Budget efficiency vs. effective talent utilisation – a critical review

Over the years we have observed more and more admin jobs, like data input in tracking systems or travel booking, being replaced by IT-systems to support managerial and operational aspects of running an organisational unit. In the beginning, it all looked reasonable and logical because part of lower skilled admin work was replaced by automated systems which only needed small amounts of input from managers and specialists working in the organisation. And when you think about it, just adding a bit more admin to a manager’s or specialist’s role doesn‘t really make a big difference. Or does it?

Task by task

As it happened, more and more systems got introduced replacing admin jobs, still requiring only low level input or action from various people in the organisation. Yet, in some of the conversations we have in our coaching or consulting programmes we hear from leaders more and more often that anything between 15 and 30% of their jobs is now occupied by administrative work and no longer by leadership aspects. And similar numbers are also mentioned by subject matter experts in these organisations.

As a lot of organisations are under cost pressure, budget efficiency and, hence, headcount is a key driver to improve the organisation’s effectiveness. If this sounds familiar to you we invite you to take a step back and look at the situation with a fresh eye.

When we at Con-TACT reviewed those cases we are familiar with, we started wondering whether budget efficiency activities had been driven too far in organisations that depend very heavily on knowledge and specialists expertise to create breakthrough innovations and implement them successfully.

A simple calculation

Let‘s have a look at this from two perspectives. One is the effective use of available resources and budget and the other one is the impact on motivation this task loading has on specialists and leaders.

Let’s assume you have several specialists in your organisation with a salary of €100,000 a year each  (which probably creates about €200,000 total cost in your budget). If each of them spends ‚only‘ 10% of their time with admin tasks, you basically spend €10,000 (effectively €20,000) per specialist on something other than what they are supposed to do.

There must be a better way to use that money. With a really good admin person, receiving a salary of €30,000 a year, it takes less then 3 specialists to pay for it.
We are fairly certain a similar calculation for people in leadership roles applies, just the salary to be used in the calculation may be even higher.

We are fully aware that there are good reasons to look at headcount in an organisation. Yet, we still believe that this KPI was driven too far in the attempt to increase an organisation’s financial effectiveness.

A different perspective

And there is another aspect to this:

If we are putting ourselves into the shoes of  specialists highly skilled and experienced to create ideas, solve complex problems and create breakthrough innovations, how motivating is it if one is distracted regularly by admin work? And for yourself as a leader, how motivating do you find the admin work that has been loaded onto your job?

From the various conversations we had with leaders and specialists in organisations that have gone through this development we can clearly conclude that the negative impact on motivation is highly relevant and dangerous for an organisation. It clearly adds the risk of losing their most capable and talented people because they are frustrated.

Why then?

In conclusion, we highly recommend that you take a step back together with your colleagues from finance and evaluate the situation in your organisation with a very open mind. Maybe letting go of traditional KPIs and redefining what is considered success for the organisation can be a way to achieve the ultimate goal of the organisation even better and maintain or even raise motivation of everyone involved.

As always we are happy to continue the conversation with you. So feel free to leave a comment below or contact us direct and arrange a separate conversation.