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Employees are Squandering Your Company’s Time and it’s Your Fault

February 16, 2007

It comes down to this. You’re wasting your company’s time. Your employees are wasting your time. Your senior staff is wasting your time. Indeed, new studies show that employees are squandering vast amounts of time because they lack the training to find and retrieve information effectively.

In 1964 Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge workers” in his book, Managing for Results. Major changes, he argued, would be brought about in business and society by information. There turned out to be just one problem, however. Someone forgot to make sure that knowledge workers have the skills to find that information quickly and efficiently.

New studies just keep coming out about the cost to American companies of inadequate Internet search skills. Consider these recent findings:

A 2006 Butler Group survey, Enterprise Search and Retrieval: Unlocking the Organisation’s Potential, reports, “as much as 10% of a company’s salary costs are wasted on ineffective searches.”

A 2007 Accenture survey finds that, “Middle managers spend more than a quarter of their time searching for information necessary to their jobs, and when they do find it, it is often wrong.”

Susan Feldman calculates in an IDC research white paper (The High Cost of Not Finding Information) that employees spend 3.5 hours each week on ineffective searches – at a cost of $5,251 per employee per year.

Susan Feldman goes on to write in her report, “People spend about 9 to 10 hours a week, on average, looking for information. Of that time, they don’t find the information they’re looking for a third to half the time.” And, she’s talking about information within the company, not on the Internet! Those searches, she reports, are even less effective.

Who needs to be trained to search for information effectively? Certainly many executives we call upon are surprised to hear there might be a need, or a problem.

An executive for a Denver company scoffed, “Well, sure I search the Internet, but I’m not getting any training to do it!”

A Fortune 500 VP of Human Resources in Orlando laughed and said, “I never thought you’d have to train something like that!”

The founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine, Gerhard Gschwandtner, wrote on this blog, “Any Tom, Dick and Mary can log on and search the Internet, that doesn’t require much of a brain.”

How ‘bout you? Are Tom, Dick and Mary from your company ready, willing and able to find what they need? Your employees don’t need another inspirational speaker. They don’t need more total quality mumbo-jumble. They don’t need to be spied upon, recorded or tracked.

They need to know how to find critical information quickly and effectively – and then they need the trust to put that information to work for the good of your company. Now, that’s what we’d call inspirational.

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