It’s Time to Eliminate Employee Schedules

Here are two conversations that I have had recently. The first was with my youngest son, Carter, earlier in the summer.

“Dad, I love my new job.”

“That’s great Carter. What are you doing?”

“The job is with a financial services company, and I have an administrative project that I am working on. My job is to work my way through a room full of loan packages, keeping some documents and throwing away others.”

“Why is this such a great job?” I asked my son.

“I love this job because of the flexibility. I can create my own schedule. My favorite hours are from midnight until around 5:00 am. I get a lot of work done with minimal distractions. The best part is that I then have the rest of the day to do what I want. It’s great!” he responded.

The second conversation was most recently with one of my clients.

“Bill, you look frustrated. What wrong?” I asked.

Bill responded, “I need to fire one of my directors.”

“What’s the issue? Poor performance?” I asked.

“No. His performance is fine,” Bill said. “The problem is that this director is unable to get to work on time. Our office opens at 8:00 am, and he is never here on time. He does work late and sometimes on weekends. If he can’t get here on time it’s an issue, and I must address it now. We have an office schedule and he must comply with that schedule.”

“Bill, would you rather manage employee compliance or job performance?” I asked.

“We are all about job performance,” Bill responded emphatically. “His job performance is stellar. Now if I could just get him to show up for work on time.”

Do either one of these conversations sound familiar to you?

I find many small business owners wish they were having the first conversation and find themselves instead of having the second one.

Why is this?

Primarily because it’s the way it’s always been. We have always had employee schedules. Right?

Not necessarily. I did an informal survey of my Vistage members and consulting clients and could not find a single one of them that worked on a fixed work schedule. Not one. They all start working when they are ready in the morning and keep working until they are done at night.

Yet almost all of their employees are on a fixed schedule. Why is this? I believe it comes down to one word… trust.

We don’t trust our employees to perform on their own so we establish work schedules to ensure some level of minimum job performance. And what do we get in return? Some level of minimum job performance. What a surprise…

So here’s my suggestion. Dump the employee work schedule. Forget about managing their hours. That’s compliance. Instead, shift your attention to their work performance. If they can do the job in 50% of the time, great!

Research indicates that the average American worker actually works for slightly over two hours per day on an eight-hour shift. What are they doing the rest of the time? Clearly, there are more important things such as checking social media, Internet shopping, and maybe playing games. So what do we do? Most companies will work very hard to prevent such delinquent behavior. Force their employees to work. How does that work? Not well.

What if instead we just focus on job performance? We become very clear with our employees what results we need from them and then let them set their own schedules. Just like we do for ourselves.

I shared this suggestion with one of my clients and his first response was:

“That would mean I would need to be very careful who I hire. I could only hire people with strong work ethics who I could trust to make their own schedules.”

My response? “Yes!”

Wouldn’t that be a terrible thing… we would only hire high-performing trustworthy employees.

I think it’s time to dump the employee schedule. Are you ready?