The five-minute management idea: how to manage people like you manage money

16 February 2018

A weekly shot of new thinking for business leaders: managers can boost business output and motivate employees by using timeless financial techniques in new ways

Jermaine Haughton

The bottom line is regarded as crucial for any business – but its people are too. Top managers are increasingly tracking the performance and efficiency of employees quantitatively. This enables them to assess if their time, effort and energy is being reflected in positive, worthwhile results.

Measure your workload

If you think admin tasks don’t affect a company’s bottom line – think again. Thierry Breton, CEO of IT firm Atos Origin, discovered that managers spent between five and 20 hours per week reading and responding to messages, to the detriment of their other tasks.

Breton decided to ban emails at his company to help boost employees’ productivity, after finding the time spent on internal emails was both wasteful and inefficient.

Other business leaders use financial results to monitor working styles too. “Results are the most important indicator of employee productivity. Try to collect as much information as possible from each client,” says Nick Friedman, founder of US removal firm CHHJ. “Then reverse-engineer that information and figure out which employees were responsible for generating that business, from start to finish.”

Scrutinise your investment

The ‘opportunity cost’ of a lost hour relates to financial metrics such as lifetime value: it analyses the return on investment from team activities and initiatives.

Time lost to meetings is a prime example. Despite scientific research showing the average person’s attention span is no longer than 18 minutes, long inconclusive meetings continue to hinder staff productivity.

Leading consultancy Bain Company found a weekly executive committee meeting at one company consumed 300,000 hours a year in support time across departments. Top UK bosses such as Duncan Bannatyne, owner of Bannatyne Health Clubs, says he limits his business meetings to 20 minutes to enable “quick, accurate decisions – then move on to the next problem.”

Recognise and reward achievements

Cash bonuses are common rewards for revenue-generating professionals, reflecting their ability to increase the organisation’s profit. In addition, great managers can reward top employees across different disciplines by supporting their career goals. From increasing an individual’s responsibilities to offering top performers more exciting projects, managers can proactively reward hardworking staff by developing accessible career development opportunities.

At online advertising giant Yelp, for example, managers ensure employees are given ‘stretch roles,’ which give people responsibilities just beyond their current capabilities to motivate them.

Manage conflict swiftly

Just as falling into the financial red or struggling to maintain cash flow are crisis points for bosses, so are conflicts in the office. Unresolved conflicts and a culture of bad behaviour can quickly sour a working environment impeding performance, engagement and motivation of your top talents. Therefore, instead of turning a blind eye, top managers often act quickly to squash major disagreements and clashes.

Tim Kitchen, owner of marketing company Exposure Ninja, investigated immediately when an employee complained about the behaviour of a colleague. Because the firm uses screen-tracking software to check how projects of its remote workforce are developing, the management team was able to find screenshots of the conversation in question. “By getting the two together in a private channel and presenting them with screenshots from their conversation, the issue was remarkably easy to fix,” he told the Telegraph.

Be ethical

Since the Libor rate and Tesco accounting scandals, corporations are under immense scrutiny to handle their finances in an honest, accurate and above reproach way.

Setting a positive example in the workplace extends to people management also. Understanding that lying and withholding information can damage relationships, top managers should lead by example.

Rubrik co-founder and Chief Executive Bipul Sinha runs the data-management startup under a strict code of radical transparency. Each board meeting is open to all 600+ employees. All listeners are encouraged to ask questions to executives, and no topics are off the table.

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