We are all outcome workers, whether we like it or not…


If you run any type of business operation or P&L, you’re quickly realizing your number one challenge is getting your people to help you achieve the results your business needs to be successful. Your strategy has to be about promoting a mindset where people focus on what they are contributing to the business, not the amount of hours they spend “at work”.  

Whether you are a workaholic slogging an 80-hour a week, or a 20-hour a week work-at-home mom/dad, you are going to be measured on what you are contributing to the business – so it’s really all about setting the right outcome expectations with your employer.  Simply sending through a weekly timesheet with a bunch of vague activities is a waste of everyone’s time.  Agree in advance with your boss what outcomes are expected of you and focus your time on meeting them… and if you can achieve them working 10 hours a week sitting by a pool in the sun, or slaving away for 100 hours in your basement really doesn’t matter anymore – it’s whether you delivered those outcomes expected of you. You just need to decide whether that job suits you and your own goals in life.  Today’s successful working relationships are being defined by employers and workers sharing outcomes that both are motivated to meet. If those outcomes do not gel, then that working situation will not survive. 

And this isn’t some fancy new vision for talent only a few businesses are adopting – this is the only way firms can really function today, if they want to be successful. Everyone on the payroll needs to add tangible, easy-to-explain value… otherwise why are they on the payroll?  It’s easy to turn your PC on in the morning and forward emails around the place, but what is your real value?  

The only six questions that matter when it comes to outcome-based employee performance

  1. Which customers have you delighted recently?
  2. What new relationships have you made that add value to our business?
  3. What work have you done that excited people inside and outside of the business?
  4. How are you helping energize your colleagues and exciting them with new ideas?
  5. How have you helped add value to new business wins?
  6. How have you contributed to new initiatives that improve productivity and effectiveness?

Cutting to the chase, if you think all you have to do is turn on your PC on at 9.00am and shut down at 5.00pm, mindlessly immersing yourself in forwarding and adding to chains of emails between your hourly Facebook visits, bi-hourly LinkedIn visits and your twice-daily moronic retweeting of some crap you never really bothered to read (but the title sounded impressive), then you’re pretty much done.  Go check on your pension plan, because you may be hitting those funds long before you had anticipated.

As an employer myself, I gave up caring what staff do during the day – trust me, you’ll drive yourself insane if you go old-school with the old micro-management.  New school management is simply asking staff those 6 questions – and requiring answers to them. 

So what activities should outcome-centric employees do during the day?

  • Limit email activity to one email a time. Scan your messages and quickly decide which ones require a response.  The pick them off one at a time. Do not click out and re-check them all again.  Just answer then quickly one at a time until all the important ones are done.  The minute you start trying to multi-task your email your lose focus and you’ll spend all day faffing around your inbox like packing up your hotel room with a hangover…
  • Call people who matter. Remember when you actually spoke to people?  You got things done, you created friendships and new ideas.  Something nearly always happens when you speak to someone.  List the 5 people you need to talk to and focus on them for a couple of days.
  • Read something that makes you smarter. We all get loads of interesting stuff shoved at us and let’s face it, we probably ready 5% of it at best. Stop.  Pick out the one article you know will make you super damn smart at your key work task at hand and read the damn thing.  Make a decent cup of tea, go sit somewhere quiet and read it. 
  • Turn off Facebook. Seriously – there is nothing in there to help you do your job better.  Do it with a glass of wine in the evening if you have nothing better to do.  If HfS did a productivity analysis impact on the global economy due to Facebook-faffers, it’s probably in the billions…
  • Write something. We’re all analysts now, so focus on writing something that your think you are expert in.  It’s a great way to build credibility and if forces you to be a better communicator.  We all went to school, we can all type, we can all read, we can all talk, so why can’t we put out thoughts to print?  Just write like you talk, like you’re explaining your views on something to someone down the pub… or explaining to your Mom what you actually do.  Everyone is an expert insomething… hell, if you’re not, you might as well give up now.
  • Exercise. Not much is worse for you that staring into a 12 inch laptop screen 18 hours a day while guzzling caffeine and noshing last night’s pizza… so pick out the best time of the day to get your heart pounding. It’s the best thing ever, but organize when you do it, otherwise you’ll hit 5.00pm and you know full well it’s just not going to happen…

The Bottom-line:  we must change our work habits if we are to survive in this work-outcome environment

Personally, I never thought the work environment would reach some of the current depths it has today for so many people, but the impact of “digital” has not been very good, when it comes to the productivity and effectiveness of so many workers.  So many people are just burned out from picking up terrible digital work habits (and many at quite a young age).  So change how you work.  Just do it, and you’ll start to experience a very old feeling you’ve probably long forgotten:  job satisfaction.

Posted in : Design Thinking, HR Strategy, Sourcing Best Practises



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  1. Phil,

    Great piece – these read like the new bible for how to manage your worklife and career. The more we worry about jobs being automated away and the future of the workplace, the more we need to focus on what we contribute, as opposed to legacy “effort based” time inputs,


  2. Phil – this is what a well-meaning kick-in-the-backside feels like 🙂 While the fixes could seem like every day wisdom to some, I just want to remind folks that its all in the sustained execution. Considering how easy it is to drift back to ingrained, unproductive habits, having a consolidated reminder like this makes absolute sense. As for me, I am going to write the 5 productivity bullets at the end and stick it on the pin-board at my desk!


  3. Phil,

    Most business boils down to relationships and creativity. I am afraid email is a major killer of both. After implementing Agile we found reducing email to three sessions during the day (the first being after 3 hours of uninterrupted time on creative work) and picking up the phone to speak to people gave us a +300% increase in productivity and better relationships with colleagues. Most people at work are flitting between screens and projects – time to disconnect and focus on what is important, not ‘urgent’.

    Jason Comer

  4. Awesome article Phil. Agree with all the points. I’m off Facebook for almost 3 years now.

    However, too much reliance of performance measurement on only outcome may be too stressful for employees. In majority of the situations, the outcome is a result of many factors including the ones not in control of employees, at least at their levels. Reverse is also true, people getting benefits of just being at the right place/time with great outcomes and no significant contribution. Plus poorly defined outcomes (goals) with not so robust performance monitoring systems with no 360 degree mechanism doesn’t help.

    How do you propose a performance measurement mechanism that combines the realities of outcomes with efforts based-old school-legacy model.

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