We keep hearing the catchcry from peak bodies and government that Australia is lagging in workplace productivity. At a recent CCIWA HR conference it was reported that workplace productivity in Australia had fallen from 5th place globally to 60th place. Obviously this is a huge concern, particularly in times of economic downturn.
But what actually is productivity? The general definition of productivity from Wikipedia is:
“Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it (inputs). The measure of productivity is defined as a total output per one unit of a total input.”
The next big question is, “How can we improve productivity?”
Based on the definition it would appear that a lesser input of effort and resources and a greater output of product or services results in an increase of productivity. And again the question, “How can we improve productivity and either lessoning the inputs or increasing the outputs. For many businesses this has become an exercise in expenditure on technology to gain the increase in technology. Apart from the initial output to purchase the technology it tends to be cheaper to operate than employees.
With many businesses, especially those in the service industry, productivity is greatly determined by the human inputs in the business. The metrics for productivity in the workplace might be the number of employees and the number of hours worked/the gross product or service output.
So the question becomes how do we increase the gross product or service output for our employees?
Strategies to increase productivity
The following are a few strategies that most businesses that use them find greatly contributes to employee productivity. The specific strategies that an organisation uses should depend on the individual employees and what is important for them. However these below should be in every manager’s tool box.
Economic incentives for employees at all levels of the organisation
It is not uncommon for executives and management to be on bonuses aligned to KPI’s but all workers would benefit from economic reward for going the extra mile. If one person decides so put in a bit extra and as a result there is increased purchase from customers, then it makes sense for them to be rewarded. To be effective additional payouts would need to have clearly defined revenue and reward indicators.
Financial reward are not the only incentive that is effective for employees. For some the recognition of a job well done is enough to keep them motivated to keep achieving.
Treating employees like a valued individual
Recognising an employee as an individual with individual needs and treating these with respect is another strategy that recognises the employee, make them feel like their contribution is significant and keeps them making it.
Provision of training
Providing an employee with training shows them that their position is valued and that there is an expectation that they are going to be around long enough for the organisation to benefit from the training given. Again it is a way of valuing the employee and also improves their skill level which also contributes to productivity.
Provide support for employees when it is needed.
Many employees report that support in times of personal crisis is held in higher regard than extra money or a good score in performance appraisal. Flexibility in terms of work life balance and provision of understanding in times of personal crisis is not usually forgotten.
Run an organisation that employees are proud to be part of
Employees like to tell their friends that they work for an organisation that is respected. It is important that senior leadership models the types of behaviours that make employees proud to be part of the organisation.
See the Productivity Commission Workplace Relations Framework (August 2015)