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Dear members,
On one of the WA groups of HR, Administrator of the groups has raised a topic for discussion. Today's topic is onmulti-tasking. He has asked the following questions:
Q. 1 Why multitasking skills candidates are preferred by the company management?
Q. 2 Is it practically possible to perform multiple tasks at a time?
Q. 3 Do employees having multitasking skills yield results to the satisfaction of the management?
I have given replies to the questions. These are as below:
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Dear Rajaram,
My replies to your questions are as below:
Introduction: - In 1776, famous author Adam Smith wrote a book titled Wealth of Nations. In his book, he propounded the idea of division of labour. In the 18th century, there was no specialisation of the work. He propounded the idea of how work-specialisation improves the productivity. Efficiency of labour increases when workers is told to do the task repetitively. The journey of work-specialisation continued thereafter for the next two centuries.
In the 20th century, in the post-WWII era, famous Japanese industrial engineer, Taiichi Ohno while working in Toyota Motor Corporation studied the idleness of the workers or the machines. To fill the idle time, he thought of training them on additional tasks. Thus came the concept of multi-tasking. However, definition of multi-tasking merits clarification. Multi-tasking does not mean necessarily, doing several activities simultaneously. Multi-tasking means acquiring competence to perform more than one task by meeting the quality standards. For example, in the erstwhile era, if machines at the shop-floor became unserviceable, the operator remained idle till the maintenance technician diagnosed and fixed the problem. In contrast if the worker is taught fault diagnosis and trained on first-line servicing, the idle time of the worker as well as machine was reduced.
Multi-tasking Requirements: - Multi-tasking may sound fascinating, but companies need to raise infrastructure of that. Firstly, it depends on the type of recruitment. They must recruit people who can be multi-tasked. Secondly, multi-tasking does not mean transferring a person from one department to another and telling him/her to start working. To imbibe a different skill set, company must raise necessary training infrastructure. They should have expert trainers, proper training amenities and well-designed curriculum. Thirdly, for multi-tasking to succeed, the systems and processes in each department must be documented very well. HOD should not be given authority to change the systems and processes at his/her fancies.
Challenges to Execute Multi-tasking: - Multi-tasking is a major management intervention and there are many challenges associated with it. First one is mindset problem. In India, people are so obsessed with experience. Though nothing could be as deceptive as this phrase, leadership and HR, both, steadfastly stick to this concept. A job candidate who has worked in certain industry for scores of years but low-IQ and another candidate with high-IQ or has high level of learnability. HR and top management will give priority to the first candidate than the second one.
Lop-sided Emphasis on Experience: - Sometimes, HR takes the concept of experience to ridiculous level. Once my friend had applied for the job of VP (Projects) in the real estate industry. When he was looking for a change, at one of the places, HR asked how many storey building he has constructed so far. He told 15-storey. Immediately, HR told that he was not suitable because their forthcoming project will have 25 storeys!
Sometimes, I get a call from HR for the training. But before asking anything else, they first ask whether I have conducted training for the company who is from their industry. With this kind of lop-sided emphasis on experience, can you think that multi-tasking can succeed?
Difference between Multi-tasking and Job Rotation: - Job-rotation is different from multi-tasking. Job rotation stops just at developing awareness of how other departments functions. When people are made to work in other departments, it reduces the misplaced pride of their own department. Outlook of the person who has worked in other department becomes broader. In contrast, multi-tasking could mean, rotation of the employee within the same department.
Conclusion: - Multi-tasking is required most when teamwork is important. Absence of 1-2 team members or sudden exit can be offset by multi-tasking as certain critical tasks are continued and work does not come to stand still. In the hospitality industry, multi-tasking is used in the F and B Production (Kitchen), Housekeeping and few other departments.
Thanks,
Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
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