Industrial consultant Frank Bunker Gilbreth reported in 1920 that hiring a lazy person is the best way to get a difficult task done.
The idea is that the employee will do her/his best to find the easiest solution to the problem. And the company ultimately benefits from the efficiency.
The same philosophy – working smarter, not harder – still applies in the modern workplace, according to UNSW associate dean of research, professor Frederik Anseel.
He said managers that put pressure on staff to "just get it done" and micro-manage every step are doing nothing to promote innovation or productivity.
"That prevents them from stepping back from work and reflecting how could we do things differently," said Anseel.
Managers misunderstand their role
Many managers assume that not monitoring their staff will lead to them slacking off. But, according to Anseel, employees need autonomy to work better and smarter.
"You need to trust people and that is very difficult for a lot of managers because they think people cannot be trusted if we do not follow up or tell them what to do."
Rather than micro-manage, said Anseel, managers need to concentrate on removing obstacles for their staff to work efficiently and protect their team. Trusting staff frees up time to focus on such matters.
This is especially so when the employees are experienced.
Productivity equals job satisfaction
While productivity is almost always linked to company performance, Anseel said it also positively influences job satisfaction.
"People feel motivated and satisfied at work if they have the feeling that they're making progress – that they're going forward," he said.
But managers are warned studies have found productivity reforms can't be executed overnight.
"If you read business magazines, you read… five steps to increase productivity and that is very appealing because it seems so easy. But what we know from all the research is that… it goes very slow to turn things around."
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