Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Comment : Email to Schelling on employees having to be "on" all the time

Below is an excerpt from my email to Nobelist Thomas Schelling on an issue that is increasingly affecting a lot of employees around the world, not the least back office workers in India.

It seems that the concept of credible commitment has applicability to the "being on" problem within organizations. Organization behaviorists have been concerned for a while now about the increasing demands on employees to be *on* - on email, on Blackberries, on call - and not just on during work hours, but on all the time.

"Being on" for an employee implies greater costs (exertion, et cetera) borne by employees. It is unclear that there is always a significant benefit arising out "being on" outside of work hours. The benefit to the employee or the company may be marginal. In many cases, it may, in fact, be more efficient for an employee to deal with all of her email in one shot than to break up her work-day by frequently checking email because these interruptions may require the employee to stop work on whatever it is she (or he) may be working on. The breaking up of the work-day may take a physical as well as psychological toll on employees - people want to help others, but first, they want to just get their own jobs done. Furthermore, in many cases, there is nothing happening outside of work hours that requires the employees to "be on" in the first place.

This may be modelled using the Prisoner's Dilemma matrix. Assume that we have two players. If both players checked email only during work hours, then both of them would benefit. If one of them defected and decided to check email all the time, he would be perceived as a good employee, and the other employee would get the Sucker's Payoff, which would be lower than if they both cooperated. That means that the only Nash Equilibrium is where both players defect.

It is, however, in the interest of the organization as a whole for employees to be satisfied, and so it might make sense for companies or units within companies to set limits on when employees are required to be on. Today, more and more employees are complaning that they are being overloaded with work. They feel tired. They feel overwhelmed. But more work hours does not equal more work done. If organizations made a credible commitment to employees, say, by installing software on the devices of the employees, so that they would not have to "be on" unless required, then employees may not feel it nescessary to analyze for equilibria.  It seems that by encouraging employees to Cooperate at the organizational or sub-organizational level, one may realize more productive - and happier - employees.