Higher Workplace Productivity In 3 Easy Steps

readyroomwork
Let’s see he-AH. Away Missions, Warp Core Maintenance, Photon Torpedo Installation… When’s My Earl Grey on Risa 3? What Do You Know Anyway? You’re Just a Chai-AH.

 

Productivity can be so elusive. These days we are so hampered by tasks piling up and gritty details competing for our time that it is difficult to improve.

What if there were 3 simple ways to increase productivity at work? Guess what: there are.

  1. Let Your Day Run You

It seems counter to all the hullabaloo about showing up on time and working a prescribed set of hours, but sometimes you should just throw away the daily schedule in favor of a more elastic workflow. Forget about the nine-to-five or the traditional 8 hour day at the office.

spockinspace
Does anybody really know what time it is? In space?

 

Don’t be fooled about the value of showing up at some ghastly early hour for work. If you show up at 11am versus 6am there is no difference between your productivity at work. You can pretend that you’ve accomplished something for getting up so early, but in Japan’s time zone, you’re up late anyway. Sorry to burst your bubble. Forget about the artificial virtues of getting up early and only staying at work for a prescribed set of hours. The truth is, if you can get the work done, that is all that matters.

Flexibility is key. Make sure you are getting the right hour balance for you and your workforce. Give people whatever schedule they want and they will reward you. In scheduling, you truly get what you give.

  1. Cubefarms are Out-Dated

Cubicles, really? You are so two-thousand-and-late.

If you’re still vying for the cubicles of yesteryear, you need to get your head checked. Those things breed loneliness and mental illness. The uninspiring grey walls are surely the agents of mass depression and employee dissatisfaction. Not to mention deflated morale.

If you’re looking for privacy, just grab a conference room. Otherwise, enjoy the collaborative advantages of an open-floor-plan workspace.

  1. Dictators Suck
kirkdictator
Evil Kirk

Don’t be a dictator. People get a lot more done if they’re motivated at their core rather than by an autocratic megalomaniac.

The days of throwing your influence around like a billy club are over. Big-stick politics are deader than Roosevelt. Just trust people already. If you hired people you can’t trust, then that’s your own fault, ya dumb jerk.

Make sure to get the team involved in decisions. Adding extra brains always has a good end-result. Unless of course you hired a bunch of no-talent scabs and goons. But what does that say about you, ya freak?

Honestly though, the best way to get your people to be productive is to exude an air of productivity yourself. If you’re a manager who frequently complains about lazy employees, maybe you’re just projecting. Perhaps you are but a pea-brained nincompoop who expresses his/her self-loathing on your underlings because you have an underdeveloped super-ego. I don’t know, I’m not Freud. But it’s obvious you need help.

Sorry for my demeanor in this section, I have been most illogical in light of recent events. The world at large suffered a massive loss of logic on Friday.

I hope you are able to quadruple your productivity from these three simple ways I have outlined.

Live long. And prosper. \v/

spockcat
RIP Leonard Nimoy


R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock: The poster-boy for productivity and logical managerial practice.

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Fix Open-Office Floorplans With These Open-Office Four Plans

Office Space gif
The First Open Floorplan

So we all know what open offices are nowadays. Walls have been torn down in a very Office-Space-esque manner. Most “modern” organizations are adopting the hip floorplan inspired by Silicon Valley supergiants. 

Collaboration is key with these spaces and they are a departure from the boxed-in style of the old cube farms.

If you’ve been paying any attention to blogs and news written lately, you probably heard about the hullabaloo being raised. Things like: “Open offices this, open offices that. I can’t concentrate. I have no self control and don’t know how to politely end a conversation and insinuate that I’m working. Waah. Boo hoo. I’m a big fat crybaby.”

Ok so there was a UC Irvine Study saying office workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and they take 23 minutes to get back to the point they were at. The same study also mentioned how workers would complete tasks much quicker after being interrupted. Probably due to our brain’s ability to work on problems even when we are not actively thinking about them. I don’t have a study to cite on that but yeah… sounds right.

Anyway, there have been a lot of studies claiming that open offices cost companies money in the form of lower productivity. Seems weird to hear this when paired with studies showing that employees have never been more productive than they are now, but whatever. People are worried about this stuff so I decided to have my take on it.

How To Deal

This is going to vary for every team so go ahead and get those people involved for a solution tailored to you. Here are 4 methods that have had a lot of success:

 

  • Retreat!

 

If you’re having a bad trip, just go off on your own for some solitary time. Of course, this requires space to be available for just this purpose. Ideally, an organization should always have 2 available conference rooms for every 10 people they employ. Empty conference rooms need to be a priority for times when an employee has to go on an important call or get into a cramming zone.

 

  • Change Floorplan

 

The employees on the endcaps are always the biggest targets for others walking by looking for a chat. That’s why nobody should be sitting there. Make sure there is an empty space at the end as a buffer to the employee diligently working further down the row. This way, every passer-by won’t be as tempted to speak to the person.

Make frequent desk changes as well. Rotate your employees at least once a quarter but ideally, bi-monthly. It’s not fair to have one employee suffer lower productivity numbers just because he/she is nestled the closest to the office foot path.

 

  • Music on PA

 

We are social animals. When we hear speech, it it nay impossible to tune it out and focus on our own silent thoughts. The answer to this is not a vow of silence, but instead a buffer of white noise. Set up a nice sound system in your office if there isn’t one already and turn that sucker on at all times. Regardless of whether or not you work in a call-center. You don’t have to blare the volume, but have it high enough that it interferes with your ability to hear the person 3 desks away from you. This keeps your brain on track without allowing it to follow the thoughts brought up by a tangential conversation.

BONUS POINTS: Make sure the music is instrumental. Especially if you’re dealing with work that uses words or code. It can be difficult to complete a thought if you are interrupted by thoughts that the deep lyrics of Rick Astley conjure up.

 

  • The Jacked-In Rule

This is the most  powerful tool of any. You wasted your time with the other ones.

The Jacked-In rule works at my office and nobody dares violate it. It is a most offensive gesture to bother someone that has their headphones in. Headphones in == do not disturb unless fire. The reason it works so well is because everyone here has a mutual respect of the symbolic garment.

Why? Because we drill everyone about it before they start. Make the Jacked-In rule part of orientation and distracted employees will be a thing of the past.

 

To Conclude

Cone of Silence gif
Perhaps One Day…

 

Basically, until somebody invents the cone of silence, these 4 methods should do the trick for any open-floor-plan office. I was just kidding about the other 3 being a waste of time. All 4 of these work together to make for an adaptable office.

As an alternative we would have to go back to cube farms and I don’t think those are allowed anymore under the Geneva Convention.

 

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Is It Time to Adopt a 22-Hour Interview Process? This Company Does It

manhattanid

The Aussie company Appster has an interview process that rivals that of NASA or the Manhattan Project. They spend 22 hours on average vetting and interviewing candidates before any semblance of an offer is even uttered. It’s absurdly higher for senior positions which are typically 150-hour ordeals. The process takes 3 weeks or so and then the candidates find if they have an offer or not. Talk about a low tolerance for mistakes!

 nasalogo

Appster starts the hiring process before they meet anybody. First they imagine the person. They dream up an ideal dream-girl or guy and then start parsing social media profiles based on their criteria. The criteria involves everything from experience and skills to tastes in entertainment and sense of humor. The hiring managers use this set criteria to rule out all the people who wouldn’t be a fit at Appster. After the initial telephone call to candidates, only about 15% typically meet enough of the criteria set forth. Picky, picky.

atomic blast

The Process

The next 3 weeks are spent on exams. Appster develops a lot of these tests in-house but also uses some outside help from companies who specialize in competency exams. Nobody under the global 95th percentile is able to proceed to the next phase of the interview and usually only a quarter or so of the original applicants do. The ones who are left get to look forward to a 6-hour session where applicants are brought in and tortured by potential co-workers and higher ups who pick them apart emotionally in an effort to make them crack. The applicants have to answer to a questionnaire of over 100 inquiries and psychological proddings.

Two twin little sister girls whisper in ear

If they survive the psychological conditioning and are able to walk out of the building, the next phase of the interview process commences: discussing the candidate behind their back. The team keeps notes on all the prospects and, like a group of 3rd grade girls trying to pick the cutest boy in school, determine who the top picks are and who needs more research. Then they schedule another 4 hour interview for each candidate with 2 Appster employees. One body language expert and one technical interrogator. So you have one guy studying your body, taking notes while the other tries to stump you with tech questions. Every squint, sigh, quizzical look, arm-crossing, leg-crossing, and fart is documented. If one of those is interpreted as a lack of confidence, be prepared for some follow up questions.

 

Umm…

I have to stop for a second to acknowledge how crazy this all sounds. Does this company actually get any real work done? How is Appster actually building any apps? With interview timeframes like this, they must be booked for the rest of the year at least. They now have 150 employees. If each one spent 3 weeks being interviewed that means 450 weeks right there. And by at least 2 people at a time. So it would take something like 9 years of their collective time to get to this number of employees? What the hell? I’m starting to think this is just a media stunt or something and they don’t really actually do any of this.

einsteininterview

Anyway, there’s more to the story.

Life Invasion 

The next phase of hiring involves background checks, social media stalking, and try-outs. By try-outs I mean the candidate is paired with another employee to get some real work done for the day. After their day, the established employee is able to give feedback on the performance of the potential hire. 

They can determine from that if someone is a fit for the company and it has often led to a decision to not hire. This is great because your first day on the job is a perfect example of how you will perform months or years down the line /s.

Somehow, they’ve managed to hire 50 people in a 3 month period and intend to continue hiring at that rate for the rest of the year. Appster is hiring! 

The Good and the Bad      

It’s a good idea to have a general idea of the candidate you are trying to hire so I agree with the imagining step at least. The rest of it though? Meh. 

With such a shortage of software engineers out there you’re likely to get people who are like “well screw this” when they’re told about a 22-hour block that they need to schedule for this illustrious opportunity. Programmers kind of get to call the shots these days and I’m surprised Appster has found as many as they have. Historically, developers have been a very particular population when it comes to bullshit tolerance.

spacewalk

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Make A Decision Already! Try These 7 Methods

hanc3po

In recruiting and in business overall, these days it is so easy to get stuck in a loop of indecision. Amazingly, polls estimate that over 70% of workers become sedentary at work because of this very issue. It’s easy to put a ton of weight on making a decision and that in turn leads to a very time-consuming process of debating the merits of this or that. The process is demoralizing and mentally taxing and it just needs to stop.

han-solo-carbonite-image

Too many people are simply putting off decisions altogether and it harms everyone.

 

Uncertainty is paralyzing enough without letting it consume the psyche of 70% of the workforce. When people don’t feel like things are getting done company morale plummets and timeframes get bigger and more expensive.

c3po

Fear is ruling our thoughts. Too many people are looking for the option that is the perfect balance of costing nothing and generating gargantuan returns. It’s like nobody can take a hit anymore. We’ve all gone soft. Sometimes we need to just Han-Solo our decisions without letting the C-3POs tell us the potential costs all the time. The cost of doing nothing is clearly far higher!

 

Let’s start the decision movement and move towards a higher pace of working, or we’ll be stuck in this asteroid field forever!

 

Here’s how:

1. Go Back to Square 1 With Fresh Eyes

So you’ve inundated yourself with a slew of options and you’ve been playing with the ideas trying to see what will stick. If you have all the options in front of you, don’t worry about wasting too much time on the complexities of each one. Once you have a basic understanding, revisit your original mission and more often than not you will find that one of the options is the obvious choice.

2. Stop Talking To Yourself And Get Another Human

Don’t let your internal monologue get stuck in a broken-record-loop of inactivity. Throughout history people who achieved the most always did it with the support of others. Nobody can be that effective on their own, I don’t care how magical you think Steve Jobs was. Get another person involved and stop drowning yourself in the issue.

3. Make A Decision Deadline

Blame the clock for your foibles! If you stick to a deadline, this is exactly what you can do. It’s a great way to remove the blame off of yourself. And by the way, if you’re getting a lot of blame for one bad decision every once in a while, you may just be in a toxic work environment.

4. Have Faith In Yourself

Build confidence in yourself that goes beyond a single decision. In general, you know you have made good decisions that led you to this point, so what does one bad one mean? Bad decisions mean that you’re not a fearful actor and they don’t define everything you’ve ever done. Let go of all the weight attached to your decision and look at the forest, not just the individual tree. You will realize that one bad apple won’t spoil the bunch.

5. Remember That Inactivity Is Part Of Risk Assessment

OK so you might not know for sure if a decision is a good one and you need to research the consequences. This adds time to your production timeframes and slows down the company momentum, allowing your competition to act. Realize that not acting IS the bad decision. Did you make a bad decision? Well now you learned something. It was much quicker than the research project you were originally envisioning.

6. Decide If A Bad Decision Is That Big A Deal (Usually It’s Not)

The terror, the terror. What if your decision is a bad one?! A better question is: if this is a bad decision, will I feel it a month from now? In a year? If the answer is no, then you needn’t worry about whether the decision is good or bad, just make it already and find out! We’re all such a bunch of indecisive sissies, I swear!

7. De-prioritize Your Feelings

Research is obviously important, but if you’re spending a lot of time just trying to find a way to justify a decision you’re emotionally tied to, then you’re wasting time. Be willing to throw away your pre-judgement and go with whatever you find, even if it seems to contradict your initial thoughts. You’re not infallible!

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2014 Recruitment Forecast Report

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