, the board and management team must have greater involvement (and ownership) in establishing bank priorities and the strategic planning process.
In the Seven Pillars of Leadership, authors Michael Cox and Michael Rock documented that highly motivated employees were 85% more productive than moderately motivated employees, and a whopping 1,200% more productive than employees with low motivation. Motivation starts with employees having input on how they accomplish tasks. To improve employee motivation and productivity, give employees the chance to brainstorm and select the best strategies for accomplishing their department’s vision and objectives.
Productivity Killer #2 – Office Clutter
The typical messy desktop or office is the top source of stress, mistakes, and productivity loss. A survey by the American Management Association discovered that a typical manager in this country wastes two to four hours per week looking for information. That adds up to 2.5 to 3.5 weeks per year looking for phone numbers, reports, memos, and slips of paper.
If you are a community bank with 15 managers who have an average annual salary of $48,000, you’re paying your manangers a small fortune annually to look for paper and information. If we take into account the dozens of daily interruptions and time spent in unproductive meetings, you can double that small fortune. This reflects larger problems; namely lack of focus, ineffective planning and implementation, and poorly defined goals.
Take a look at the desks around your offices. Are they piled high with files, reports, business cards, slips of paper and magazines? Are the “in baskets” overflowing? Are reports stacked in piles on the floor? The person who works in that environment experiences stress, confusion over priorities, on-going interruptions, and lowered productivity.
In my workshops, I teach employees how to transform a cluttered desk or office into a high performance work environment. A couple of steps in the process include removing everything from in, around, and under your desk, credenza, and cabinets. Place everything in one of three boxes: box #1 is for trash, box #2 is for items to give away or give back, and box #3 is for things that you intend to keep. It’s not uncommon for employees to find 20% to 50% of what is in their office actually belongs to someone else! You’ll also be amazed at the amount of old files, magazines, and scraps of paper that can be thrown out.
The next recommendation is to use your desktop for working on one project at a time, not as a place to store files, letters, and reports. A substantial percentage of our offices have become a storage space for things that should be archived somewhere else. When sitting on your desk, these items scream for attention and thus rob you of your ability to focus.
The last recommendation is to have separate locations to store current projects and tasks. One is for projects/tasks that you are currently working on called “Current Projects,” and the other is for projects and tasks that require a next step to be completed by another person called “Pending Projects.”
As new projects and tasks come your way, immediately reevaluate your priorities to see if the new project takes precedence over your current project. For pending projects, calendar a followup date to check the project status with the person responsible for completing that step. This system enables you to temporarily forget about pending projects, allowing you greater focus on current projects.
If you follow these recommendations, you’ll experience greater productivity and better utilization of your bank’s time, people, and financial resources. In addition, stress will decline as teamwork, morale, and communication improve throughout the bank.
Remember, it requires far more energy and stress to maintain a disorganized environment than it does to maintain an organized one.