Suspicious little boxes

I recently came across an intriguing story in the UK: a leading news and media company installed wireless workplace monitors under their staff's desks one weekend without telling them. Of course journalists are the worst people to do this to, and the story quickly became international news. Backtracking very quickly, the employer removed them the same day, explaining that the "suspicious little boxes" were actually an environmental measure to make the building more "green" and energy-efficient, not to spy on their staff.

Why are we 'at' work?
Surreptitiously implementing systems like these in a workplace quickly erodes trust, even for the best intentions. However, it also raises an interesting point about employment, productivity and why we are actually "at" work.

Working together
A number of years ago, a life coaching client I was working with shared with me the most enjoyable job they ever had. Working in a sales call centre of 30 plus staff, they each had to achieve 50 new sales a day for the department to reach its target.


What made the job so positive was that when a person achieved their target, they would then partner up with someone else who had not got their quota and help to get them across the line. Once everyone achieved their sales goals for the day, they received a team bonus, and they had the choice to go home early (job done), or stick around and gain more sales to reach individual bonus targets.

The whole process was a genuine win/win for the company and the sales staff. The company won as it was virtually guaranteed a pool of positive and willing team members who worked well together, and it also knew its targets would be achieved every single day. The employees won as they could almost always knock off hours early, or stay around and earn more.

Focus on outcome, not input
For many roles, work should be based on outcome, not time spent sitting behind a desk. In today's digital age, many jobs are solely target based, therefore if you have achieved your performance targets, you should be allowed to leave for home, or stick around and try for a bonus.

Obviously some roles can't fit into this output model. A chef can't leave a restaurant at 8.30pm on a Friday because they have reached their key performance indicator of 23 main courses. However, I think as a nation we need to re-think "people sustainability" in our workforce, and let individuals have more say in what they do after their goals have been attained.

Thinking forward
I really believe employers and HR teams should re-assess their job descriptions and key performance indicators for many roles, creating more flexibility in their companies. Young people coming up the ladder are demanding more flexible options in their career and lifestyle, and if you are an employer who can consistently provide this, your talent pool will be filled with the cream of the crop.

Tom O'Neil is an award winning business speaker, best-selling international author of The 1 per cent Principle & You're Hired, and MD of www.CV.CO.NZ and