Why do Employers Accept Performance Differences of 2X?

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Dan Enthoven's picture

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article talking about how younger workers are more comfortable sharing their salary information with their co-workers.  According to the article, “Comparing salaries among colleagues has long been a taboo of workplace chatter, but that is changing as Millennials . . . join the labor force.”

But the real shock in the article isn’t that people are comparing salaries.  I suspect that’s always gone on.  The interesting line is that the guy who makes up the personal interest angle on the article was twice as productive as other people on his team, and a management was OK with that.  

We see this again and again. An accepted part of the business landscape is that some employees can be substantially less productive than others, and management just lives with it.

I suspect there are three reasons why this goes on:

  1. Top level metrics like calls per hour don’t really tell the productivity story.  Managers get high level metrics like calls per hour or claims per hour. These don’t indicate enough about the level of complexity or the quality of the work for the metric to be useful in comparing workers.  We’ll see some workers who have very high rates of productivity, but only because they cut corners or cherry pick the easiest tasks. The guy in the article who claims he was “twice as productive” could easily have been a problem employee at the same time. 
  2. Managers don’t know what to do about it.  It’s really hard to see what why these differences are so big unless you understand exactly how your employees are working. Most managers don’t have that kind of visibility.  Without it, there’s no way to give employees the specific help they need. This doesn’t apply to just the worst of the worst, by the way.  Even average employees have areas where interventions could help them improve.  But managers have no way to find out what those areas are.
  3. Even if managers knew, they wouldn’t have the time to do anything about it.  Employee to manager ratios, especially in back office functions, are very high. If a manager has 20 employees to manage, how much time can they spend making sure each one is actually making the changes they would need to in order to improve?  And simply firing the low performers makes things worse. Now they have an open req to fill, a new person to train, and other employees starting to job hunt.

It’s these reasons that led Enkata to build its new operations optimization platform. Managers, and employees, need help to make real productivity gains. Enkata is that help.
 

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