‘who will account for will?’ – raising awareness of value creation through time gifted to orgainsations by employees

This post focus on the value of motivation, in relation to additional hours worked by employees in organisations. Through the contents of an article co-authored by Dr. David Griffiths, the late Dr. Rob Lewis, and myself a few years ago, I appeal to revive discussion on motivation, and HR’s awareness of value creation through voluntary and involuntary time gifted to an organisation by its employees. Clearly relevant to many employees and organsiations around us today. Raising important questions for managers and employers on whether they ‘value’ the motivation of their employees, and whether they know how much their people gift to the organisation every week. Possibly, they are just consciously blind to the pressure being placed on employees, and the subsequent impact on well-being, health and productivity.

It also allows me to signpost to a fantastic new project, the Good Life + Work Project by Dr David Griffiths, HUMAN FACTOR ONE, via his websiteFacebookTwitter and Instagram on 1st February 2020.

Good Life Work Project

Talent in a VUCA world

Organisations rely on talent to compete in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) operating conditions, where talent provides the knowledge, skills and experience that allow an organisation to adapt to change. However the value of talent is underpinned by motivation, which is often not explicitly accounted for by HR.

More than this, organisations are vulnerable to talent loss, where employees feel compelled to work too many additional hours, which has serious health and wellbeing implications.

Our article ‘who will account for will?’ introduces a means to raise awareness of the value of motivation, using a Value Awareness Matrix and a Talent Proposition of the Minimum. The latter is designed highlight human will as a limiting resource, related to an organisation’s ability to sense, react to and anticipate change in VUCA operating conditions.

The research utilises survey responses, from two United Kingdom offices within two separate multinational organisations. We demonstrate that the motivation to carry out additional work, beyond accepted contracted hours, is too often not considered by line managers and is severely undervalued – in one of our case organisations motivation is undervalued by over £1 million.

Such a critical undervaluation of talent demonstrates that companies are vulnerable to unintended consequences from their actions, which could impact the value and sustainability of the organisation.

“who will account for will?” (Griffiths, Lewis & Healey-Benson, 2016), University Forum for Human Resource Development, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, June 8-10th 2016.

1. Introduction

In today’s world of work people are contributing or gifting organisations additional hours of work beyond their contracted hours or preferred extent of commitment.

Such a gift of time can be volunteered on the part of the individual or compelled by the organisation. In either case, there can be positive outcomes, for example, increased productivity, or negative outcomes, such as burnout and related mental health issues.

We have explored the value of this gift of time to the organisation, as well as the motivation that is involved in such environments. We present a Value Awareness Matrix for consideration by Productivity, and Human Resource Management and Development practitioners.

Our discussion considers talent value, as well as the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of talent as a key part of an organisation’ s ongoing adaptive capability.

Our findings are tested in two pharmaceutical organisations in the United Kingdom. We find substantial evidence to suggest that additional working hours are undervalued in organisations and that motivation, particularly the consequences of in/voluntary action, is not considered by line managers as a governing performance variable.

2. What the literature says about motivation

Our discussion focuses on motivation, specifically the notion of human will, and its relevance to value creation in relation to the giving of additional work hours beyond formally contracted expectations.

We recognise this to be a difficult concept to tackle, especially considering motivation from the perspective of a level of willingness to gift labour “beyond what is reasonably required to meet the expectations of colleagues or organisational demands” (Scott et al. 1997, p. 289), which can be difficult to quantify, in terms of value creation.

However, acknowledging these complexities, we bring focus to the types of motivation (human will) at play in organisations, and what this means in terms of value creation, and the availability of people to the organisation, as the agents for value creation. We explore a definition of human will later, but we will first clarify the context for our discussion.

Our core argument is that the value of talent, and the links of such value to motivation, needs to be better understood, by employees, line managers, HR Development professionals and leaders within organisations.

Fundamentally, we argue that value of talent is driven by the motivation, or will, of the individual, to contribute to improving variables such as safety, quality, cost, time, experiences and innovation within organisations.

Furthermore, to not understand the link between motivation and value creation will have a negative impact upon an organisation’s ability to compete in what has been described as the war for talent (Hesketh, 2014). Consequently, this can hinder competitive advantage creation in the long term, which we will go on to explain. 

It is therefore disappointing to report that such motivation, in the wider context of talent in organisations, is often not accounted for: “we still understand little about the value of this ‘most important’ asset [talent]“ (Hesketh, 2014, p. 7).

To better understand value creation, it is necessary to understand the context within which value is being created.

Today, organisations transact in a Knowledge Economy, driven by talent (Morgan, 2014); the Knowledge Economy is an age of people, where talent exists as the key to sustainable competitive advantage (Hesketh, 2014).

The ability to acquire, share, use and create knowledge through learning is of paramount importance to organisations seeking to gain and sustain competitive advantage (Morgan, 2014). And talent is being challenged to continuously learn in order to develop adaptive capability, agility or resilience at individual, team, organisational and societal levels (Chartered Management Institute, 2014). Such agility and resilience is required because organisations are experiencing Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) operating conditions.

VUCA environments exist due to the high level of ambiguity between variables (e.g. the link between technology and innovation) that impact an organisation’s strategy and tactics; the outcome being a continuous state of flux. For example, the actions of highly networked stakeholders will continuously influence an organisation’s internal and external operating conditions (Taleb, 2014).

VUCA environments also drive organisations to continuously improve performance with less resource, which can lead to stress and duress on the part of an organisation’s employees (Cappelli, 2015). 

Constant change puts pressure on talent and, as such, their ability to continuously develop sustainable competitive advantage or the development of products and/or services. Such conditions brings emphasis upon the motivation of an organisation’s employees to rapidly sense, and adapt to, fast changing environments in order to create longterm competitive advantage and value for organisations (Morgan, 2014).

Our concern is that this talent is under-appreciated.

2.1 Working hours & motivation

Our claim for talent being under appreciated finds support, where, in the United Kingdom, workers are generally engaged for 38.5 paid hours per week. However, such people tend to work 46.2 hours, gifting their organisations 7.6 hours of their time (Office of National Statistics, 2014). “They [professionals working unpaid overtime] do not benefit financially from working long hours, but are often under greater pressure to do so as the economy recovers and the labour market tightens;” thus seeing such contribution as a necessity for job security (Trade Union Congress, cited in Sky News, 2015).

Another aspect of the problem is that people are distracted from tasks critical to their role by collaboration tasks. Productivity suffers and “they take assignments home and soon, according to a large body of evidence on stress, burnout and turnover become risks” (Cross et al., 2016, p. 76).

Productivity is of particular interest when considering statistics that indicate companies are producing more with less (value rich, but job poor), where fewer people being required to do more with their time could impact the ability of an organisation to recruit and retain talent (Cross et al., 2016). 

Simply put, people can find themselves under pressure to do more with their time, which results in additional work beyond the expected contracted hours – where working time is no longer considered as clocked hours. 

Doing “more with less” can result in expensive problems, for example Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Chief Financial Officer stated that staff turnover was seen as “dreadful”, with 71% of 44,0000 employees complained that their jobs interfered with their personal lives (Colby, 2016). Inevitably, this leads to concerns related to motivation, talent retention and the ability of the organisation to maintain value and competitive position in the longterm.

Worryingly, a body of evidence indicates increasing pressure upon employees to provide such hours at no cost: “In a snapshot survey of 1,000 [Institute for Leadership and Management] members, 94% admitted to working beyond their contracted hours each week, with…65% reportedly feeling pressure from their organisation to do so” (Aspire, 2014). 

Expressions of feelings of pressure led us to consider the value of the additional time gifted to an organisation. To not have such awareness could put an individual and/or organisation at risk, where, as per Cross et al. (2016), people under such pressures could burnout and leave, taking with them critical capability (e.g. skills that allow an organisation to adapt in VUCA conditions), thereby having a negative impact on an organisation’s longterm viability.

We also recognise that causality, the willingness of an individual to gift additional hours (e.g. new employees looking to prove themselves or workaholism (Magee, 2014)), is beyond this discussion, but should be considered by those interested in the outputs of this article.

2.2 Accounting frameworks & motivation

Progressing, we need to understand how talent creates value from a business accounting perspective, which leads to the International Integrated Reporting Framework (IRF) (International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), 2014).

The IRF is utilised by over 500 firms such as BASF, Coca Cola and Deloitte (IIRC, 2014). The consensus of experts, such as the HSBC Group Chief Accounting Officer, is that the framework will become established globally (Grey, 2015).

The IRF, “…show[s] a holistic picture of the combination, interrelatedness and dependencies between the factors that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over time” (IIRC, 2014, p. 16). The IRF achieves the understanding of value over time through six Capitals that contribute to an organisation’s market value: manufactured, financial, environment, human, social and intellectual; the last three being of most interest to this discussion. Human Capital (HC) relates to “people’s competencies, capabilities and experience….loyalties and motivations for improving processes, goods and services, including their ability to lead, manage and collaborate” (p. 12). Our argument being that “loyalties and motivations” are linked to human will.

HC also drives a commitment to continuous improvement, which requires an understanding of strategy and an ability to manage, lead and collaborate as necessary. Collaboration leads to Social Capital, linking the motivation at an individual level to community outcomes (IIRC, 2014); this emphasises the point made by Cross et al. (2016), being the importance of collaborative capability in an organisation, which increases demand upon an individual’s time. Here the organisation should be interested in “the relationships within and between communities, groups of stakeholders and other networks, and the ability to share information to enhance individual and collective well-being” (IIRC, 2014, p. 12).

It therefore seems logical to consider that leaders and managers should expand awareness of motivation as a contributor to an organisation’s license to operate, considering both benefits to productivity, as well as risks to long term sustainability created by a lack of consideration for the health and wellbeing of talent.

There is a vast body of literature exploring the link between talent and Organisational performance. The ultimate aim of this body of work has been to prove what most of us instinctively already know to be true: that there is a positive relationship between the ways in which we manage our people and their capacity to drive the performance of the companies for which they work (Hesketh, 2014, p. 9).

Such thinking requires consideration of the variables linked to the management of positive motivation and value creation. There are alternative directions our discussion could take here (e.g. Work-Life Balance), but we were drawn to the notion of loyalty and motivation, as discussed by IIRC (2014), Hesketh (2014) and Morgan (2014).

Loyalty and motivation led us to consider human will as a variable that governs the actions of an individual, or agent, within complex organisational communities (Reeves et al., 2016).

Furthermore, we wanted to understand the potential for positive or negative outcomes according to the type of human will stimulated by organisational leaders and managers. These considerations are further supported by studies looking at purpose led organisations, where prosperity is linked to a positive social purpose: “it’s all very well trying to enthuse somebody about the corporate mission, but if that’s about improving earnings per share, then motivation can hit a glass ceiling” (Rock, 2016, p. 31). This position is supported by Pfeffer and Veiga (2001), who stated that the free contribution of employee’s mental or physical effort is critical to value creation.

Therefore, we posit that human will, when given freely, is a force for positive value creation for the organisation. We also posit that human will, when not freely given, can lead to dissatisfaction, which can have a negative impact on individual and social value creation. 

Our position is supported by Cross et al. (2016), who found that the over utilisation of people in organisations can increase apathy across teams, creating a negative impact on quality, time and cost. As an example, Amazon believe a disaffected employee has the potential to cost the business between $50,000 and $5000,000 (Anderson, 2014).

In progressing our thinking, we conducted an online narrative overview of the literature, in order to present a broad understanding of the concept of human will (Green et al., 2006), which provides “an excellent venue for presenting philosophical perspectives in a balanced manner” (Green et al., 2006, p. 103).

Using Google and Google Scholar search engines, we asked, “how does human will impact organisations?” – this included search terms such as “employee free will” and “motivation and free will in organisations”. We included expert blogs, as well as professional and peer reviewed journals. We contrasted these against student papers and non-expert opinion to overcome the potential for the “curse of knowledge,” where expert discussion could miss taken-for-granted knowledge, which contributes to incomplete and therefore insecure knowledge (Hattie and Yates, 2014). 

Reviewing 50 returns, we discovered that 31 of 50 sources cited Aristotle as a founding influence for the concept of human will; leading us to surmise that Aristotle would provide a credible platform from which to explore human will in organisations.

We note that philosophy, in the context of organisations, can bring people to defend entrenched positions according to their view of the world (Abbott, 2001). We have therefore taken a pragmatic approach, where we draw logical inferences from founding literature by positioning the discussion in the context of today’s talent-led knowledge economy. Our underpinning belief being that productivity and longterm competitive advantage is partially governed by the will of an individual, as an agent within an organisational community (Reeves et al., 2016).

2.3 Theoretical considerations

Aristotle proposes two types of human actions, hekousion and akousion, which, though there is debate on the translation, are seen as willing (voluntary) and unwilling (involuntary) (Hughes, 2001).

When considering additional time gifted to an organisation, it suggests people can either give such time freely or they can feel compelled to give such time. “Voluntary action begins with the agent, while the ‘origin’ of compulsory action…’is from the outside’” (Greenspan, 2008, p. 84). Also, Aristotle does not consider an act to be involuntary unless it is painful to a person or causes regret (Sauve Mayer, 2008).

The notion of voluntary and involuntary action is already considered within HR literature, for example McGregor’s (1960) theory X (the unwilling worker) and theory Y (the willing worker). We note wider philosophical discussion on the nature of involuntary action (e.g. whether an action is in error or through error (Enchenique, 2012)), which is an area steeped in debate and beyond the scope of our discussion.

However, even when volunteering an action a person can be acting in error, but be doing so through what Aristotle labels, “dia”, for example, “through an overwhelming passion” (Enchenique, 2012, p. 164). Therefore, a person could volunteer or gift additional time to an organisation, but their passion to do so could be in error. For example, such actions could lead to stress or burnout (Cross et al., 2016).

This suggests, even where time is volunteered, there is a need for organisations to monitor employee actions for potential unintended consequences (e.g. burnout or apathy).

We acknowledge our literature overview is subject to bias, related to what we seek to learn from the literature (Green et al., 2006). We therefore encourage other researchers to identify additional views that could challenge or compliment our work – for example, the philosophy related to error in actions created by sympathy (Enchenique, 2012). This said, we contend our overview provides a credible platform for research.

We went on to developed a Value Awareness Matrix. (VAM) to explore the gifting of time based on voluntary or involuntary actions, and the awareness of the value of an employee’s contribution of additional time (intentional or unintentional action) on the part of the organisation (see diagram below).

1. Consciously aware: A person volunteers time and the organisation has an awareness of the value of such time. Here an employee appears to be aligned with the organisation’s purpose and gifts time of their own free will. The organisation needs to continue to monitor the environment to protect against the gift of free will reaching a tipping point, from volunteering to involuntary, potentially producing pain and resentment.

2. Consciously blind: Here, the person is aligned with the purpose of the organisation and is gifting time of their own free will. However, the organisation lacks awareness of the value of this gift; they are aware of the additional time given, but it is taken for granted or undervalued. Here the organisation is vulnerable to changes that produce pain and resentment on the part of the employee.

3. Consciously task driven: A person feels compelled to give their time. The organisation, perhaps under productivity pressures, compels employees to give additional time to tasks required to fulfil their role. The Organisation is aware of the value of this time and therefore consciously accepts the risk of talent loss as being lesser than immediate productivity needs.

4. Unconsciously blind: A person feels compelled to give additional time, but the organisation is unaware of the consequences of the demands being placed upon employees or the value of such time. Such an organisation could struggle to develop longterm advantage in VUCA environments.

The value of motivation

2.5 Other HR-related issues

We realise our work prompts an exploration of wider HR issues linked to motivation, such as culture, management style or Work-Life-Balance (WLB).

However, while we see merit in such discussion, our focus remains on the contribution of additional time to the organisation; the value of such time, the impact according to the type of motivation at play (voluntary/involuntary); and the awareness of an organisation as to the value of such a contribution.

We also began to consider how much volunteered human will exists in a given organisation. This was stimulated, in part, by Capelli (2015), who, in discussing HR performance management, where motivation is a contributor to performance, stated: “HR should be…saying, ‘Here’s how we should be managing this task, and here’s the evidence behind that view’” (p. 59).

This led us to the measurement of human will as a variable for consideration when valuing the capability of human resources to continuously acquire, share, use and create knowledge.

Our view on measurement is one of a forward-looking learning and improvement process rather that a backward-looking declaration of trial or failure. Metrics and signals along the way tell you what’s work and what isn’t, where to recalibrate or ask more questions (Boudreau and Rice, 2015, p. 74)

To the point, we are asking HR professionals to consider the manner in which the availability of motivation, as a governing variable for value creation, is assessed and monitored in organisations.

We argue that the ability to sustain competitive advantage over time, and therefore value, is not constrained by the total resources held by an organisation, but by its limiting resource. This moves against the established view of HR analysis, which is generally interested in the total resource available within a system; for example, Knowles et al. (2015), in speaking of learning and HR Development, state: “What are all the resources in our system that are potentially available for the growth and development of people?” (p. 70).

However, if HR professionals were to view the organisation as an ecosystem, a position supported by Moore (1993), amongst others, such statements are incomplete. We argue that growth within organisational ecosystems is not governed by all the resources within the system, but by the scarcity of the limiting resource.

This can be explained using Sprengel-Liebig’s 1840 Law of the Minimum (Gorban et al., 2011), which, while originally developed to support crop growth, has been transferred to explain growth in ecosystems and the management of natural resources (Gundlach et al., 2007).

Sprengel-Liebig state “growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource” (Gundlach et al., 2007, p.83). We find this applicable and believe it can be used for the analysis of talent variables, where organisational productivity and sustainability is not determined by all the resources available within the system, but by the scarcity of the limiting resource (e.g. volunteered will).

Such logic is supported by Hattie and Yates (2014), who, in speaking of learning, the same conceptual area as Knowles et al. (2015), claim that “[people] are resource limited creatures [and] thinking uses up resources remarkably quickly” (p. 5).

Here, as set out in the IRF (IIRC, 2014), we are suggesting the ability of an organisation to adapt, grow and/or develop in a VUCA environment to be constrained by the motivation of employees to act when an organisation senses or anticipates change. 

For example, an organisation may have knowledge skills and experiences available within its total resource, but their scarcity and availability, when required in response to a changing environment, constrain its ability to sense and manage change at its boundaries (Reeves et al., 2016). 

In considering these positions, we developed a Talent Proposition of the Minimum to better explain the contribution of human will to organisations operating in VUCA conditions:

An organisation’s ability to adapt, sustain competitive advantage and value within VUCA environments, is not contingent on the total talent available at a given moment in time. Such ability is constrained by the scarcity of the limiting knowledge, skills, behaviours (e.g. motivation), and experience required when an organisation senses change and needs to act.

We are concerned that organisations are blind to the value being created by their staff and the consequences of over work, created when people feel compelled to work additional hours.

Our hope is that this proposition prompts organisations to assess levels of in/ voluntary will (motivation) – in doing so they can react and/or anticipate needs that could impact the future of the organisation.

Such an approach could allow HR to raise awareness across an organisation’s leadership and management cadre to increase understanding of the value of gifted time. This could also allow HR to sense levels of voluntary to involuntary actions, which could bring resentment and, ultimately, a loss of talent.

We progressed to test such levels of blindness in two multinational organisations, with offices in the United Kingdom. Our assertion being that a failure to consider human will, from the perspective of the individual and the manner in which an organisation manages talent, could have a significant impact on issues such as motivation, happiness and, ultimately the commitment of employees to the organisation. These being conditions that could lead to a decrease in the value of the organisation, in terms of the reporting of human, social and intellectual capital (IIRC, 2014).

3. Methodology

3.1 Access

We accessed to two pharmaceutical project management teams in the United Kingdom offices of two multinational pharmaceutical sector organisations, Organisation AB and Organisation XY. The lead researcher had acted as an advisor within both organisations, improving the potential for quick responses. Both organisations were chosen for convenience of access and their similarities of size, location and function.

3.2 Survey method

We chose a descriptive online survey method, as we were attempting to develop feedback against our beliefs. Descriptive surveys seek to report on the current views of a population as to ‘what’ a phenomenon is, or looks like. This compared to inferential surveys that attempt to determine relationships between variables as part of a reductionist method to determine cause and effect, which has been challenged in complex environments, which is the setting for this research (Burns and Bush, 2010):

“We knew that human behaviour was rarely if ever directly influenced or explained by an isolated variable; we knew that it was impossible to assume that any set of such variables was additive (with or without weighting); we knew that complex mathematics of the interaction among any set of variables was incomprehensible to us. In effect, although we knew they did not exist, we defined them into being” (Deutscher, 1970, p. 33)

We utilised Cochran’s (1977) eight-step survey method, indicated below, due to its clarity of approach.

• Determine the objectives of the survey

• Define the population

• Determine the data to be collected

• Determine the degree of precision required 

• Determine the survey format

• Divide the population into sampling units 

• Determine survey administration

• Summarise and analyse findings

In accordance with ethical guidelines set out by Baxter (2010) and Wang and Doong (2007), survey respondents received full disclosure of the nature of the survey, its intended use and the guarantee of anonymity within published findings.

We utilised a blended approach to the survey tool, exploring strength of feeling and explanatory data. Albaum (1997) finding that quantitative surveys look to acquire data on disposition (positive or negative) or strength of feeling towards a particular statement – the quantitative aspects of our survey utilised a five-point Likert scale, for example: very unhappy, unhappy, neither unhappy or happy; happy; very happy. Albaum (1997) also found there to be subjectivity in the intensity of a given response towards an extreme, point 1 or 5, and the subsequent marginal ratings of 2 or 4.

For example, the survey cannot explain why a respondent does not strongly agree with a statement, instead only choosing to agree. Albaum (1997) also posited that the conviction of a respondent towards a given statement is complex and difficult to capture, which is a weakness of a Likert approach, where it is not possible to determine how firmly a given attitude is actually held by the respondent.

We therefore do not comment on strength of feeling in our findings, only reporting on the frequency of response. Open-ended questions were asked in order to gain a greater depth of understanding of meaning from respondents (Wisker et al. 2003).

The survey tool, comprised of seven questions, was delivered to project staff (manager and coordinators), using Survey Monkey. Five questions used a five-point Likert scale and two used open responses.

A second survey was developed for line managers, focused on performance perceptions related to their direct reports. This latter survey mirrored the questions for project staff and both question sets are discussed in the data analysis section. Question sets were piloted to test language structure and coherence (Wang and Doong, 2007).

In the pilot we used a sample group of five project staff and three project managers from a separate location in Organisation AB, and three project staff and three line managers from a separate location in Organisation XY. Wang and Doong (2007) recommend surveys be piloted in their online format as well as a paper version, their rationale being that the two different mediums might provide differing results. We did this and no differences were found.

3.3 Data collection

No changes were required as a result of the pilot and the survey was live for a period of 15 business days. Our sampling strategy allowed for 100% engagement with all project staff and line managers from both organisations.

The survey was sent to 81 project staff and 11 line managers in Organisation AB; this produced 60 responses from project staff and 4 from line managers. In Organisation XY, the survey was sent to 63 project staff and 8 line managers, producing 48 responses from project staff and 7 line managers.

The response rate from project staff in Organisation AB produces a 95% confidence level, with a 6% confidence interval. In Organisation XY the response rate produces a 95% confidence level, with a 7% confidence interval.

Demographic data collected included sex, age, role, time in post, years of industry experience and time with the organisation.

To assist in developing value statements we contacted Human Resources in both organisations for details on the average hourly wage for project staff and their line managers. Organisation AB reported an average of £11.27 for project staff and £15.71 for line mangers. Organisation XY reported £10.55 for project staff and £16.02 for line managers.

4. Findings and discussion

The following analysis presents the data analysis according to the question or statement posed in the survey.

According to your last appraisal how did you perform: fall below/meet/exceed expectation?

This data was collected to explore the relationship between performance, additional time given to a role and in itself is not significant to this research.

Typically, how many hours do you need to work, beyond what you consider to be your contracted hours, to fulfil the weekly tasks associated with your role?

The median number of hours reported by project staff in organisation AB was 6.25 (rounded to the nearest quarter hour), while Organisation XY reported 4.75. We did not identify any correlation between performance and the number of additional hours worked. However, when isolating responses for staff with 5 or more years experience, the median increased by 1 hour in both organisations.

This potentially suggests that more experienced staff have a higher workload, which supports Cross et al.’s (2015) findings, where more experienced workers can find their time taxed due to their level of experience and the need of others to collaborate with them to solve problems.

Regardless of how we analysed the data, additional hours reported by respondents fell below those reported by the Office of National Statistics (2014), introduced earlier. This is perhaps of little consequence, but is reported as an observation.

The median additional hours of all project staff result in £5,705 of additional work being gifted on a weekly basis in Organisation AB or £285,250 per annum (based on 50 operational weeks).

In Organisation XY this translated to a gift of £3,157 per week or £157,850 per annum. This data is from a single location within a multinational organisation, which limits the findings. For example, Organisation AB employs a total of over 500 project staff globally, which, if our findings are consistent across locations, results in a weekly gift of £35,218 or £1,760,937 per annum. We argue this to be significant and, therefore, variables that influence the giving of such a gift should be considered worthy of ongoing monitoring and measurement.

Of interest, managers in both organisations estimated that, in general, project staff were only gifting 2 hours a week. This demonstrates a significant lack of awareness in relation to the contribution of their staff to organisational outputs. Line manager perception of value creation in Organisation AB at £1825 per week or £91,250 per annum, a perception gap of £194,000.

This is significant which, if consistent across the organisation, results in line managers undervaluing the contribution of project staff by £1,197,437. Reflecting upon our VAM, such findings lead us to consider Organisation AB to be “Unconsciously Blind”.

We expected to see a bias toward a higher contribution of additional hours from new entrants to the sector. But, when isolating the data for respondents aged 21-25, time in post under 2 years and industry experience under 2 years, we could not find any data to support such assumptions.

We also looked for indicators that linked additional hours to performance appraisal; for example high performers giving more time to an organisation or low performers giving less time to an organisation. However, the data present a relationship between additional hours worked and performance.

In general, taking into account a typical week, how efficient are you at completing the tasks expected of you (in other words, how good are you at managing your own time)?

Project staff in both organisations generally considered themselves to be “efficient” or “very efficient” (83% in Organisation AB and 84% in Organisation XY). We again looked for a potential relationship between performance and efficiency, but were unable to report anything of significance.

There was agreement with managers in both organisations, who, without exception, stated that their staff were “efficient” or “very efficient”. This suggests that any additional hours required to fulfil tasks within a given role are required to achieve agreed outcomes and are not being driven by staff inefficiency. Our assumption being that the agreement between staff and managers as to the level of efficiency suggests that, in the main, additional working hours are being gifted to the organisation (i.e. they are not due to personal inefficiencies, where tasks could be completed in less time).

We argue that this constitutes an added value contribution on the part of the staff member. Furthermore, we argue that wider awareness of such added value needs to be enhance by quantifying, reporting and recognising the contribution of staff. By engaging employees in this process we believe it to be possible to sense the level of volunteered human will and its impact upon the organisation’s ability to continuously adapt in a VUCA environment, as set out in our Talent Proposition of the Minimum. Such data could also be used to better anticipate performance related issues, as well as improving talent management systems and processes.

What is the single most significant thing (e.g. a person/structure/process) that negatively impacts your efficiency?

Both organisations use the same Information Technology system, provided by one of the world’s leading providers. In Organisation AB 44 of 60 staff cited technology as a barrier to efficiency, for example: “you just can’t find anything” (respondent AB5) and “you have to contact the reason who [files] the information to find out where it is and that slows me down” (respondent AB11). In organisation XY 36 of 48 staff reported technology as a barrier to efficiency.

In a talent-led Knowledge Economy, it seems logical to consider that organisations must be interested in their IT infrastructure and how such infrastructure impacts staff productivity. Our research did not ask how much time was being lost to such barriers. Therefore, we can only speculate as to the positive impact IT improvements might have upon the release of time, a person’s perceived Work-Life-Balance and the potential for ensuring that voluntary actions do not become involuntary. For example, a one hour saving per week, less 30 days (6 weeks) annual leave, results in a saving of 46 hours. This is almost two full days across the course of a year.

In general, do you volunteer any time you identified in QX (it is something you do of your own free will) or do you feel compelled to give this time (it is something expected of you, something that you have to do)?

Within Organisation AB 50 of 60, with 100% of respondents aged 21-25, felt “compelled” or “highly compelled” to give extra time to the organisation. It was a similar situation in Organisation XY with 41 of 48 respondents, and 100% of respondents aged 21-25, stating the same feelings.

While we cannot comment on why other staff do not feel compelled to give time to the organisation, we do note that these respondents were all staff with higher levels of experience (five years or more in their role).

What is worthy of further enquiry is the link between the additional time given to an organisation, the feeling of being compelled to give time, and the apparent negative feeling toward existing IT provision.

There could be benefit here in conducting a cost/benefit analysis that probes the investment required to improve the efficiency/effectiveness of the IT infrastructure against data related to retention rates and recruitment and selection costs. Such an enquiry could be expanded to consider Anderson’s (2014) assertion that the cost to the business created by disaffected employees far surpasses the cost of remedial action, in this case potentially influenced with frustrations with IT infrastructure.

What is the value of any additional time identified in Qx? £x? [open question – managers only – quantify your response]

No line manager level respondents provided a quantifiable response and comments appear to demonstrate a gap between base level contribution of time by hourly rate, and manager level appreciation of the value of such time. “I haven’t thought about this. It’s part of doing the job really, isn’t it” (Respondent ABM3); “Not much” (Respondent XYM7); “The actual time isn’t that high. I would expect the actual value to be negligible” (Respondent XYM1); “not sure” (Respondent ABM4). Such responses are concerning, given the value of the time identified earlier in this section. This also reinforces our assertion that such an organisation, according to our VAM, is “Unconsciously Blind”.

Do you feel that any extra time you give to the organisation is valued?

In Organisation AB 4 of 5 staff reported that the organisation “highly undervalued” or “somewhat undervalued” the additional hours they contributed, none (zero) reported feeling such time was “highly valued”. In Organisation XY this number dropped to 3 in 5 feeling “highly undervalued” or “somewhat undervalued”, but 6, all with five years or more experience in their role, reported feeling as though the additional hours were “highly valued”.

The concerning statistic here is that, between the two organisations, 97 of 108 project staff feel that the additional hours they contribute to their organisations is undervalued. Given the gap reported between line manager perception of value and the actual value of project staff contributions reported in this analysis, we believe it reasonable to state that such organisations are vulnerable to talent loss.

Do you feel resentment (strong negative feelings) towards the organisation as a result of any additional hours you work?

In Organisation AB 36 of 60 project staff stated that they felt “resentful” or “somewhat resentful” toward the organisation. Considering that 48 reported that their additional contribution of hours was “highly undervalued” it would appear that some staff are gifting their time voluntarily.

Again, in Organisation XY 29 of 48 project staff reported feeling “resentful” or “somewhat resentful” toward the organisation. Such data has to be of interest and concern to HR professionals interested in talent retention in Knowledge Economy.

In such circumstances our Talent Proposition of the Minimum becomes important, where, if the HR team is not scanning the environment, as seems to be the case here, the organisation is vulnerable to resources being scarce at the time they are needed most, when sensing and reacting to change in VUCA environments. This could impact an organisation’s adaptive capability and, therefore, it’s ability to develop sustain competitive position.

How happy are you in your role?

What is interesting, and something that we cannot explain, is that 28 of the 36 respondents from Organisation AB and 22 of the 29 respondents from Organisation XY, who stated that they felt undervalued, stated that they were either “happy” or “very happy” in their role. Therefore the general feeling of being undervalued did not translate to a feeling of unhappiness with the work role.

We found this confusing and requires further research in order to better understand the divergence between a feeling of being undervalued and the level of happiness within the role.

We can speculate as to potential reasons, such as the level of alignment with the organisation’s purpose and values. Nevertheless, we do not believe such speculation to be helpful to this discussion.

What impact do the additional hours you work (identified in Qx) have upon your level of happiness?

Compounding the confusion brought about by responses to the previous question, of the 28 project staff who felt undervalued, but happy, in Organisation AB, 26 stated that the additional hours they work have a “negative” or “very negative” impact upon their happiness.

Similarly, in Organisation XY, of the 22 project staff who felt undervalued, but happy, 18 stated that the additional hours they work have a “negative” or “very negative” impact upon their level of happiness.

It is not possible to explain from our data the extent to which people feel undervalued, while also feeling happy and, at the same time, feeling their level of happiness is negatively impacted by the number of additional hours they work. We also did not gather data to explore the impact from any negative feeling (e.g. implications for cost, quality or time in relation to role outputs).

What we can suggest is that there is an issue with the way in which such time is valued within these organisations and staff feel that such conditions have a negative impact in a role within which they are generally happy.

We recognise the limitations of our research, where the enquiry is limited to a project management function within only two organisations within the United Kingdom. There are also issues in identifying confounding factors, such as management structure, Information Technology provision, culture, operating conditions, the influence of external conditions (e.g. operations within a liberal market economy) and labour market conditions. This leads us to conclude that, though the data is compelling, there is a need to gather more data to increase the depth of understanding and emergent concepts related to this theme.

This said, these descriptive findings appear to suggest that there is potentially a problem in recognising the value of talent in organisations, from the perspective of the added value contributed through additional hours worked, whether voluntary or involuntary.

There appears to be organisational blindness when it comes to the value that such hours create, which supports the findings of Hesketh (2014), in that organisations struggle to value their talent. Such blindness leaves the organisation vulnerable to unintended consequences, such as poor service delivery (Anderson, 2014) in relation to time, cost, quality and/or innovation, or work that impinges too heavily upon people’s personal lives (Colby, 2016). Such blindness can also have a negative impact on an organisation’s market value, where talent loss, or lack off alignment with purpose, can reduce adaptive capability and, therefore sustainable competitive advantage (IIRC).

This leads us to conclude the the Value Awareness Matrix (VAM), in conjunction with the proposition of the minimum, could be deployed to raise awareness of such problems within the HR function. With this being the case, we will continue to test our VAM and proposition of the minimum in a variety of contexts, as well as developing research to better explore causal relationships between voluntary/involuntary actions and value creation in organisations.

5. Conclusion

We set out to look at motivation, specifically human will, as a governing variable for sustainable competitive advantage in a talent-led knowledge economy in relation to additional hours worked by employees in organisations.

The potential for positive and negative impact of motivation upon talent and value led us to consider how such a resource is monitored and measured. Not satisfied with current approaches, and sensing a need to better frame discussion, monitoring and measurement of human will in organisations, we introduced a proposition of the minimum for further consideration by researchers and practitioners, as a means to gauge levels of limiting resources within an organisation’s talent pool.

Through an analysis of literature, we also produced a Value Awareness Matrix to assist researchers and practitioners in framing the contribution of human will in the context of an organisation. We set out to understand whether such time is conscripted or given freely (gifted) and whether managers and/or leaders engage with staff to understand and value such contributions?

In the case of the organisations in our study, the answer is clearly, no. More than this we found a significant perception gap, in relation to value creation within Organisation AB, of £1,197,437, which demonstrates the vulnerability of an organisation to talent loss due to a lack of understanding of the value contribution of employees. This emphasises a gap in understanding the costs and benefits of potential value derived form additional work time.

We set out to discover the motivation of employees to gift additional time to the organisation and the motivation for such a gift. Here we found that project staff in our organisations felt overwhelmingly compelled to gift such time. This has to be a concern for organisations, where research has warned of the negative impact disaffected workers can have upon an organisation.

We are not claiming that workers in our case organisations are disaffected, but we are certainly claiming that the data suggests our organisations are vulnerable to such outcomes. This can happen when line management has a general low level of awareness of costs and benefits associated with motivation.

Our findings appear to support the need for a framework to raise awareness of theses issues, as well as a proposition of the minimum to encourage a review of HR processes related to talent management and value creation.

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4 Replies to “‘who will account for will?’ – raising awareness of value creation through time gifted to orgainsations by employees”

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