Yaneek Page | Overwork is counterproductive
QUESTION: I am having a problem that almost all entrepreneurs seem to be having, and it is preventing my business and many others from staying afloat these days. The problem is the poor quality of job workers and bad ethics and skill on the job. People say they want work, but in the workplace, there is no performance. I have changed staff three times last year and still can't find good workers. You can set your clock by them because everyone starts packing their bags at minutes to 5 o'clock. Even when we have deadlines to meet, workers are insensitive to it and are unwilling to work late or come in on weekends to assist. I have to be monitoring Internet and social media use because they waste time, and I have to review every email and letter for basic grammatical errors. My small business cannot afford this lack of productivity. I am at my wits' end. How can I fix my staffing problem?
BUSINESSWISE: I'm not aware of any credible data that would support the claim that almost all entrepreneurs are experiencing debilitating staffing challenges, but I can confirm that this is a common complaint for hundreds of operators in the MSME sector.
Let me prepare you that there's usually no quick or easy fix to this problem. It is a process that will take time, force you to face some uncomfortable truths, and requires a willingness to challenge common beliefs and ways of operating business.
The root cause of your problem is internal - meaning the company's infrastructure, culture and modus operandi; as well as external - meaning the labour market and societal norms. However, the solution is largely internal.
EXTERNAL CAUSES OF STAFFING PROBLEMS
Jamaica has for years, and currently, suffers from serious deficiencies in its labour market.
In a column published on October 29, 2017, I made the point that the Ministry of Labour & Social Security's own National Labour Market Survey 2017, indicated that 80 per cent of firms reported difficulty in filling vacancies in 2015.
Among the recommendations to address the dissonance between the training received by the labour force and the needs of the organisations, were "specific technical training and a meaningful way to use technology and training in behavioural skills covering responsibility, commitment, work ethics, and professionalism in the workplace".
The pool of candidates available in the labour market have several deficiencies, and your company will need to be strategic in attracting the right people and prepared to invest in technical and soft-skills training and effective performance-management tools and systems.
INTERNAL CAUSES OF STAFFING PROBLEMS
Internally, management expectation that employees should work for extended hours as a normal part of doing business is problematic. Overwork is counterproductive and will make your business an unattractive employer to prospective and existing workers. It can cause serious health challenges, reduce mental sharpness, affect interpersonal relationships in the office, and disrupt family life. In short, it can be an assault on people's quality of life.
Here's a fact that many may find shocking: An employee who is overworked by just one hour a day would have lost the equivalent of six weeks' paid vacation by the end of the year.
Extra hours add up and it is unreasonable and unfair to extract this time from workers in the normal course of doing business, even if they have shares in the company and are being offered overtime pay.
Also, productivity is not overwork, it is about accomplishing more with fewer hours and resources.
Once you accept the premise that good workers are folks who can get the job done within the contracted work hours, and that a good employer is one who encourages and supports work-life balance and healthy living, then the next step as a leader is to transform the company's internal processes of recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, onboarding, job training and development, performance management, evaluation, and monitoring. Human resources are critical to the success of most businesses, and managing people is complex, yet many entrepreneurs have never received formal training in this area.
A long-term solution to your problem will require you being exposed to human resources management (HRM) and engaging the services of a qualified HRM practitioner to assist you in creating the appropriate procedures and engendering a culture of productivity.
One resource you can check out is the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, which describes its membership as consisting of "human resource professionals and practitioners, management consultants, teachers, project leaders, and business advisers from public, private- and non government sectors". In addition to helping you source HRM professionals, they also provide training, workshops, conferences, and other support.
Good luck and please stay the course of creating jobs as you expand your business. Your small business can make a big impact.