Have a clue how much workers don't work?

WHILE THE HEADLINE sounds a little harsh, I suppose, it is designed to grab your attention (which apparently it did or you wouldn't be reading this opening sentence) and also start a thought process. Truly, how many hours of your employees' time that you're paying for is wasted doing either nothing or, worse yet, looking busy while doing basically non-productive things? Even if you've come up through

WHILE THE HEADLINE sounds a little harsh, I suppose, it is designed to grab your attention (which apparently it did or you wouldn't be reading this opening sentence) and also start a thought process. Truly, how many hours of your employees' time that you're paying for is wasted doing either nothing or, worse yet, looking busy while doing basically non-productive things?

Even if you've come up through the ranks and possibly used (I promise I won't tell a soul) means and methods to "get back at the boss," "get paid for what I'm actually worth" or "just chill because the boss doesn't break a sweat either," doesn't mean that you know the exact performance metric that your employees should be consistently hitting.

The second-hardest thing to quantify is actual productivity of man-hours done on a job. The hardest thing to measure and catch is non-productive hours wasted because they're usually seamlessly blended into whatever productive hours there are.

As a hired-gun "garbage man" who comes in to clean up other people's screw-ups — jobs that are way behind schedule and way over budget — I can tell you right now that employee theft of time by flat-out not working is one of the very minor reasons that most jobs get in trouble. When a typical job tanks, it's usually because:

  1. Members of management bit off more than they should have to begin with, which means ...
  2. They under-capitalized the job in terms of qualified personnel, tools and materials, which leads to ...
  3. A complete lack of morale for the employees who are on the job and want to do a good job for the company because they know that their own job security is at stake if they don't. They are handicapped, however, usually by a lack of tools and materials in particular and by management's lack of support in general.

That's why when I take over a job as a savior that I insist on a truly open checkbook and balance sheet for the job and complete control over hiring and firing or I simply won't take the job. If I don't have adequate money, personnel or control, then there's no way I can do my job. Oh, and the fact I am a control freak on the job also plays a part.

Immediately fire thieves who are caught in the act.

Are you a control freak concerning the details of your company's operations? If you aren't, then why aren't you? After all is said and done, someone has to give a damn, watching the pennies and the dollars and, yes, the man hours as well. Your attention and caring about the details will boost your own personal morale, which will then flow downhill to your charges.

That's the amazing thing about giving a damn: When you genuinely start doing so, it becomes contagious. Then all of a sudden, most of the people around you either begin to give a damn or reinforce their own positive morale. And guess what happens next? Non-productive hours seamlessly decrease and actual jobsite productivity increases along with very real net profits.

Of course, all the positive thinking and actions in the world won't mean anything if your bosses still won't let you have adequate tools, crews or materials, but at least you'll be making the best job soup possible with the ingredients you have on hand.

Two things you can do immediately to decrease nonproductive man hours: Fire thieves who are caught in the act and open direct channels with all your employees, letting them know that they can literally say anything to you they wish — good, bad or indifferent, without fear of reprisal. Then back up your words with action.

It's amazing what happens when you treat men like men — they begin acting like men, taking care of the responsibilities they assumed when they took their job. Even when handicapped by a lack of resources, they do the best they can with what they have, and at least show a consistent level of productivity if not a spectacular one.

H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/291-0878, or via email at [email protected]. His Website is http://hkentcraig.com.