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The Employee Retention Secret? Simplicity.

Innovation Expert and Founder of FutureThink, Lisa Bodell, shares a no-brainer trend in employee retention that you can’t afford to miss.

How much of your day is spent sitting in meetings or drowning in emails? What if you – and your team – could get time back for more meaningful work? You know, the work you were hired to do, but you never seem to get to do, because you’re…. on a Zoom call?

Simplifying work isn’t just nice to do, it’s a strategic and cultural imperative. Here’s why:

  • 75% of employees describe their work as ‘complex’ or ‘very complex’
  • 70% of CEOs identified complexity as their #1 strategic concern
  • 72% of people’s days are spent in meetings or doing emails
  • 80% of people say they don’t have enough time to think

Even the most innovative companies struggle with it. But they’ve quickly recognized that their teams can’t afford to operate with complexity anymore. That’s why so many leaders have announced org-wide simplification initiatives to eliminate unnecessary work, improve morale, and gain strategic advantages:

  • Google: In July 2022, Google announced its first Simplicity Sprint, which aims for “better results in less time.” According to CEO Sundar Pichai, Simplicity Sprints help employees work with increased clarity and efficiency; identifying which speed bumps could be removed for better, faster results. This fresh approach also helps with eliminating waste and improving morale.
  • Netflix:  Netflix launched a redesign effort to drastically improve meeting efficiency, resulting in a tightly controlled meeting protocol. Meetings can’t exceed 30 minutes. Further, meetings for one-way information sharing must be canceled in favor of other communication approaches such as a memo, podcast, or vlog. Two-way information sharing during meetings is limited by having attendees review materials in advance, replacing presentations with Q&As. Data shows Netflix has been able to reduce the number of meetings by more than 65 percent, and more than 85 percent of employees favor the approach.
  • Pfizer:  Pfizer’s leadership has endorsed Simplification Champions to help teams globally reduce wasted time and effort, thus eliminating unnecessary processes and questioning work rules that no longer serve a purpose.

Simplification isn’t just an efficiency exercise for these organizations. It’s a behavior woven into the corporate culture, mandated from the top, and embraced at all levels. At these companies, and hundreds of others, simplification is a key driver in not just saving money, but in driving innovation and retaining talent. Think about it: how can teams innovate if they’re consumed with low value work? How can you retain employees who are continually doing mundane tasks that add no value? How can you compete if you can’t prioritize time towards what’s important vs. what’s urgent? Raising the awareness around the critical advantages killing complexity is the #1 winning strategy for 2023. From working with companies for over two decades to steer their teams towards simplifying, I’ve learned dozens of foolproof techniques that ignite simplification immediately. Here are my favorites:

1. Kill Stupid Rules

If you could kill or change ANY two rules at work that hold you back from being more effective, what would you kill? Amazingly, when we do this exercise with teams, they quickly come up with dozens of rules, processes, assumptions, and norms that get in the way of better work. And they usually can agree on a handful of things to get rid of immediately, saving hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

 2. Stop It

Make STOPPING things part of your strategic planning process. Don’t just ask people what they plan to DO next year, but also ask them to commit to what they’ll STOP doing so they can achieve their goals. This sends a signal that stopping things is just as important as starting things.

3. Go on a Time Diet

COVID made us rethink the way that we work and how we spend our time. For many of us, we realized that much of our time is wasted. So, take your time back. 30 is the new 60 as they say. Look at your meetings and see where you can experiment cutting back and paring down. This forces people to focus and not waste your most valuable asset: time.

4. Eliminate Zombie Meetings

You know those recurring meetings that no longer serve a purpose or have outlived their time? Those are ‘zombie’ meetings. At the beginning of each year, delete all recurring ‘zombie’ meetings from the team calendar. This forces people to think about 1) is the meeting still necessary?, 2) if so, how long does it really need to be? 3) who really needs to be there, and 4) could we reduce the frequency to be more efficient?

5. Run a Work Hack

People on your team are already using workarounds for ill thought out, one-size-fits-all processes – but they don’t share their hacks because…. they think they’re cheating. Ask people for their ideas to improve a process people hate – and learn how others already have ways to take steps out of the system that you’ll never miss when they’re gone.

And you know what’s the best part about simplifying? The ROI is immediate. It saves time, money, and headaches, just because you asked people to identify what gets in their way – and empowered them to get rid of it.

As you consider what’s important for leaders and teams to embrace in 2023, add simplification to the agenda. You’ll be ensuring that your org’s not just productive but full of energized teams that enjoy how they spend their time.

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