I was on a call with a prospect today, showing her how we can automate the process of generating a first draft of a Due Diligence Questionnaire. She uttered four words that have popped up with increasing frequency: "It's not my job." What's just as interesting is what followed, "but I have to do it." The difference between one's job and one's responsibilities are often hard to distinguish, particularly for one's colleagues.
It’s a common scenario - an employee is heads-down on an important project when an email pops up asking them to complete a 50% of a 200-question RFP by the end of the week. Or an account exec stops by their desk asking them to respond to a lengthy IT security questionnaire. While not directly in their job description, these extra tasks are a responsibility that fall to particular employees. However, constantly context shifting to these non-core tasks has real costs to productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. In this post we’ll look at the challenges employees face in taking on work outside their core roles, examine the costs, and discuss strategies to alleviate the burden.
The Challenges and Frustrations
Employees tasked with completing security questionnaires, RFPs, compliance audits and other non-core work face myriad challenges. First, while they generally have domain expertise in the subject area, they often lack specific expertise in crafting responses, making the work more difficult and time consuming. For example, an engineer used to designing products is now having to answer detailed questions about a product in a way that can be easily digested by a procurement department. (Here's a hint: when the employee asks, "What is an RFP?", you might consider having someone else help with the work!) Second, the frequent context switching between their core job responsibilities and these extra tasks reduces productivity and focus. Just as they get in a flow on high-value projects, they need to shift gears to comply with a procurement document, security questionnaire, or something else.
This "responsibility creep" outside their primary roles also breeds frustration and can engender feelings of exploitation. They may also feel their actual job duties are being neglected, which could impact their performance reviews, esteem within the organization, and create blockers for co-workers while simultaneously being saddled with more than they signed up for. When these non-core tasks consistently crop up, there is a general decline in employee satisfaction.
The Costs to the Business
It's not just employees who suffer. The business costs of having employees distracted by non-core tasks are very real. First, there is reduced productivity and focus on their core contributions. Every hour spent completing a questionnaire is an hour not spent on high-impact work. Second, more mistakes are made on unfamiliar tasks, reflecting poorly on the business. Next, general employee dissatisfaction breeds higher turnover as workers seek roles aligning better with their skills. Finally, time spent on tangential tasks means less time developing skills and experience in core strengths.
Strategies for Improvement
While non-core tasks will likely persist, strategies exist to alleviate the burden and focus employees on high-value work:
- Automate repetitive tasks where possible so employees can focus on critical thinking and analysis. Tools like RFP response software reduce the need for manual work.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities across teams so extra work is distributed fairly, not falling to just a few.
- Provide training and resources tailored to non-core tasks like compliance to make the work easier.
- If budgets allows, hire dedicated specialists for certain complex tasks rather than spreading them company-wide.
- Implement knowledge management practices so expertise gained is retained when employees switch assignments.
While non-core tasks may fall into an employee's responsibility, overburdening individuals breeds dissatisfaction, turnover, and reduced productivity. Implementing strategies like automation, training, and role clarity can allow workers to focus their skills on the highest-value responsibilities. With some adjustments, companies can unlock employees' full potential on core contributions. What non-core tasks are distracting your team? Think critically about how to streamline workflows and processes for greater productivity and satisfaction.