The author is a JoongAng Ilbo Innovation Lab reporter.
Three hundred days have passed since companies with more than 300 employees implemented the new 52-hour workweek. Work-life balance has become a common phrase. The biggest concern of the companies is improving productivity. Many companies have removed partitions, provided areas for coffee and refreshment and now offer flexible or intensive work hours. Employees also want to work smartly. If work is inefficient, work-life balance is impossible.
The key is corporate culture. Corporate culture is not about holding an in-house concert or allowing shorts in the office but how work is done. Yet a report by the Korea Chamber of Commerce last year shows that the composite score for business operations in Korean companies was 45 out of 100. The problems that were revealed coincide with what workers complain about.
Communication is the primary issue. Smooth communication should not be confined to after-hour gatherings or workshops. Instead, employees should not hesitate to propose opinions or possible improvements and be free to ask questions to their bosses. Those in charge need to explain and instruct in clear and specific language. Workers feel skeptical as they waste time decoding ambiguous directions, such as “Do as you wish!” or “You know what to do!” and have to redo their work. An employee who works for a global company says he was ordered to draft a report, as it is a core concern of the executives. Yet he had to update it as many as 30 times as it was not approved — without any explanation. “I wonder what I was doing,” he said.
Meetings are also problematic. IT company Cisco’s survey shows that workers named meetings as the most inefficient use of work time. They use 37 percent of their work hours on meetings, and half of the time, they are engaged in inefficient discussion. Ideal meetings are short and concise. All participants need to attend meetings upon understanding the agenda and preparing basic ideas. Leaders should make decisions promptly through the meeting and get things in order. Meetings with unilateral orders are bad, but the worst are the meetings that lose direction, go adrift and get longer.
The innovative growth that the government emphasizes focuses on new industries and deregulations, but the fastest way to attain innovative growth would be innovation in day-to-day operations.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 27-28, Page 35