How often do you see employees sitting around and twiddling their thumbs? Almost never. Employers would fire or lay off everyone “not needed.” But how often do you see busy and purposeful employees doing work that looks important but adds no value – not to customers or the company. If you look closely enough at almost any company through the right lens, you’ll see it.
After many years scoping this problem in the office and administrative functions of business (including management) we’d peg the median level of excess employees at roughly 15% by headcount. And here’s one irony. These excess workers form bureaucracies that frustrate and anger customers while padding the payroll. Companies increase their payrolls to irritate customers. How lose, lose can you get?
Another irony is how companies best shed the excess labor: by letting customers design how they want companies to operate. Bureaucracy? Gone. Red tape? Gone. Redundant approvals? Gone. Poorly trained, inexpensive and disempowered workers that require excess supervision and approvals? Gone. Excess executives? Gone. Even unwanted promotion and sales pressure, gone.
So why are companies taking these steps so scarce?