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What Is 20% Time And Does It Actually Work?

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What Is 20% Time And Does It Actually Work?

Posted by Payroll Data Processing in Blog Apr 26 2016

Mega companies like Google are famous for their success and as such everyone wants to know what kind of techniques they use that contribute to that success. One technique that Google has shared is their philosophy of “20% time.” HR professionals and managers are curious about this method and whether or not it could be applied to their own workplace. Here’s what you need to know about 20% time and whether or not it could work for you.

First off, what exactly is 20% time? This is a policy that Google and other companies use to give employees a set amount of protected time and space away from normal work tasks to think creatively and experiment. Most of the time, 20% time programs are very informal with a loose structure and few guiding rules. This is meant to allow employees time to work on their own projects that they think will benefit the company. The idea of giving employees a protected time and area specifically for innovation can seem like a great method for managers and HR professionals who are trying to stay ahead of the game and encourage creativity as a core value of their company.

But the real question is…is 20% time actually effective? Unfortunately, some studies indicate that this policy doesn’t always work out how it’s meant to. Instead of taking out a little time each day to dedicate to innovation, employees often end up staying late or using the weekend to work on their other projects. This can quickly lead to burnout and nothing is more stifling to innovation and creativity than exhaustion and loss of motivation. Some employees may even opt out of such a program entirely, especially if performance evaluation is focused primarily on the everyday tasks. Due to the relaxed nature of 20% time programs, it can be difficult for managers and HR professionals to enforce guidelines. The point of this method is to give employees freedom to pursue other projects, but putting more rules in place ends up making 20% time just another task to complete, defeating the purpose entirely.

For HR professionals and managers who are looking to inspire innovation, the reality is that great and unique ideas can happen at any time during everyday work. If you want to boost innovation in your workplace, be sure to keep an eye out for those moments of brilliance within the normal work stream and give those employees and their ideas the recognition they deserve. Foster a culture of continuous innovation by emphasizing the value in trial and error and learning from mistakes. Use every opportunity you can to point out when great work is being done, especially work that supports your company’s core values.

As workplace leaders, managers and HR professionals can encourage innovation by pointing out examples of great thinking from every role, team, and department. This will show your employees that you notice and appreciate diversity of ideas within the scope of normal work tasks. Innovation can flourish without a dedicated period of time and setting to make it happen. What really counts is a culture that recognizes innovation as it happens within the everyday work cycle.