Productivity in a Pill “Just Add Water”

After working through the door on their first day, Facebook employees are productive within 45 minutes

Tim Campos, Facebook CIO


45-Minute employees

My first thought after reading this article was the old Warner Bros cartoon “Hare to the Stars” where the beloved Bugs Bunny attempts to prevent Marvin the Martian from blowing the earth. During the struggle Marvin uses his “instant martian pills” and to added water to them to create an instant army that pursues Bugs through the whole episode. While we can truly appreciate the humor in the cartoon, we can struggle to believe that in 45 minutes anybody can learn enough about your organization to become really productive, when they have had enough time to barely learn where his cube is, who his/her boss and coworkers are, where are the water cooler, coffee maker, and bathroom. By the time you have finished this elementary tasks, you’re way south of 2-3 hours (don’t even talk about 45 minutes).

I understand that Tim is only generalizing about one of the biggest challenges of a modern corporation which is the need to increase employee productivity, and that many executives use similar phrases to motivate employees, and to highlight how good their organizations are. On the other hand in a highly competitive culture such as the U.S. high technology industry, many other “less enlightened” HR managers may be put through the grinder because “their new hires are taking too long to become truly productive”. And they will be told just look at what Facebook is doing. 

It is simply not possible in real life.

The reality I assume that is sometime in between the lines. As you read the original article from Inc Magazine Campus highlights that there is a substantial pre-work done in order to facilitate the new employee on boarding process, and there lays one of the basis of Facebook process. New employees do not need to wait or chase around their manager and it team just to be set up with their computer, phone, and other business tools, but they are ready to be used the moment he/she walks into their job for the first time. At the same time I still have a challenge believing that in just 45 minutes any first line manager can get anyone up to speed on the team current projects, team members, organizational structure, and in a classical MBO culture discuss and agree about the employee’s tasks, resources, and goals. 

After more than 20 years in the high technology industry, many of those as a multinational manager, I have to assume that either the rest of the industry is sorely wrong, or that something else is going on that Tim is not disclosing. In order to inbound an employee that fast we can safely assume that the new hire has been required on his/her own time to attend a 2-3 day company, organization, division, and team introductory meetings. He should also have been informed about his/her role, responsibilities, goals, resources available to accomplish the objective, and the always dynamic ways of the corporate matrix organization. He/she needs to know who will they be interacting with in and outside his direct team, and who are the stakeholders (at a minimum).

What can you do as a manager to increase employee productivity?

In today’s U.S. multicultural organizations managers are challenged not only by the complexities of their own specific business tasks, but by the need to meet the needs and expectations of team members from different organizational and national cultures. Researchers have identified five cultural dimensions, and associated to these dimensions six preferred organizational structures, that influence the expectations of individuals within their organizations. These expectations are directly related to the employees satisfaction, and by extension to their actual productivity figures, and a 1% increase in employee satisfaction has been found to be related to over 2% increases in a company bottom line. 

While the objective of Tim is to show how quickly his employees can become productive, we need to understand that there is more in becoming part of an organization than just getting a computer and learning where the printer is. As a manager you may be facing the challenges of having to meet the performance goals of the organization, and to motivate employees from very diverse cultural and organizational backgrounds. As part of Itim International we can help you develop the right processes and methodologies that can address the needs of your employees and meet your operational goals. 

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The 45 Minute Onboarding Rule – Inc Magazine 

The Hofstede Center for Cultural Research

Itim International