The concept of release time exists in a small number of organizations, such as Google, where a percentage of work time can be applied toward a project or interest that is not related to work you are currently assigned to do. Offering release time to members of your team can be motivational and can keep your team engaged. It has a larger benefit too: team members can showcase or develop their skills in an area outside of their immediate job role and a beneficial breakthrough that would have otherwise gone undiscovered could surface.
There are three questions that stand in the way of you being the leader who brings release time to your team and organization. Let’s address each one.
- Can my team be offered release time even if my organization does not offer it to everyone?
Absolutely. As you control the tasks assigned to your team members, release time is just another task and typically is only 30 minutes to 1 hour in length per week. To be safe, you can assign specific timeframes where this release time is to be used and you can require that you have knowledge of what the time is going to be used for. Having set those parameters, your Human Resources office would likely agree you are managing the team’s time well.
- How do I ensure my team uses release time for the benefit of the organization?
In order to guarantee that release time will ultimately benefit the organization, you can establish an approval process by which the specific release time project or initiative is documented and approved. This level of oversight can begin to stifle the benefits of release time if projects or initiatives are declined regularly. Instead, it would be beneficial to work with team members to get their release time to align with the organization as opposed to a strict approved/disapproved status.
- How do I encourage the use and support of release time among the team?
As a method of encouraging the use of release time, allow for updates to release time projects or initiatives to be offered alongside other team meeting updates. Recognize members of your team for completed release time efforts or announce the new skills they have developed. Doing this will offer legitimacy to the release time offerings and encourage their use.
After considering the benefits to your team, the small amount of time and effort required and how easy it is to implement even when the entire organization is not behind the initiative – there’s almost no reason not to offer release time to your team. You could easily start by announcing it tomorrow.