Getting people to work more hours

Mar 13, 2017

Zweig Group’s research data shows us that fast growth/high profit firms have a higher number of hours in their average work week. It makes sense – more hours put in by salaried people equates to a higher “capacity” to do work.

So in this day and age – when everyone is so very busy and already over-scheduled – and values their personal time – how do you get people to work more? There isn’t one answer – there are many.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Have a strong mission and sense of purpose. It’s hard to place a value on a strong sense of purpose but it certainly can be a motivator to people who want to do something worthwhile with their lives. Enriching shareholders will not suffice. Providing “innovative, cost-effective solutions” won’t do it. That said, you need to articulate why your firm is in business and why what it does can change the world for the better. Doing so will help you keep everyone working harder and longer.
  • Dump comp time policies. If you want people to put in the hours comp time policies make no sense. They effectively cap hours at 40 or some other number. How does that help you get more productivity out of your staff? It doesn’t!
  • Have leaders who set the example. If the leaders are never there – and use every excuse they can to not work ever on a night or weekend – and “unplug” when not in the office – you can forget getting the rest of the people to put in extra hours. Just won’t happen. The example is set at the top and at every level of leadership throughout the organization.
  • Promote those who put in the work. Don’t promote those who don’t. That’s the basis of the firm’s culture – what types of behaviors get rewarded – and what types of behaviors get punished. It becomes the unwritten law in the firm. So make sure you are showing everyone in the firm what you value by recognizing the hard workers who put in the time necessary for the firm to be successful.
  • Employ open book management. Sharing all the numbers with your people – everything that tells them how the organization is doing in whole or in-part – is essential if you want your people to see the link between longer hours and greater production and profitability. You need to have your gauges on the organization and then show them to your people – all of them!
  • Tie everyone’s compensation into to the performance of the firm. Once the gauges are established and your people regularly (and frequently) see how everything is working, then you have to pay something to everyone based on that performance. I like to pay this money out monthly. Shows a much more defined “link” to pay and company performance than the typical A/E firm’s annual subjective bonus program. The more clearly you define exactly what that is and how it is calculated on an individual level, the better. Then the performance will be reflected in the numbers and the pay will come to the individuals as a result.
  • Make it fun to be there. If the environment is depressing and not fun, guess what? No one will want to be there! If, instead, it is upbeat and energizing, people will have to pull themselves away. How does your work environment stack up?

Oh yes – one last request. Please spare me the angry emails and letters about how everyone should “work smarter, not harder.” If you really want to make money in this business, do both! Get everyone working smart – and hard. The numbers don’t lie!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.