With March Madness come and gone, employers can rest easy knowing that the basketball contest will not drain employee productivity again until next year. However, a more chronic factor for companies striving for high-performing IT workforces is the immediacy of access to learning resources for their professionals.
“Productivity is lost when employees spend hours sifting through mountains of information,” stated a Ridge Group study titled “Information Gathering in the Electronic Age: The Hidden Cost of the Hunt.” Organizations are only as good as their slowest workers, and searches for good information to complete job tasks are slowing down all workers. This can have a direct impact on businesses’ bottom lines, since “performance metrics for technology departments are based on time,” said the study.
And time is indeed lost to searching: Another Ridge Group survey from 2002 found that 100 percent of IT professionals interrupt their work flow at least once a day to look for answers to questions regarding their tasks. Twenty percent reported breaking at least 10 times a day to do so.
According to Dennis Kilian of Safari Books Online, “Typically what you’ll find is that people are out spending something like 13 1/2 hours a month looking for information [to complete job tasks].” This is time that a worker is not busy solving a problem, but rather looking for resources to help solve it. The lack of a good source for immediate answers creates a drain on productivity for workers such as programmers, Web designers and system administrators.
Typical places that workers go to find on-the-job answers include the Web, colleagues, books and trade publications. Each has its own drawbacks, including the overabundance and varying levels of reliability of information on the Internet and the amount of time it takes to sift through a print book.
Today’s IT jobs require immediacy of access, said Kilian, vice president of Safari Books, an online database of IT reference resources. “We [at Safari Books] talk about just-in-case learning, just-in-time learning – the immediacy of information. Things change so rapidly, [IT professionals need] access to the newest and the freshest information.” Services such as the Safari’s offer one solution to increasing productivity for the IT population.
“A lot of people talk about structured learning and informal learning,” said Kilian. That’s what IT professionals are engaging in when looking for resources on the job: “They want to go find some information, [and] they go to [a place like] Safari and get [timely] answers to their questions.”
For example, a programmer may be searching for code snippets to complete a program he or she is writing. The programmer would go to a trusted source to find what he or she needs and cut and paste the code into the program. “That’s just a down and dirty, pure productivity kind of an application,” in which professionals are using timely resources to perform job tasks, thus increasing productivity, said Killian.
So one way to improve IT productivity is to find convenient and trusted sources of information and make them readily available to the professionals who need access to them daily. “The key is to find central repositories of reliable technical information that can be searched and retrieved readily,” said the Ridge Group study.
By providing these kinds of resources, organizations will “greatly improve the efficiency of the technical organization.”