The Importance of Timing

By Kathryn Tyler Feb 7, 2018
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Daniel H. Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead Books, 2018), says timing isn't an art, but rather a science. There's a huge body of research, from economics to anesthesiology and dozens of other disciplines, that shows people can make evidence-based timing decisions. Refining that skill can give HR leaders an edge, Pink says. HR tends to focus on what people are doing, how they are doing it, who will do it and why. They don't give the question of when enough consideration, Pink says. But they should. Doing so affects productivity and organizational performance. "Start taking the question of 'when' more seriously," he advises. "Timing isn't everything, but it's a big thing."

In your book, you stress the importance of breaks. Why?

Breaks are an integral part of performance. I'm not suggesting employees take hourlong breaks multiple times during the day, but rather 10-minute breaks more regularly. Also, some breaks are more rejuvenating than others. Social breaks with others are more restorative than breaks taken alone. A dose of nature is more replenishing than spending time in a windowless room. It's better to move than to stay still.

How can leaders leverage the "midpoint slump" that commonly delays projects?

Midpoints have powerful effects: the slump and the spark. Midpoints can bring us down, but they can also fire us up. HR leaders can use a midpoint to motivate employees to finish strong by saying, "We're at the midpoint, and we're not where we ought to be." There's something about being a little behind at the midpoint that is galvanizing. One study showed basketball teams that were behind by one point at halftime were more likely to win than teams ahead by one point.

How do temporal landmarks impact turnover?

A temporal landmark is a marker in our day where we stop, think and pay attention. People are most likely to leave jobs on their work anniversaries, for instance. HR executives should pay attention to those landmarks and not wait until then to talk to employees. HR should have every employee's work anniversary date in their calendars. At the end of the first year, evaluate the person's experience and have a ritual to mark the milestone in a positive way.

When is the ideal time to quit a job?

Two factors dictate if a person should quit: Is the work challenging? And is it within a person's control? Having one of those things isn't enough. If a person doesn't have control over his work, he's going to burn out quickly. If it isn't challenging, he's going to get bored.

Also, switching jobs is a good way to boost a salary, and the ideal window for that is between three and five years. If you've worked somewhere for fewer than three years, you may not have enough experience, but if you wait longer than five years, you might have started moving up the ranks and are less likely to leave.

Kathryn Tyler is a freelance writer and former HR generalist and trainer in Wixom, Mich.


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