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Want to know why you feel like you can’t get much accomplished at work, regardless of the number of hours that you put in? It’s because you spend two days each week on administrative grunt work: the repetitive activities required to get something done, but that aren’t core to your job.

And you’re not going to get a raise for doing them well. When was the last time you were rated on things like email, making phone calls or updating spreadsheets? How about putting together status reports, filling out forms or requesting support services?

Probably never. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t do the drudge work, then the job you’re actually paid to do can’t get done.  

Snooze-Worthy Tasks

What kind of mind-numbing activities are we talking about? Things like opening purchase orders to get the products or services that you need, on-boarding new employees, obtaining marketing materials, or asking for reports or equipment from IT. 

A recent survey of 1000 managers across all industries and age groups, commissioned by ServiceNow, reveals that completing these processes typically requires some kind of activity from 3-10 different departments and 5-10 interactions, all of which involve human interaction.  It’s no wonder that it’s hard to get anything done and that we’re so frustrated.

And you’d think that millennials in the workplace would have found a way to automate these inefficient workflows, but the ServiceNow study reports that younger managers bear the mother load of administrative activity (43 percent of their time is spent on administrative work.)

“If younger managers are more tech-savvy, this is not translating into a reduced administrative burden,” wrote the authors of the study.

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One More Form to Fill Out

And the curious thing here is that there actually could be an app for that when it comes to some of the most frustrating workplace activities like obtaining:

  • IT Technical Support -- This is usually provided by the IT department’s help desk or service desk. It includes help with resolving computer, software and smartphone problems, as well as ordering and installing hardware and software. Employees also use IT technical support to request access to company databases and programs.
  • Marketing Services -- This involves all of the steps needed to request and receive marketing materials and services. This includes items such as webpage creation and updates, delivery of sales and marketing materials, and graphic design.
  • Purchase Orders -- This includes all of the activities needed to purchase goods and services, from initial purchase requisition to ensuring the vendor is paid.
  • Employee On-boarding -- This encompasses all of the activities needed to equip new employees for their jobs. This includes arranging for computers, email, phone lines, badges, business cards and credit cards, as well as setting up company orientation sessions and job training

These are predictable, repetitive processes after all. Managers shouldn’t have to be involved every step of the way. And while an argument can be made that the information involved is often unstructured and the workflows are complex, we do have the technology and talent needed to simplify these processes.

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Inefficiency, to the Tune of $575 Billion

After all, does the administrative aspect of on-boarding an employee, which can now require as many as 15 interactions by a hiring manager, have to be all that more labor intensive than buying shoes from Zappo’s, where you push “Buy” and wait for them to be delivered to your door the next day? 

Imagine how frustrating a shoe purchase would be if you had to be personally be involved in every step of the process. We’re talking about observing and signing on off on the credit checking, order processing, identifying which warehouse the shoes are located in, picking them off the shelf, packaging them, attaching the shipping label… You’d rather go barefoot.

Of course, company managers can’t do that when it comes to obtaining marketing materials, IT services and purchase orders they need to get their jobs done, but it is time for them to find a better way. And CEOs should sponsor them and IT to work together to make that happen. 

If alleviating employee frustration and improving productivity isn’t reason enough, there’s this: ServiceNow found that $575 billion a year is spent on administrative tasks in the US -- or 3.3 percent of the GDP.

And while ServiceNow has a vested interest in the issue -- its app marketplace offers solutions aimed at solving some of these very problems -- it does seem as if there are better ways for us to spend our time.

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