Discretionary Effort: going the extra mile at work!
I was pondering this topic while observing my new team working. It’s an interesting concept and one that I need to explore further as I begin the somewhat daunting task of pulling a group of people together, and forming a self-managing, & high performing team.
To give you all a brief overview I am now into week 6 of my new role, leading a team of 15 individuals – aged between 21 and 52. I am the 3rd ‘Head of Department’ in 12 months, and started where my team sit just 6 months ago.
Now I did start from the bottom (so to speak) and some might say have risen to the top of the pile quite quickly – however I did have experience in managing corporate bank branches, and when the outgoing Head departed before lunch one Monday morning, I was asked if I was ready to step back into a management role?
The advantage of having done the ‘base’ role and been relatively successful at it, (enough so that I was promoted into a slightly more senior role after a few months), is that I have an understanding of not only the tasks within the role, but the ‘pain points’ for the team members.
For instance, that perception of not being appreciated by the wider business; one of the first team meetings I ran a ‘Traffic Light’ discussion around “with the client at the centre ” what could we/should we ‘Stop’, ‘Start’ & ‘Continue’. It was an interesting exercise for me to hear what the team was feeling and to start my understanding of ‘their big picture’.
- Coming in early and staying late to get the job done
- Splitting the whole team for team meetings
- Being statistics driven
- Training sessions
- Reviewing our client calls & giving us feedback
- Engaging with the client & understanding what they need
- Being supportive of each other
- Giving team more credit – we are the backbone of the business
- Task rotation
- More communication between department teams
These are a few of the ideas that the team came up with that are amongst a whole lot of takeaways for me as the new Head of Department, and certainly more than enough feedback to filter, take onboard and look at what I can realistically impact in the short-term.
But back to my first thoughts on this concept of discretionary effort. What does this actually mean?
And did I get some clues from this Traffic Light session of how to get this happening?
It is the level of effort people choose to exert in service to their colleagues or clients at work – or not! Employees are paid for the fundamental tasks that he or she has been hired to do – the discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to above and beyond the basic requirements of the job.
This month is known as the busiest period of the financial year for the business I am in – it is the time in which we communicate with every client, either by email or by post. Communication that creates a lot of inbound calls and emails full of questions, requests and more questions!
With volumes so high, the pressure has been on. Some of the team have responded by offering to work a bit later, or come in a bit earlier. I have noticed a couple taking a shorter lunch breaks, and another asking if there was anything else she could do to help out the team. Some individuals have just got on with the basic tasks, have become less communicative, taken days off ‘sick’ and been generally disengaged.
I read that you can’t pay people enough to remember to go the extra mile but you can produce a work environment in which your employees will choose to go above and beyond themselves.
I wonder how much the age of an employee plays a role with this subject of discretionary effort? – without going into the depths of research right now, it is known that the three generations of X, Y and Boomers are fundamentally different in how they approach the workplace. (Best not get me started on this subject – 3 children all raised in the same house, 10 years apart in age, all with very different work ethics and expectations of what work ‘should’ be like!)
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