When I read the post What if the Apple Store billed by the hour, I thought to myself, not only is this a good example of the problem with billable hour requirements, but to a lesser extent it’s also a good example of how tracking employees every second and using that to measure productivity can be detrimental, the stuff I talked about earlier this week.
Jay describes his experience of going to the Apple store to get a new screen protector for his iPhone, having one sales guy notice that he was picking up the incorrect protector, then take him to someone who could check him out, who happened to know that someone else in the store was very good at getting those little buggers placed down on the screen correctly, who did, in fact get his placed down much better than he probably could have. He then goes on to describe how, if these folks had billable hour requirements, they never would have spent that much time helping him on such a small purchase.
The same could be said for people working in a tight “productivity” environment. Even if you would give them credit for all the time spent helping a customer as part of their “productivity”, I can’t help but wonder if, for example, anyone would know about the last person’s skill with screen protectors. Doesn’t knowing other teams members skills and applying that to the work at hand require your team to interact with one another socially? They have to know one another, they have to be available to help out a coworker on a project that might not be theirs, and they have to pay attention to the customer, which means listening, instead of hurrying up the transaction in order to speed along to the next transaction in the interest of keeping the numbers up! I’ve worked in places where it would have been all too easy for the first person to move along to the next customer when Jay said he didn’t need help, letting him walk out with the incorrect part, and it would have been all too easy for the second to check him out and move on, never thinking about the fact that he might need help getting that protector placed properly. Maybe the effort didn’t show in their sales or productivity reports, (After all it took 3 of them to sell a lousy screen protector!) but they served the customer well. Wouldn’t you rather have employees capable of that instead of employees who can make reports look good?