Productivity is the measurement of how well an organisation converts input resources (people, materials, machines etc.) into good and services (output) and in today’s increasingly competitive global market, productivity is vital to survive or prosper.

There are a lot of productivity measurements and it’s easy for organisations to become a slave to metrics in their quest to reach that next level faster and with fewer resources. In this quest for productivity, organisations’ plans can backfire when they fail to balance these goals with their people’s needs.

In this week’s blog post we discuss how HR and line managers can assist in ensuring productivity gains are made without “burning out” their people.

Warning Signs

In a paper by Golden (2011), several organisations were monitored where their employees were asked to work longer hours with less resources over several months. Results found that while additional working hours may reflect a worker’s work ethic or commitment to the job and with the hope of attaining higher current or future earnings, at some point, longer working hours inevitably began to create risks and time conflicts that interfere not only with the quality of non-work life, but also on-the-job performance, with some employees eventually leaving.

In another study, Bond & Galinsky (2006) discussed entry level employees and productivity. In their paper they observed frequent gaps or mismatches between a worker’s capabilities and the tasks assigned to them.  They found that these gaps lead not only to loss of productivity but unhappy employees. Originally meant as an effort to lower costs, these mismatches of resources would end up costing companies more in the long run.

In these scenarios, it’s clear that companies who stop focusing on their people can suffer decreased productivity. There needs to be a balance between your people and the changes being made in the business.

How can you support your people and at the same time improve productivity?

  • Effective managers and leaders set direction and execute. Leaders and managers play a critical role in defining the direction, purpose, priorities, goals, and roles of the workforce. The capability of the manager (with the support of HR) to develop plans, hire effectively, coach, motivate, and develop employees is crucial to success. Unfortunately, many managers have been seen as a weak link in the productivity chain, so HR also has the supportive role of developing great leaders/managers and identifying/removing the ineffective ones.

  • Know your people. Who would know more about what happens on the job than the person in it? Involve your employee and encourage them to make suggestions about improving the ways in which the organisation works.

  • Set reasonable goals. Whether it involves finishing up a particular project or improving overall performance measures, provide reasonable goals & objectives (telling them to improve sales by 300% by the end of the year or they’re fired probably won’t resonate). Show them how they can increase their productivity over the next year or so, and communicate the plan clearly. They may wind up surpassing your expectations.

  • Measure tasks, not total hours worked. The focus should be more on how long it took to finish a task verses how long an employee was present in the office. How many cases have they closed? How many reports did he file? How many reservations has she made? There are plenty of distractions throughout the day competing with different priorities, so line managers have to simply ask themselves whether the needed work gets done and adjusting schedules or duties given to certain team players where they are most productive.

  • Employee engagement directly contributes to corporate performance and workplace culture sets the stage for it. Access to informal collaborative work spaces, for example, enables person-to-person connections that create a larger sense of engagement.

Those were just a few ideas that may help you. How do you support productivity in your organisation? Share with us your tips in our comments box below.

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