Work smarter, not harder: managers can use a framework to help guide employees toward more productive work and improved communication.

Author:Hayes, Christine Hogan
Position:Back to Basics

The phrase "work smarter, not harder" encourages an increase in productivity and efficiency. It can motivate an employee to identify the most important and necessary tasks and execute them with accuracy and completeness while eliminating from one's day the unnecessary activities that add no value.

But without action steps to work smarter, the phrase lacks substance. Through the identification of the root cause, a manager can devise a specific solution to the barriers the employee is facing and possibly eliminate such roadblocks. The following framework can support the struggling employee and identify the root cause of the problem, strengthen the employee/manager relationship, encourage thoughtful and honest conversation, and promote collaboration between the two parties to identify relevant solutions. The framework may also positively impact other auditors in the department, as well as departmental stakeholders.

Acknowledge the problem

If an employee has been behind and missing deadlines or has been putting in long hours, it is time to come to an agreement that he or she is experiencing a roadblock and his or her current approach is not sustainable for the long term (i.e., burnout). At this stage, validation from a manager can be encouraging.

Appreciate the employee

Thanking an employee for his or her hard work can be meaningful. Recognition of the time and effort already expended helps promote a constructive dialogue. The long hours may be indicative of an employee who cares about his or her work product, but may not know the best way to get that valuable work product completed. An employee who displays this level of dedication is one the department wants to retain.

Identify the root cause

Though an employee may be able to define the problem, there may be other obstacles at play that he or she is not defining as obstacles. The employee should walk through a typical day--or week--with his or her manager to determine which tasks and activities the employee is completing and not completing. This conversation should be treated like a typical internal audit walkthrough, with a thoughtful mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions, such as:

* What deliverables is he or she producing?

* What is he or she requested to perform?

* What is the estimated time it takes to complete each task? For example, if an employee is a junior- or entry-level associate, the demands and pressures placed on him or her by the senior or supervising auditor while on...

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