A recent Ernst and Young workplace survey shows that New Zealanders are masters of inefficient work practices. It seems we spend crazy amounts of time dealing with email, or just waiting for others to do their jobs.
Anyone who has worked in an organisation of any size will be familiar with the practices that develop around systems, very often completely unnecessarily. Far too many IT administrators are masters of finding ways to slow down work, and to add layers of complexity and compliance to what should be simple processes. This is particularly true in professional service organisations, like law and accounting firms, where regulatory requirements dictate that fee earners should spend most of their time tearing out their hair having to deal with filing systems and email protocols, rather than engage in useful and fulfilling work. Next time your lawyer quotes you an hourly rate that exceeds the GDP of a number of central African nations, you might like to reflect on the possibility that your lawyer is trying to recoup all that dead time dealing with those millions of f**king internal emails that say nothing important but which lazy administrators think everyone in the firm should read, and the hours spent every week struggling with IT systems that don't perform any useful function.
One columnist for the rag known as the NBR thinks it's all a case of workers wasting time and larking about, when they should be working like drones for their bosses.
A just-released Ernst and Young survey shows that Kiwis are a bunch of malingerers, wasting up to a fifth of their working day engaged in other pursuits.
The biggest time waster is email at 17%, while 16% of time is lost waiting for others to finish their tasks.
Such slothfulness comes at a high price, costing the country $19 billion a year in lost productivity.
Now employees are on notice to stop wasting the boss’s time and start doing an honest day’s toil.
The survey highlights how utterly unproductive we are as workers, a fact that is reflected in our relatively low GDP per capita. It's partly because firms aren't investing enough in technology and machinery to make the efforts of workers more productive, but I suspect it's also a symptom of New Zealand's less than impressive record when it comes to managerial competence. In most international surveys New Zealand comes up short when it comes to business leadership and management, and this probably explains why so many firms are process-driven rather than focused on the bigger picture. It's easier to blindly follow a process than to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.
I don't think New Zealanders have a reputation for pissing about on the job, but if large numbers of them are spending hours on Facebook, then this could be a symptom of another particular feature of the Kiwi workplace: low pay. We all know the saying about monkeys and peanuts, and there's probably some truth in it. Why should an employer demand their pound of flesh if they're not prepared to pay well for it?
For everyone who is toiling the solution is not to work harder, but to do things smarter. This requires employers to invest more in better technology and better people. Managers need to be upskilled, to avoid becoming mere process followers, and business leaders must be prepared to intervene when blockages prevent meaningful work being done.
Unfortunately, our culture of mediocrity in business means it's always easier to blame someone else than to fix a problem. So blaming workers for the shitty tools they have to work with makes sense.