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Are your people at work?

Every chief executive officer (CEO) worth his/her salt will tell you that people are the most important resource in the organisation.

Sam Hlabati

The human resources departments evolved from being personnel departments and some are going into the future with the name human capital. The fact that human capital is a great asset is not in dispute.

The chief financial officer (CFO) reports an organisation’s financial status under the watchful eye of both internal and external auditors. Within the financial institutions, the CFO will work hand in hand with an executive responsible for managing risk; accounting for possible risk in the organisation’s transactions. As every penny moves in, out or around the organisation, it is watched by hawk eyes that look for the returns that will be created from turnover of every penny.

Very few organisations effectively manage the risk around human capital assets, checking the full cost of loosing productivity of these assets.

Besides the staff turnover reports, many organisations do not account for the productivity of their people in great enough detail.

Therefore, we can ask the question; are your people at work? Are they producing the returns that you require of them as assets? We talk of sweating assets; not to mean that an organisation should be drawing the last drop of blood in some slave work drive.

The concept of your people being at work goes beyond seeing them on the factory floor or in the office. People may be at work; but not at work. We will take being at work as not being absent; just being physically around, having gone past the premises entrance.

The input that a leader requires in the organisational system is not just require the presence of people but the presence of productivity.

The organisation is a system that produces outputs of products and services that are consumed by the intended clientele who bring economic value that makes the organisational bank account healthy.

The organisational system that spits out the products and services has running processes that require inputs; which include man-hours.

Should one solicit from the CEO what inputs are required in any organisation’s processes, the likely list would be dominated by the raw materials in the manufacturing environments and products offerings in the service industry.

The executive responsible for production will tell you the cost of the unit raw material units.

The price of labour would be known through the payroll salary and wage records.

Any raw material that does not have the requisite properties required for the quality standard of the finished product will be criticised at the level of the inherent cost to the organisation of such quality inferiority.

In an attempt to control the availability of the human capital raw material, organisations create working hours policies that determine the time at which the organisation opens and closes for business. The determination of meal breaks is often covered in such policies. The determination of overtime pay rate is also elaborated. The stipulation that such a policy covers everyone in the organisation causes a systemic failure problem.

Here is how the systemic failure manifests. The board of directors would usually not intend to supervise the CEO and other executive directors on whether they stick to these working hours;particularly the starting time, rather they take it that these senior officials are managed through self-determination of office presence times; with more focus being on the results to be achieved.

Through hands on experience in the human resources management field, I have noticed over the years that late starts at works are not well managed. The reason being that the self-determining executive misses the morning rush traffic and comes to the office at a “delayed” time, usually in time for the first meeting of the day.

Due credit should go to the executives, as this lost morning time is unconsciously compensated through the partial use of meal breaks by the executive whose diary is always packed like a tin of sardines.

Extra compensation for this time is through the usual burning of the evening oil (at times midnight oil) in the office when all and sundry are gone to their homes.

It is therefore intriguing why organisations do not make it explicit in their policies that the stipulated working hours schedules apply to the general employees excluding the executives.

Such a deliberate expression would liberate the executive who arrives at 9.00am to discipline employees who despite stipulated starting time being 8.00am are still parking their vehicles in the organisation parking lot when the boss arrives or are cunning enough to arrive at work just before the boss checks in.

The causal effect of not exempting the executives of the “working time” rules on paper is that the executives cannot act on people who will point a finger back at them.

An executive cannot be senseless bound by a rule he or she is allowed to break yet expected to enforce on others, guilty conscience incapacitates leaders of acting on violators. Such a trap is unthinking given the fact that organisations allows their executives at least quasi-flexibility in terms of office presence.

System Thinking analysis should be carried out on a case-by-case basis before changes are effected as other systemic drivers may be left unattended with consequential unintended consequences.

An organisation may not experience the late arrival trends we have just discussed due to controls such as clocking systems, particularly in instances where the remuneration is paid by the hour. However, another systemic problem may arise, namely presenteeism.

Presenteeism can loosely be interpreted as a silent and subtle form of absenteeism in which any employee is at work but not actually working. This is perpetuated through “floating” around the premises and not being present at the assigned workstation.

In our informal economy of Zimbabwe, this can be coupled with vending of goodies to colleagues around the premises during bona fide paid working hours.

Sam Hlabati specialises in Systems Thinking and Reward Management. He holds the following certifications; Senior Professional Human Resources®, Global Remuneration Professional®, Certified Compensation Professional® and an MBA in Systems Thinking. You can join the discussion through email on samhlabati@gmail.com and follow on twitter @samhlabati.

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