How Are Multitasking Millennials Impacting Today’s Workplace?

Many business leaders still think of multitasking as a great thing, clinging to visions of employees who get more done than ever before. And, they think, there’s no generation better equipped to juggle multiple tasks than people in the 18 to 34-year-old age group, commonly known as Millennials. And it’s true, Millennials are known for being adept with all forms of technology and moving from one job to another, shifting between priorities with relative ease. Unfortunately, the latest research conducted in the fields of psychology and business productivity suggests we’ve got it all wrong.

Multitasking doesn’t always live up to the dream. Instead, it tends to mean a lack of focus and an increase in impulsivity. There’s a financial cost, too. Lack of productivity due to multitasking equates to global losses of $450 million per year and Millennial job-hopping costs the U.S. economy more than $30 million per year.

Studies have shown impulsivity isn’t a good thing. Researchers at Stanford University conducted a famous experiment 50 years ago where children were given the chance to eat a single marshmallow immediately, or wait until someone returned later, at which point they would receive a second marshmallow. The kids were tracked later in life, as adults, and it turns out those who waited for that second marshmallow fared much better than those who chose instant gratification. The participants who didn’t wait were more likely to have behavioral problems, be obese, use drugs and spend time in jail.

Today’s tech-centric world means a lot of impulsive, quick shifts in direction. Amazingly, research shows Millennials switch their attention between media platforms 27 times per hour. If you think they’re just getting a lot done, think again. Multitasking during cognitive tasks has been shown to lower IQs by 15 points and multitasking on a regular basis can reflect lower emotional intelligence and less brain density in the areas controlling cognitive and emotional control.

Impulsivity affects the workplace in other ways, too. Nearly nine out of 10 Millennials plan to stay in a job less than three years and 21 percent say they’ve changed jobs in the past year. While the average job tenure for all workers 25 and older is 5.5 years, it’s only three years for Millennials. The cost of job-hopping to employers isn’t marginal, either. The loss of one Millennial employee runs between $15,000 – $25,000, for most companies.

So, what can be done? When it comes to multitasking, employees can set up their schedules so they focus blocks of time on specific tasks. Allowing short breaks to be more impulsive and employing apps to limit certain technologies can really help keep people on track. Employers might consider offering yoga and meditation classes to help employees improve concentration. Shortening the workweek can also encourage people to make better use of their time.

In terms of the turnover issue, employers can discourage Millennials from leaving too soon by offering finite terms of employment from the get-go. Giving Millennials a sense of purpose through meaningful work and projects that require a variety of skills has been shown to deter job-hopping.

A version of this was first published at

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Which Countries Have The Most Efficient Workers?

Are you opening work emails when you’re at home? Getting business updates on your iPhone when you’re out with the kids? Technological advances mean that when you clock out of the workplace, a huge chunk of your work can follow you home even when you are off the clock, whether that’s on your laptop, iPad or phone.

In the UK, there has been a dramatic rise in working hours, with the average employee working 32 hours per week, or 1,669 hours per year. But is working longer hours really the secret to more smarter workers and a more productive workforce? The answer is no.

Which Countries Have the Most Productive Workers?

Germany and France are two of the most productive countries, but they are also two of the countries with the fewest working hours. In Germany, the average employee works 1388 hours per year (or 26.6 hours per week) and in France the figure is only slightly higher with working hours totaling 1,489 per year (28.6 hours per week).

In contrast, Mexicans work the most hours, averaging 41.5 hours per week, which is a whopping 2,200 hours annually. South Korea isn’t far behind, with 2,100 hours worked annually per person (41.5 hours per week). Despite longer working hours, both countries fall short in term of productivity when compared to their German and French counterparts.

Even without taking productivity into account, studies have found that people who have fewer working hours are more loyal and suffer less stress and illness. Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that when working long hours, 27 percent of workers feel depressed, 34 percent feel anxious and a huge 58 percent feel irritable. We all know that unhappy employees result in unhappy employers. Work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year.

What Can Employers Learn from This?

If you want smarter employees, be a smarter employer. Overworking your staff will only lead to burn-outs, rock-bottom company work culture and a drop in your profit margins. Aim to have your employees working smarter, instead of longer. How do you do that?

Prioritize and Organize

Prioritization and organization is essential for smarter working. Be ruthless about what tasks need to be completed immediately and which ones can wait until later in the week. Giving all tasks equal priority will lead to attempts at multi-tasking. Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert, has scientifically proven that the brain cannot efficiently switch between tasks. Consequently, tasks take longer, the quality of work is lower, and you’ll probably not retain much information, meaning subsequent tasks will also suffer. Smarter workers are the ones who focus on each task individually

Delegate Tasks and Train Staff

One of the most common mistakes made by employers and managers is trying to do everything by themselves. Work out which tasks don’t make it to the top of your priority list and train your staff to do them for you. Training your staff will pay off in the long run. Ensuring that staff can effectively carry out tasks to the standard that you desire will keep your company working like a well-oiled machine. Delegating “important” tasks to other members of the workforce also shows your trust in them, making it a great way to boost morale.

Work/Life Balance

The ultimate secret to having smarter workers is to make sure that they are finding a good balance between working and enjoying their free time. There are plenty of critics of work/life balance, but many of them also suggest allocating time for when you won’t log on to work emails or answer the phone.

Employees who don’t have romantic evenings with their other half and weekends at the park with their kids interrupted by phone calls from the office will be much more productive when they are working. Blurring the lines between work and life makes it difficult for employees to focus on their work, even when they’re in the office. As an employer, offering incentives and supporting employees in their passions and interests can be just the ticket to achieving that balance.

Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He is currently running the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical. Follow Ron on Twitter at @jobs4medical.

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Survival Tips for HR Departments of One

Written by Donna Rogers, SPHR

My HR career began in corporate training more than 22 years ago. Our department included three trainers and a coordinator. We reported to an HR director with responsibility for multiple functions — payroll, employment, compensation, policies & procedures, and more. It was definitely not an HR department of one.

However, after several years there and at another large corporation, I downsized dramatically into exactly that — an HR department of one. Me, myself, and I. “We” worked for the greater good of two small family-run companies; the first had 130 employees, and several years later I moved to an organization with 150 employees. Both were in the manufacturing sector, although my corporate experience had been in financial services.

Boy, were those positions different from my big-company background! However, my corporate experience helped me bring professionalism and thoughtfully designed programs to those smaller organizations. And not surprisingly, I continued to learn, even as I found ways to implement HR best practices without the luxury of an HR staff.

Are you looking for guidance as a one-person HR department? Here are 4 key lessons from my past:

4 Tips For HR Departments of One

1) Assess The Territory
It’s essential to get to know the management team and staff as deeply and quickly as possible. My first step was to schedule meetings with each division head and anyone else involved in the process of hiring, firing, and performance management. I created an agenda for each meeting, and I focused not just on gathering situational intelligence, but also on sharing my expectations and asking for ideas about how I could help meet organizational goals. These sessions don’t need to be formal; however, they should reveal enough insights for you to prepare a mini HR needs assessment.

2) Create A Roadmap
Your needs assessment can be your guide, as you write a project plan that prioritizes everything you need to accomplish — including ideas gleaned from the management team. Once I had this plan in place, I had the ability to gain management buy-in — and then there was no stopping me from moving forward to reach my goals. Until, of course, reality struck when I discovered just how limited the budget would be.

3) Think Resourcefully
Financial constraints can put a tremendous crimp in your ability to implement effective HR programs. In my second position, I faced a double whammy. We were cash-strapped, and existing vendors were reluctant to extend credit because the company had a D- rating from Dun & Bradstreet and Standard and Poor’s. It was the first time I had to pay COD (cash on delivery) for anything in business. With a lack of financial resources, I tapped into my professional network instead. My industry connections were a huge asset, as I called upon them for advice and suggestions to overcome budget obstacles. And in those days “a call” was literally that – a “phone” call — almost unheard of these days with email, social media, and professional online groups available at our fingertips. However, even now, I believe that a quick call can be the fastest, most effective way to get things done.

4) Make Technology Your Friend
Of course, technology doesn’t stop with telephones. And the most important thing you can do as an HR Department of One is to rely upon technology to help you work more efficiently. Implementing a solid HRIS (Human Resources Information System) can save hours — sometimes days — when generating management reports, tracking compliance, developing HR plans and conducting program analysis. Also, if cost is an issue (or even when it’s not) you can easily leverage social media for multiple purposes. For example, low-cost social survey tools help you instantly gather feedback from employees about job satisfaction. Social channels also offer a wide variety of career-related destinations and communities where you can drive recruitment that positions your organization as a talent acquisition leader.

These days, I’m one of the resources that HR departments of one rely upon for advice and assistance, when they don’t have the time or expertise to perform those services, themselves. I’m here to help fill essential gaps — whether it’s providing an objective opinion about staffing issues, mapping out a new program, or providing regulatory guidance as an alternative to costly attorneys or full-service consulting firms. For example, I’ve worked side-by-side with Dave Ryan to help him accomplish HR goals at Mel-O-Cream Donuts.

It’s rewarding to work in this capacity. Having operated in my clients’ role previously, I understand what they are going through. I can suggest solutions that I know will make their job easier. I can recommend no-cost/low-cost resources. And I can show them a better way to help HR support business objectives. It advances their company’s mission, and at the same time, it advances the practice of HR.

What do you think about the future of HR departments? Are companies likely to rely more heavily on these decentralized models? Is that a smart trend for business? And what does it mean for those of us who are HR professionals? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

DonnaRogers(About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR, instructor of management at University of Illinois Springfield, and owner of Rogers HR Consulting. She has a Masters in Human Resources Development from UIUC, a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from ISU. Her firm is an HRCI Pre-Approved Provider and Small Business of the Year award winner. She earned the HR Professional of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award from CIC-SHRM. She regularly delivers numerous presentations among professional groups, previously taught at Robert Morris College and has guest lectured at Benedictine University. She also serves her HR professional peers as a North Central Region – Membership Advisory Committee Representative, and is the Past Director for the Illinois State Council of SHRM. Connect with Donna on Twitter or LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, and anytime at our ongoing Twitter conversation. Learn more…)

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HR Rock Stars & Business Speed: #TChat Preview

Few companies understand the value of going slow to go fast, especially in today’s inter-connected, always-on workplace. So we’re told to pick up the pace, not slow things down, to move at the speed of business. HR is often chided for not moving fast enough, especially in the recruiting and hiring process.

Here at TalentCulture World of Work, however, I wonder about the wisdom of trying to force speed across large, complex organizations comprising individuals with different skills, intellectual abilities, interests and value systems. Do the “5 Ways to Rock Star HR Leadership” require us to move as fast as the rock stars on radio live? My guess is probably not.

Then there’s the employee handbook side of things, where processes and policies are written down, ostensibly to add structure, but really to limit risk. Most adults are self-regulating creatures. Maybe 5 to 10 percent can’t manage their time well, but that small percentage forces a load of policy and process on the rest of the group. We’d argue that the more policy you have, the less trust and productivity you’ll have, but no doubt some will disagree.

So this week we’re going to look at speed — the speed of business, what HR can do to pick up the pace, and the role of metrics, measurement, technology and process in speeding up HR. Here are our questions for this week’s #TChat forum:

Q1: What exactly is the “speed of business” Why do we penalize HR for not moving at it?

Q2: “If it wasn’t for those pesky humans”: Why do we need HR to regulate ourselves?

Q3: How can leadership (including HR) help reduce need to self-regulate & create cultures of trust & productivity?

Q4: What metrics should leadership (including HR) focus on to move at the speed of business & why?

Q5: Tech only moves @ the speed of biz if humans do too, so what kind of tech helps us meet in the middle?

So if you’re into speed, or even  if you’re built for comfort, not for speed, join us Wednesday night, Oct. 10, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) to talk about what (if anything) is needed to bring HR up to the speed of business. Yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) will be your moderator. Joining us, too, will be Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman), the rest of the #TChat posse, and you. Fast or slow, innovator or laggard, please weigh in on our discussion. We look forward to chatting.

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