Time Is Money – Or Is It?

The old saying, “time is money,” is probably the most widely used and highly venerated trope in business worldwide. And, sure, why would any for-profit organization spend one of its most precious resources, time, on things that don’t enhance the bottom line first and foremost?

Why, then, am I writing about something that is universally accepted as an unshakable truth? What else is there to say?

Let me back up and explain.

I just attended a half-day virtual summit on the Future of Work organized and hosted by an Austria-based organizational advisory firm. Speakers presented on a wide range of topics and led discussions about everything from the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on our workplaces to the importance of mental health, a case study on organizational transformation, and future-ready hiring and HR strategies. What is salient for this piece is that, on more than one occasion, attendees brought up the time-is-money adage to justify their approaches to setting business priorities.

And this – as is so often the case – got me thinking: Given the post-pandemic realities of the global job market and massively shifted expectations of employees for their employers, leaders, bosses, and co-workers, are these all-powerful three words still true? And, if so, what – if anything – might have changed?

Let’s get this out of the way: Members of the C-Suite and their organization’s sales executives spending every waking minute on closing a multi-million-dollar deal? Definitely. Investing massive amounts of time in streamlining and optimizing manufacturing processes for optimal product quality and cost savings? Of course. A CEO setting time aside in her schedule to play a round of golf with a high-rolling business partner to discuss an upcoming merger? Goes without saying.

But is this all?

I was suddenly reminded of a conversation with an acquaintance who works as a managing consultant at a mid-sized international firm not too long ago. During our chat, he told me, full of amazement and pride, that he had recently received a handwritten note (and, if I remember correctly, even a phone call) from none other than the CEO of the firm congratulating him on his one-year work anniversary!

So, I wondered, couldn’t the CEO have spent his time on something more “important,” given the myriad competing priorities and high-stakes decisions to be made?

Well…. most likely not. This card and call may well have been one of the most important things that leader did that day.

By carving out time to reach out and talk to employees significantly lower on the corporate totem pole, executives and leaders are, in fact, doing their company a great service and positively affecting their bottom line.

In a tight job market where many companies find it difficult to fill vacancies with qualified applicants, taking time to engage with and demonstrate appreciation and care for front-line employees will create loyalty, motivate team members to go the proverbial extra mile, and reduce turnover, thereby saving the company large amounts of money on recruiting efforts.

So, is time (still) money? Yes, it most certainly is. But what we as leaders spend our time on has invariably shifted. And that’s a good thing.

This piece was originally published on April 20, 2023, on LinkedIn.com, and may have been updated since its original publication.