Are You Productive or Just Looking Busy?

A CEO of a small firm I used to work for told me, as he handed me an out of cycle stock option grant “You are the type of employee I like. You are not one of those that spends his day looking busy and talking a big game, you get it done – you are productive.” For this reason I was granted an additional 25,000 options as the sole recruiter and I had just finished assisting the organization in filling 100 positions across multiple disciplines in less than six months. I felt great. I had made my mark and had an impact on an organization where my efforts were recognized.

That was 10 years ago, the options never amounted to anything and the company went bust with the rest of the tech companies around that time. However, the CEO’s comments have never left me for a couple of reasons:

  • As a recruiter I know that we are a cost/overhead – and no matter what arguments are presented we are what we are and not a revenue center – so I have to outperform my revenue peers in supporting them to ensure that they can generate as much revenue as possible
  • To be recognized by a CEO, no matter the size of the firm, not only validated what I was trying to accomplish as a recruiter but has motivated me to NOT be that employee just looking busy

To keep myself motivated I have forced myself to have a structured day.  I am naturally unorganized and a go with the flow type person – the hundred or so assessments have confirmed this time and time again – but when it comes to my profession I am very organized.  Organized in how I will approach a new requisition, old requisition, research of new tools and implementation of tools.  It is painful and sometimes very challenging for me but the payoff is well worth it.   

I ask myself a lot of questions during the day – goofy, yes but it keeps me focused – they are usually along the lines of these:

What you are working on right now, is it adding valuing to the organization?  Is it helping you complete personal or departmental goals?

Am I working as efficiently and effectively as possible?

Have you analyzed your work day to see what is truly producing results for the company and what is just busy work?  Do you know the difference?

When was the last time you asked for feedback from your hiring managers about your performance, or how the recent new hires are doing?  It’s scary but the reward will be a much stronger working relationship that will make the next placement that much easier.

Do you promise your candidates or hiring managers’ follow-up but then fail to do so?  Guess what, your credibility now equals that sludge at the bottom of the break room coffee filter. 

When was the last time you sent them a productivity report of your recruitment activities?  Did it bring them value and build the relationship?  If you did not receive a thank you or nice job response you missed the mark.

I hope this helps because we all know and witness the people that love to look busy but are really only collecting a paycheck – while those of us that produce have far more job satisfaction and enjoy moving our companies forward.



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2 responses to “Are You Productive or Just Looking Busy?

  1. Great post Mark. These are the same questions everyone should ask.

    Regardless of type of clients – inhouse/corporate recruiters as well as outside/agency recruiters we MUST ask ourselves throughout the day “What am I doing RIGHT NOW that will benefit my client?”

    If your truthful answer is “nothing” then you MUST eliminate that activity from your 8-5 schedule.

    As an independent/self-employed recruiter I have allowed myself to get sucked into thinking I had to be “part of the discussion” going on in the “community”. Over the past year or two – while I have enjoyed meeting quite a few people – the “discussion” has turned into a constant rehash of the same content. Day after day, month after month.

    Sorry to use your blog as a soap box!

    • Jerry,

      Thank you for the comment and I agree on many fronts with you. In your world you definitely have to ensure that you are working as effectively and efficiently as possible. In a corporate environment, unfortunately, the layers create places for people to hide and look busy.

      I also agree that the discussions/conversations about social media are tiring right now . The latest feed from the SHRM conference was nothing but a re-hash of the last two years. I would prefer to see the how and what that is being done – how was it implemented and utilized effectively – what tools produce solid results. I think it will come and it is a major focus of my strategy this year because it will help get our message out and create awareness around our company.

      Looking forward to us staying connected through the blogs and Animal’s show.



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