Meriam, a business owner, just had the most unusual conversation with her Abel Personnel recruiter, who was recommending that Meriam not release a job order for the recruiter to fill. As she was preparing for her next meeting, Meriam “played back the tape” of her conversation in her head:

  • Meriam: I’d love to give you the go-ahead right now to look to fill this job opening. However, some of my teammates keep saying that we need to work smarter first before we make that leap to add staff.
  • Recruiter: I have to agree with your teammates. Adding staff is a big step, and you should be looking at less expensive alternatives first.
  • Meriam: Okay, but everyone keeps saying that but nothing changes, except we are all falling farther behind in our to-do lists. Any suggestions?
  • Recruiter: Sure. At your next team meeting, start by going around the room (or the screen) and ask everyone to suggest one thing that could be done to minimize time wastage during working hours. Then together pick the top five to try for two weeks.
  • Meriam: Then what happens?
  • Recruiter: Hopefully there will be much more efficient use of time. More likely, there will be some improvement, but this will give your team the sense that, even employing your best ideas, there was not enough waste elimination to put off that last option of adding another team member.

Coincidently, the next daily team meeting was half an hour after that Zoom conversation, and Meriam was primed to give the Abel recruiter’s advice a try. After gaining everyone’s agreement that there was currently too much work for the department to accomplish as it was now staffed and operating, Meriam proposed that each team member offer a suggestion of how to reduce time wastage. She next outlined the process for identifying and implementing the top five suggestions on a pilot basis, and only then approved the new hire requisition if there was not significant efficiency improvement. All agreed that this was a smart approach with real potential time savings.

As the suggestions were made and then later discussed, the somewhat counter-intuitive or surprising, ideas selected for adoption were:

  • Fully Utilize the Software: Not everyone was using the custom software designed to save processing time, acquired at significant expense. Some were trained but never bought in; others joined the department after the training sessions so never benefited from the full 16 hours of instruction. Holding a refresher course and using a buddy mentoring system so that everyone becomes comfortable with employing the system would be the way to go.
  • Schedule Fewer Team Meetings: Some of these meetings were enacted when the team was first becoming accustomed to working from home or in hybrid working situations. In a time of near-total isolation, these meetings were a welcome chance for interaction, but are they still needed? One test to try is to identify a purpose and agenda for each meeting; if these could be accomplished without a meeting, cancel the meeting. Another question to ask: If the meeting would be unexpectedly canceled, would it be important to reschedule it? If not, it could not have been so critical, to begin with!
  • Turn off Email Notifications: When engaged in activities other than responding to accumulated emails, turn off both audio and visual notifications that “you’ve got mail!” At a minimum these notifications are distracting and at worst, these seem to demand to be immediately read and possibly reply to, breaking concentration on the task at hand. Ideally, check email no more frequently than once an hour, if not every two hours. If someone wants to urgently be in touch, trust them to call!
  • Schedule Tasks: Place tasks on personal calendars (rather than on to-do lists), thereby blocking out time to do these tasks. As urgent interruptions occur, these tasks may need to be “rescheduled,” but there is a higher probability that they will be accomplished if they are on one’s calendar. This will also discourage casual visits from colleagues who can see from shared calendars who are “free,” instead of engrossed in a task.
  • Do Not Send Out Reading Material Ahead of Meetings: This is an edict embraced by Amazon. Unsurprisingly, this reading material is not read by everyone, resulting in meetings where some are prepared and some who do not make the others wait while they read the material. If the meeting starts with distributing the reading material to be read over for 20 minutes (late arrivals may have to read faster but will not miss the discussion), then everyone starts at the same level of knowledge, and no one’s time is wasted.

After the meeting, Meriam felt great about the suggestions that had come from her teammates, predicting these would be very useful in expanding the potential of the team more efficiently, regardless of whether these resulted in time savings enough to significantly delay a new hire. She also felt empowered by the whole team’s buy-in to the process of trying to save time before moving forward with a job posting, accepting that as a growing company tipping points for the next new hire would be coming regularly. Finally, she was grateful for the business partnership she had developed with Abel, which so often went beyond recommendations on how to quickly fill openings with qualified candidates.

Even before the two week trial period ended, Meriam added a task on her calendar: Follow-up with Abel, thanks for advice, start looking for candidates. Meriam was now comfortable starting the search and knew she would have the support of her teammates.

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