Process is our Product


Ah! Yeah. It’s just we’re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great.

Any organization can be evaluated with regard to how they treat their employees in a whole bunch of different ways. After 15 years working in both civil service and academia, I have learned that one of the key ways to figure out how a company treats their employees is to look at their daily systems. How is travel handled? What about the reporting of hours? Reimbursements?

An employer, whether the federal government or academia or industry, is as good as how they treat their employees. And that treatment is reflected in these systems. Are these systems set up to help their employees or make things harder in order to somehow “protect” someone from getting in trouble?

I have worked many places and they have had a variety of systems in place for the daily regiment of reporting. Some were incredibly easy. For example, I worked one place (a place that was pretty travel intensive) that had a specific person assigned to the group to process travel. I will never forget meeting her. On the first day we met, we discussed my first trip for the company. I asked how to process the reimbursement. What this God-send of a creature said to me is something I will never forget: “You are paid a lot of money to be a scientist. I am paid a lot of money to handle the processing of your travel. Let me help you do your job by doing mine.” Wow. Just wow.

I compare that with another former employer who used and outdated online travel system for which they were too cheap to buy the add ons. Instead, it was up to the workers to figure the system out with no training. Paper pushers repeated harped on them and denied reimbursements for having “done it wrong.” People lived in constant and regular hatred for the system, the processors, and thus their work environment.

What people work with on a day to day basis is what sets their tone for an entire work environment. It seems obvious to say, but if those systems make it seamless for them to work, they will get their work done. Their happiness and productivity will, therefore, not be a product of angst towards their daily work, but a result of other, less tangible things. This is low-hanging fruit for management. Make your workplace a space where people want to work for you. As a manager, you are the only one who can control this.

And while we are at it, managers have a responsibility to stand up for their employees in this way. Employees who regularly hear from their managers “these are just the rules, there is nothing I can do about it” are employees who will find other, stronger managers. Employees look for their boss to fly top cover for them…to make it easier to get their jobs done. If they regularly hear that this is not possible for their manager to do, then they learn that getting their work done is not a priority to their boss. Is that the message bosses want their subordinates to hear?

Written on June 25, 2017