Since the 2008-9 recession many Canadian business professionals have been doing the work of 1.5-3 people. Companies downsized during that time and have never returned to staffing levels required to actually do the amount of work required. Add on the stress of the pandemic and employees have had enough. The recent “quiet quitting” is a response to the expectation of many companies that people continue working beyond their capacity.
Experts have for years said that Canadian companies need to improve their efficiency in order to remain competitive. We see articles and interviews with experts that bemoan the lack of improvement in Canadian productivity. While machinery and technology is one way to improve productivity, training workers to be more efficient in their current tasks is an often overlooked approach.
One area that this is apparent when you dig below the surface is the efficiency level of most business professionals in using the standard office software they are provided with by their company. Companies assume that just because IT loaded Microsoft Office on the corporate laptop that every employee knows how to use it efficiently. This is a myth. I see it every day in the training that I do.
Most users of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are self taught. Our school system does not teach them how to use these basic staples of corporate Canada. Users stumble through discovering functions as they go along. There is usually someone in the office who knows a little more about an app than others and they become the “go to” person whose work always gets interrupted with a question by others.
If you are that “go to” person, your productivity suffers because of the interruptions. During the pandemic this became more of a challenge because someone couldn’t just walk over to the “go to” person and ask a question.
What happens instead? Too many business professionals do things manually, like adding up figures on a calculator and typing the result into an Excel cell or spending minutes trying to line up two images in PowerPoint (don’t laugh, these examples happen every day). What could take a second or two takes dozens of seconds. Added up over a typical week across dozens of employees and the time wasted becomes apparent.
The obvious solution is to train users in how to efficiently and effectively use these tools. Why doesn’t this happen? IT and L&D think they already have this covered. They provide access to pre-recorded online learning through the company LMS, so that box is checked. Generic “everything in the software” online videos don’t provide business professionals with the focused practical training they need to make immediate improvements in the way they use these important business tools for their job.
What about YouTube? Sure, the solution is likely there. But how do you find it and how do you select the best video from the thousands that the search lists? How do you know if the person that posted the video is a real expert or just looking to get clicks? You might think you can rely on YouTube but you need to invest a fair amount of time figuring out where to look in order to make it an semi-efficient way to learn. This is time that overworked business professionals don’t have.
Why don’t companies provide the focused, practical training their staff needs? It would deliver an immediate improvement in efficiency. What I and others hear all the time is, “Our staff don’t have time for training!” This is so short-sighted. Investing 4-8 hours in learning how to use a tool they use every day more efficiently provides a huge ROI quickly. But companies would rather plow along using inefficient methods than benefit from the improvement in efficiency a focused practical training program can deliver. The reason their staff is too busy to take training is that they are less efficient than they could be. Giving them training will make them more efficient and they will have time to focus on more profitable tasks.
Low productivity is not visible in financial statements the way the expense for training is shown. When corporations focus so much on the quarterly financial reports they make decisions that get reflected in those numbers. The opportunities for increased revenue or cost savings that were missed due to not investing in training never show up in financial statements. I think this is a big reason that companies don’t invest in training the way they should.
Why doesn’t the government do something about this? They tried. The Canadian government introduced the annual Canada Training Credit that individuals can take advantage of. This annual credit of $250 can be used to take approved education that will improve efficiency and effectiveness. The government went around the companies and went directly to individuals. Some provinces added additional credits that use the same eligibility as the federal program.
Why hasn’t this approach worked? Like many government programs the devil is in the details. The only courses approved for the credit are from colleges and universities at a post-secondary level or approved occupational-skills courses. There is no opportunity for private expert-level course providers to be approved. Canadian business professionals can’t seek out a course that will be focused on their needs and receive credit from the government for becoming more efficient.
Canadian companies need to step up and take an easy step to improving productivity. Identify areas where staff struggle with these basic Office apps. Ask them what frustrates them about using these apps in their daily job. What do they do manually that they wish could be done automatically? I guarantee you that the list will be long.
Then seek out an expert who can customize a course to teach your staff how to more efficiently use the apps to complete tasks faster. Do the training virtually and break it into 60 to 90 minute sessions so staff in all locations (& remote) can fit it into their busy schedule and practice between sessions. Pay the expert a fair price. They’ve invested years to figure out how to perform tasks efficiently and how to teach someone to do the same. Value the expertise based on the ROI their service delivers, not on how many hours they spend with your staff.
Why is this even more important right now, in late 2022? Because companies have already started layoffs and cutbacks due to the slowing economy and inflation. They will be asking the remaining staff to do even more work to make up for those who are no longer there. Without improving efficiency, more staff will be “quiet quitting.” The economy and our future depends on improving productivity and Canadian companies can take this opportunity to make a positive difference in their (& the country’s) future.
Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 3.5 million times and liked over 14,000 times on YouTube.