The How of Working Smarter

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dennis Miller. Here he shares his insights about the how of working smarter.

We’ve all heard the expression “Work smarter, not harder” over the years. And while no one can disagree with the concept, the “how to” part can be a bit trickier.

So how, exactly, does one go about working smarter? 

I suggest starting the process by taking a lesson from Dr. Stephen Covey who authored a well-known book titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In his book, his second Habit is to “Begin with the end in mind”. And while all 7 of his Habits are definitely highly useful toward becoming more effective, starting with Habit #2 seems to be the very best starting point for any endeavor toward working smarter.

It would also make sense to understand where you are today, where you want to go, and then decide the action steps on how you will get to that new point of working smarter.

Astronaut John Glenn once stated there were two main problems with space travel to the moon: you first need to figure out how to get to the moon and then you need to figure out how to get back [to Earth]. In this case, the “end in mind” is the successful round trip to the moon and back.  

Instead of going into an example of space travel, which I know little about, a more down to earth example is one in which my company, Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, has experienced.

Our environment is on a college campus and we employ a high number of students on our campus. Student workers are primarily on campus to attend college and therefore their employee lifecycle is not typical. Most work 10 -15 hours a week often in 2-3 hour shifts to make sure they can attend all of the classes they need to get their college degree. Overall, they have an exceptionally short working lifespan compared to a more conventional worker (if there is such a thing these days), resulting in very high employee turnover for this group of workers.

There was a time when our employees, upon being hired, were issued badges for clocking in and out of special clocks for timekeeping purposes. Using badges for timekeeping purposes seemed to be a good idea when they first came out and the timeclocks they “swiped” with their badges were centrally located in the workplaces. Over time, it became a bit of a challenge to issue, track, replace, and retrieve the volume of badges related to the volume of student. In fact, we ended up hiring student workers to help with the administration of student-issued timekeeping badges! 

Fortunately, instead of trying to improve the processes related to badge administration, better technology became available and affordable thereby rendering the methodology of using timekeeping badges obsolete in our environment.

Our first step in this endeavor toward working smarter? We started with the end in mind! 

We researched options and decided upon the methodology we wanted to use to replace the timekeeping badges. We evaluated the pros and cons of the new tools for the system administrators in HR and Payroll as well as all employees. We developed a cost-benefit analysis to sell the change effort to the finance folks. From this point, we created and executed an action plan to replace the timekeeping badges with biometric devices and mobile devices. As it turned out, employing these tools allowed for more functionality than just timekeeping – they also permitted employees to submit time off requests and allowed managers to approve those requests, among other functionality. This added functionality turned out to be a huge benefit to employees, managers, and system administrators, and we ended up with no badges to administer!

Starting with the end in mind helped us find a way for all involved to work smarter in a truly impactful way.

What is a “working smarter” tip or strategy that you have found useful? 

One thought on “The How of Working Smarter

  1. Dennis, great article and example. I’m a big fan of Covey and his work. Also, I can relate to your story as a former higher ed HR director.

    One of my working smarter tips is to prioritize what needs to happen and make sure I get that completed first. As Covey said, “first things, first!”

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