Multitasking: Giving an edge over others

Last Updated : 05 January 2010, 12:54 IST
Last Updated : 05 January 2010, 12:54 IST

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The need for multi tasking is gaining importance at a growing pace. Organisations in a quest to maximise productivity with the help of minimal resources, are identifying and retaining employees with “multi-tasking” abilities.

Vijay is the most efficient employee. He knows the best way to handle an engineering problem, or response to the quality assurance team or the support centre, and even helps the business development and the communication guys at times.

Vijay is a complete multi-tasker— is it possible for one person to do so much of work?

The answer was probably ‘No’ a decade back… but is certainly ‘Yes’ as on date.  The ability to do multiple tasks at one shot is considered a virtue in this competitive business culture.

Multiskilling is a workforce strategy where employees possess a range of skills which allows them to participate in more than one work process.

In an era of specialisation, the necessity of having a multi-skilled workforce has become a necessity. It can lead to increased productivity for the organization, which can directly impact the company’s objective.

In an effort to avoid retrenchment, reduce hiring and increase efficiency, organisations are seeking a multi-skilled workforce.

It’s a major responsibility of the management to assign workers to appropriate tasks and to compose crews effectively.  

When people are multi-skilled, organisations are likely to have fewer people.

The strategy doesn’t hold good when two individuals are being paid lower salaries.
Rather, it’s a better option for companies to pay more to a single person who is capable of doing both works. This not only improves turnaround times, but also efficiency in operations.

Contemporary employees and job seekers have also become aware of the importance of multitasking. They realise that to sustain or to get a job, it is important to become a multitasker. Most companies are looking for candidates who can play multiple roles.

A single-task job is gradually getting faded out. Be it outdoor or indoor tasks or a mix of both, present-day job searchers have to be prepared to take up multiple tasks.

Benefits to organisations

* Optimal utilisation of workforce
* Easy deployment of employees across varied job responsibilities
* Increased productivity and better quality of deliverables
* Creation of a flexible workforce which is well aware of the organisation’s needs
* Motivation to employee engagement

Employee perspective:

Possession of an additional skill definitely becomes a challenging factor for professionals. From the perspective of the employee, multi-tasking would allow them to become diversified and maintain high levels of motivation and enthusiasm.

It would also allow the employees to get involved in the various aspects of the functioning, work, etc., of their company, allowing them to be more involved in the performance of their firm and contributing in preventing lay-offs as well.

For example CFOs now have to bring to the table skills in risk management, internal audits and sometimes handle legal issues as well.  Similarly, HR heads, in the absence of the recruitment activity, have to now take additional responsibilities of performance management, compensation and benefits and talent management activities.

So if an employee enhances his skill sets, according to the needs of the organisation he will be far more valuable to his company and the company will be a more potent force in the market.

Employees should have the ability to mould themselves, so that they can brand themselves ‘in demand’.

Not only is this relevant in recession, but also in a booming economy where companies compete to attract and retain the best business.

How it helps employees:

* Reduction in job insecurity
* Greater individual productivity
* Better growth prospects
* Holistic perspective regarding the organisation’s business
* Can achieve his personal goals quicker

Who can be a multi tasker

Anybody can be a multi tasker to make a difference in their career.  The person’s competency has to be assessed before assigning multiple tasks or roles. Passion to do multitasking is not enough; the ability to excel is the key.  Usually in an organisation,
multi-skilling is of particular significance for key teams/leadership usually span the middle/mid senior levels with employees who are responsible for driving operations on the ground.

Building multi-skilled capabilities of the middle rung of people allows organisations to loop in talent for new business initiatives/ventures.

Areas of caution

Getting employees multi-skilled involves lots of risks and challenges associated with it.

* Managers and business should be careful of the fact that a multitasker should have a clear measurable goal or finish line. The absence of unclear objectives/goals will lead to a state, when the possibility of the employee being not able to achieve the tasks would surely increase.

* It is important to retain the core competency of the employee while he is being trained for the additional skill, which might lead to adverse impact like loss of interest and demotivation.

To be multi-skilled, an employee needs to be trained in functions/possess skills that are different from his own core skill. Training and practice can significantly improve the ability to multitask.

Multitasking at the workplace can only lead to greater stress. Getting involved and managing too many things at one time is less successful than doing one thing at a time. Multitasking takes more time and this causes stress and impacts productivity.

* Forced multi-skilling by companies might lead to the employee losing interest in job and finally walking out.

This apart, employees’ work-life balance may be negatively impacted due to time constraints.

Retaining employees

Joint cross-functional team meetings and tasks, job rotations, constant verbal encouragement and internal recognition of an achieved success (or an employee) with other employees, organisations can encourage multi-tasking at the workplace.

In such a case, an employee would be more connected and involved with the company and would prefer to stay in the same. Hence, multi-tasking combined with other techniques such as job rotation, encouragement and a good working ambience would definitely help in employee retention.

Linking the organisation’s goals to an employee’s training becomes a key to retaining the employee. Once the employee is trained and has the required multiple skills, he will also have the opportunity to use those skills.

By making sure that all areas of an employee life cycle like alignment, training, performance, succession planning and compensation are being considered, providing him a fantastic workplace and providing him enough reasons for him to spend a long innings at your company is very important.

Tips to be  a multitasker:

* Plan the day meticulously
* Have mini goals for day to complete your work efficiently
* Prioritise the assigned tasks
* Get encouraged to focus on the task at hand
* Get trained to handle each task immediately without delaying it
* Allow free time or intervals to avoid stress and frustration

The writers is Vice President- HR, Ness Technologies India Pvt. Ltd.

Published 05 January 2010, 12:54 IST

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