Let's Target the Root Cause of Overwork: Poor Systems and Processes

Rich Sains
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The topic of burnout has been rising up the agenda for employers across the board in recent years, with workers complaining of increasing workloads not being matched by investments in extra headcount or pay. Then the pandemic happened.As the world struggled to adapt to the new restrictions, mental health and wellbeing suddenly became acute issues for many. The procurement profession was no exception.While many found they held up better than expected during the initial waves of the pandemic, research from the Mental Health Foundation showed a clear and steady deterioration in the number of people who felt they were coping well as the crisis wore on. Only 64% of respondents reported they were coping well in February 2021, compared with 73% in April the previous year. Younger people especially reported finding it more difficult to cope.We’ve written in recent months about the increasing profile of the procurement profession, with a series of supply chain disruptions (some of which are ongoing) forcing the C-suite to wake up to the importance of an area that is too often overlooked.

People talk...

 Unfortunately, whilst many CEOs mention their increased focus on mental wellbeing support, this seemingly hasn’t reached all procurement teams, some of whom report heavy workloads under greater scrutiny. What’s more, too few are seeing increases in headcount or investments in process improvements.This state of affairs can’t last for long. Procurement is by its nature a very people-focused profession. Everyone talks, so there is transparency around benefits, working culture, pay and systems.With demand for talent as high as it is at the moment, this inevitably means that employers who aren’t prioritising the wellbeing of their people will quickly find themselves struggling to attract new talent, and retain what they already have.

Focus on systems, not symptoms

 Many employers try to improve their employees’ mental health by focusing on the symptoms, with an increased focus on mental health through HR initiatives such as ‘mental health awareness’ weeks, or mindfulness sessions. As much as these can be useful techniques to help, we believe the real solution lies in addressing the cause.Mental health-focused initiatives are to be applauded - and are great at raising awareness of the issues - but they do little to address the underlying cause of overwork. Instead, we believe many employees get more from improvements to processes and systems that ensure they aren’t overloaded with work and are instead able to focus on the highest-leverage, more rewarding and strategic activities.More and more of the workforce is made up of millennial and gen-Z digital natives, who are used to using technology to streamline processes in all areas of their lives, from splitting bills to remembering birthdays. Over-reliance on laborious, outdated systems at work can lead to undue frustration, stress and lost productivity.Investing in improving your systems is a no-brainer, leading to reduced cost, increased returns and overall improved employee wellbeing. Companies are starting to pay attention too, as is shown by the increased focus on digital transformation in Deloitte’s last CPO survey.This needn’t be a complex process. Even something as straightforward as mapping out existing processes and asking which steps can be simplified, automated, delegated or eliminated can lead to huge improvements.Even better, these improvements get easier and easier to implement as technology improves. If you would like to find out how you can improve your team's effectiveness and, ultimately, happiness, drop me a message or email rich@acadatech.com

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