Checks and Balances For Your Performers

Statistics aren't always easy to follow, but stay with me. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, 86% of the people found to be perpetuating fraud in businesses (cooking the books, embezzling funds, etc) had never been charged with a prior offense. Based on their research, they concluded, conducting background checks have "limited value in screening out potential wrongdoers."

In other words, people don't have an internal desire to cheat a company and then go from organization to organization trying to take something that doesn't belong to them. What happens, in many cases, is that there were not the procedures in place to prevent or minimize attitudes or actions that could lead to such behaviors.

While the study focused on money, could we not draw similar conclusions about how people use their time at work? They are certainly having a negative impact on the company if they are not engaged on the right tasks-if they are engaged at all. If you manage others, what systems have you put in place to keep people focused and productive? Most people didn't intend to come to work and waste their time and energy, but if the work environment encourages such behavior because of poor focus or lack of clarity about priorities, well.... you might just have someone stealing from you. Some suggestions to start increasing engagement in your employees include:

  • Don't be afraid to ask people what their top priorities are for the day or week. Be prepared to share yours as well.
  • The old management principle of "MBWA" (management by walking around) still has value. As you move around, watch how people are working. Think about what obstacles you see or hear that could be removed or minimized to help improve their focus.
  • As a department, consider having people keep a time log for a day or week. They don't have to give them to you, but simply ask them questions like, "What did you see that you spent your time on that was surprising?" "Are there items occupying more of your time than you think they should?" "How could I contribute to improving the situation?"