One of Google’s not-so-secrets of success is the company’s 20 per cent rule: Employees are granted the equivalent of one day a week to create, innovate, express their own inner passions and, well, do what they really want. This is a luxury of inefficiency (and a business which spits out so much cash that it can allow its employees to be free from the grindstone).
Not all of us, of course, have this freedom. In fact, I’m sure many readers of this blog are struggling to keep their businesses open, especially in parts of the U.S. which are experiencing difficult economic conditions with no sign of improvement. It is fine to say “let’s have fun at work” when you have cash to burn, but what do you do when you are struggling to survive? Ditto for your clients and suppliers.
The answer to this question, in part, is to devise an economically manageable version of Google’s 20 per cent program. If we can allow a little flexibility, understanding, and scheduling respect to accommodate personal needs and circumstances, we may be a lot better off than if we expect employees to grind out the work, every day, every hour. However, instead of making the hours totally free, the employee needs to understand the time must be recovered either through enhanced productivity and/or cost savings.
As well, as I’ve learned, especially for sales staff, non-selling community involvement and participation is usually far more effective than grinding out the calls. So I encourage our sales employees to spend at least a quarter of their time in client-centric community activities and voluntary projects.
We don’t need to give the productivity store away in creating a humane working environment. Just respect that “motivation” occurs through internal rather than external forces and when we loosen the slack we can often unharness hidden greatness. Here, the 20 per cent rule is a good guideline for creative potential and ultimate business success.