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Efficiency in the workplace

In his twelfth blog, Ethan continues to write about experiences from his Business Officer Apprenticeship at Leeds East Academy:

In my last blog post, I discussed a number of topics and events that had occurred in the organisation. I reflected upon these events and how the changes helped me grow. In this week’s blog post I want to highlight the contrast in feeling after resuming my regular responsibilities. I also want to discuss the dangers of putting too much of an emphasis on efficiency; a characteristic that can often be traced to workers who have very specific tasks to complete.

After my experiences on reception and assisting with extra duties I was relieved to return to focusing solely on finance. I want to do my best to learn all the processes as quickly as I can. Due to my role as finance assistant, I often find myself with a one-track mind wanting to process all orders and invoices as quickly as possible focusing only on reducing my workload. I feel really good when I end up with nothing to process. However, I have found that there are risks in doing this.

In the January-February 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review, Roger L. Martin notes in his article on efficiency, “customers suffer in terms of product quality, which is threatened as the company reduces its investment in making improvements.” If I were to process 20 orders one after the other at a fast rate the likelihood of me getting one of them wrong would be high. Quality would be compromised and I would be left without an understanding of why I do what I do. It would be very easy for any employer including my own to give me a strict set of tasks with the most efficient method to do them. Although over time my development would be non-existent.

Fortunately, I work at a multi-academy trust that prioritises the staff body and their career development – whatever stage that might be at. Studying for my AAT Foundation in Accounting Certificate is challenging work, but it wholly compliments the variety of tasks I am faced with at work. This last week I passed my exam focusing on The Elements of Costing which has helped me understand budgets. My knowledge of using PSF accounting is also increasing. The finance manager talked me through how to reverse out a payment that was incorrectly posted and create a journal for this. Prior to resolving this problem, I did not understand what I should do. I was posed with a problem I didn’t know how to solve.

In the aforementioned Harvard Business Review article by Roger L. Martin he suggests that efficiency should be curbed, and resilience fostered. In order to foster resilience Martin suggests, “we should inject productive friction at the right times and in the right places to help build up the system’s resilience.” Friction such as the problem which I highlighted at the close of the previous paragraph, will lead us to learn new things. As a young staff member, I can see that the more I learn and put into practice that which I learn, the more valuable I will become.

Reading this article helps me to understand my role further. I am able to see clearly how my job requires efficiency yet provides me with opportunities to be resilient. I believe that resilience is needed in order to create long term efficiency and a key feature of this is the training of a company’s most valuable asset, the staff.



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