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SSC351--Work Measurement and Work Standards

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SSC351--Improving Office Productivity Through TQM
SSC351--Work Measurement and Work Standards
SSC351--Managing Human Resources
SSC351--Communicating in the Office
SSC351--Administrative Office System
SSC351--Appraising The Office Worker's Performance
SSC351 Study Guide



Work measurement is a tool of cost control used to determine how much work is completed and how effectively it is completed. Usually this suggests a measurement of the volume of work and the amount of time required (quantitative measurements) as well as the accuracy and appearance of the work (qualitative measurement). A work standard is a yardstick of performance, or par, which indicates what is expected of workers and how their output can be evaluated. Work standards are tools of managerial control that are best applied to routine and repetitive operations such as keyboarding, transcribing, calculating, filing, billing, and posting. Although we usually exclude non-routine, semi-creative jobs from a formal work measurement program, we can measure some types of non-routine work to provide useful standards.

By means of a work standards, AOMs can determine what quantity and quality of work should be produced. They can then compare this output with the quantity and quality of work actually produced and thus have a basis for managerial control. All work standards are aimed at obtaining 100 percent efficiency, which is defined as the rate of production at which an average, well trained employee can work all day without undue fatigue. Or, we can say, simply, 100 percent efficiency means a "fair days work".

To work at this level of efficiency, we need standards that are reliable, realistic, and attainable under normal, reasonable working conditions. The standards should not be changed too often or confusion will result. They must be understood both by employees and by management. Also, standards must be flexible in order to meet variations in work conditions. For example, the standard for keyboarding a one-page, 100-word letter of straight copy is not the same as the standard for keyboarding a one-page, 100-work report involving columns of statistical data. Similarly, the standards set for the number of invoices to be filed under an alphabetic filing system and those under a numeric filing system are not the same.


Benefits of a Work Standards Program

By providing data on quantity (volume and time) and quality (accuracy and appearance(, a program of work standards offers the AOM many benefits. Standards aid in:

  1. Determining the cost of the work performed.
  2. Exercising better control over the scheduling and routing of administrative work.
  3. Evaluating employee performance.
  4. Installing incentive systems in which employees earnings are based on their productivity.
  5. Evaluating the need for improving administrative office systems and determining the feasibility of installing new machines and equipment.
  6. Measuring the effectiveness of department operations.
  7. Enabling the supervisor to measure the effectiveness of a new employee and the rate of learning that has taken place.

Difficulties in Applying Work Measurement in Offices

In spite of the benefits to be realised from work standards, formal programs of work measurement are not commonly found in many offices. In view of the rapid rate of growth in the size and staffs, we would expect that administrative work would be measured to a much greater extent. However, the measurement concept is not universally accepted. Thus, a top priority of the AOM is to convince both management and workers of the need for a work measurement programs.

Several reasons are frequently cited to explain the low incidence of work measurement in offices. The major reason is that the work is either impossible to measure or the measurement is too difficult and costly to be practicable. People holding this point of view feel that administrative work is so varied and complex that it does not lend itself to measurement. Some people feel that measurement is not needed in those offices where the number of employees is small. In other instances, top management lacks the desire to engage in any work measurement program. It is felt that administrative work is going along well enough, and there is no need to disturb the workers peace of mind by attempting to measure their productivity. Also managers and supervisors are often suspicious of and have misconceptions about the nature and intent of work measurement.

Most management consultants contend that most of the reasons offered for the failure to establish a work measurement program in the office are more imaginary than real. They claim that most routine and many semi-routine office activities can be effectively measured.

Office Operations That Can Be Measured

For measurement and the setting of standards, office tasks should meet three criteria:

  1. Repetitivethe tasks should repeat themselves, be highly routine, and be done in a consistent uniform manner. Examples: opening the incoming mail, verifying the quantity shipped and the selling prices on sales invoices, posting to customers and creditors ledger accounts, preparing customers statement, and filling in insurance claim forms.
  2. Countablethe work unites can be counted in precise quantitative terms. Examples: 12 cassettes transcribed, 394 forms filled in, or 1,408 letters filed.
  3. SufficientThe volume of work must be sufficiently great to justify the cost of its measurement. Examples: filing 600 copies of sales invoices each day or calculating the regular and overtime hours worked on several thousand time cards each week.