Writing for Management Today, John Spencer points out one of the economic puzzles of recent years: the decline in the rate of productivity growth.
Spencer observes that a feature of previous recessions was the rise in productivity per worker coupled with the growth of unemployment.
However, the recent downturn in the UK saw productivity fall at a higher rate than employment. Also, in the US, worker productivity has risen by just 0.7% per annum for the last three years, in contrast to an average since 1945 of 2.25%.
The author comments: “Of course, most of the commentaries about productivity focus on the macro level, whereas us at the coal face are more interested in the micro level: what can we do to make our company, division or team operate more productively? In my own experience, productivity comes down to three elements: people, technology, and time.”
Spencer offers some simple management rules to help with productivity:
- Acknowledge good work.
- Don’t allow workload or finances to prevent you from investing time and money in coaching, mentoring and training.
- Promote understanding of how different departments work in order to boost efficiency.
- Ensure everyone understands the goals of the company and their part in them.
- Build an enjoyable, sociable and supportive workplace.
- Offer workers the flexibility to work their own way, allowing them to deal with childcare issues, etc.
Spencer insists the results can be significant. He cites a study of 1.4 million employees by Gallup which shows businesses with top-quartile employee engagement have 21% higher productivity compared with those with lower-quartile employee engagement, as well as 37% lower absenteeism.
As far as technology is concerned, the author observes that tablets, smartphones, video communications and cloud computing can boost productivity by saving time and resources. They can also help with flexibility. However, he also warns that abusing these communication tools will result in stressed, resentful employees.
Spencer highlights commuting as another “major destroyer of time”. He comments: “If you let people do their jobs closer to home, you give them more space for both work and leisure. It’s better for work-life balance and the environment too, making work more sustainable.”