Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time is, indeed, money

But employees need other workplace motivations as well

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Time is money, a phrase credited to Benjamin Franklin has become pervasive in how we think about time and work. Earlier in our industrial history, factory workers were subjected to significant measurement strategies; however, today almost all occupations and all industry sectors, including not for profits, focus a good deal of attention on a wide variety of efficiency programs and measurements.

Over the past number of years, we've experienced programs and philosophies all related to enhancing efficiency and quality. These have included programs such as quality circles, quality management, total quality management, process improvement, the ISO standards and the lean philosophy. Local, provincial and national award systems, as well as quality conferences, have also sprung up around these philosophies to help drive the quality movement toward the goal of efficiency and effectiveness.

Interestingly enough, the term quality can also be seen as a good example of how professionalization of an industry sector occurs. Quality has grown from a concept to become a business in and of itself. For instance, in the early days, anyone could facilitate a quality- or process-improvement process. Today, there are multiple private-sector courses, college and university programs, professional certifications and nationally recognized designations as well as professional associations. In addition, there are now different levels of audits and standards, each requiring higher-level inspections and, of course, increased expenditures by the corporation.

All of these quality and efficiency efforts have mostly been directed toward improving the system processes within an organization rather than attempting to change employee attitudes toward how they spend their time. I agree there definitely have been some training efforts in this area but nowhere near the efforts spent on systems improvement. As well, it seems the training efforts may not be bringing the desired results.

For instance, it's been discovered that employees who think in terms of time/money experience a sense of impatience as well as a decrease in job satisfaction when they are not actually using their personal time to earn money. In other words, employees with a time/money attitude have a lower ability to enjoy their personal leisure time.

Frankly, I also see implications for the workplace when an employee is too focused on the time/money philosophy. This is especially evident when you meet a worker who won't lend a hand or won't take on an extra duty unless they get paid for it. I don't believe this is healthy for an organization and, in fact, it contradicts the whole notion of workplace teamwork. Wouldn't you rather hire employees who help their colleagues, work as a team, willingly contribute to process improvement, are willing to try out new things and to seek other types of personal rewards rather than just money?

It's been well known by human resource professionals for some time now that money in and of itself is not a long-term motivator for most employees. And in my view, if an individual is indeed so focused on money, I guarantee they will not stay with your organization for very long.

Organizations need some sort of balance with respect to how employees understand and value their time. For instance, I deeply resent an employee who spends an inordinate amount of business time emailing friends, scanning the shopping channels, checking their Groupon accounts or playing the card game solitaire during work hours. These are the folks who waste up to two hours per day on their personal leisure while at work. It's these folks who need a few lessons on how to value their time at work.

On the other hand, there is indeed a strong movement in our workplaces towards employees wanting to have better life/work balance rather than receiving an increased monetary reward. A recent study indicated that while employees admit they would be happier with a 50 per cent pay increase, they were not prepared to trade off their leisure time or time with their children and family.

So, where do we go from here? How do we create balance in the workplace where time really is money? How do we help employees appreciate the time/money mindset without ruining internal teamwork and/or negatively impacting our employees ability to enjoy their leisure time?

In my view, the answer lies in the ability of management to develop a balanced focus on the intrinsic rewards of employee involvement in efficiency and effectiveness activities versus a singular focus on the time for money mindset. Intrinsic rewards are those internal drivers within each of us that create a more true personal satisfaction than a focus on short-term external extrinsic rewards such as money.

These motivators include such elements as the ability to work independently with minimal direction, to become a technical or managerial expert, to experience continual challenge or to work within an organization that focuses on social service. If managers paid more attention to an employee's intrinsic motivation, they could better match employees to various job tasks, thus creating overall job satisfaction while at the same time improving efficiency and effectiveness. I also believe it is equally the employee's responsibility to understand what drives them, what they are best at and what they want to do at work so that they can better position themselves to be in the right place to create job satisfaction.

Yet at the same time, management must be appreciative of an employee's need for life/work balance. And, with an equal number of women with families in the workplace and with men being more active in the raising of children, consideration must be made to the need for flexibility. A family friendly workplace culture will go a long way toward creating job satisfaction and since technology provides the opportunity to connect from home, in many cases little or no productivity is typically lost.

So where do you stand on the pendulum of time and money? Is rigidity about the time/money mindset causing you to lose good people? Or, are you recruiting workers who are possessed by money to such an extent that it's detrimental to overall teamwork? On the other hand, are your workers so lax with their attitude toward time and money that they spend a good part of their day going about their leisurely personal pleasure while your work sits undone? Think about it!

Source: Money takes a back seat to family, HR Reporter, Jan. 28, 2013; Time$Less Happiness, Sanford DeVoe and Julian House of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, February 6, 2012.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 H1

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