Productivity: why businesses need to look at more than just output per hour

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As productivity in the UK continues to lag, companies need to look at more than just labour output per hour.

Over the past decade, productivity in the UK has fallen across the board.

Compared to our neighbours across the Channel, the UK has a lot of catching up to do. With the UK’s labour output around 18% below the European average. It currently takes the average British worker five days to produce what the likes of France and Germany could wrap up in just four.

Not surprisingly, the lack of productivity has become a real headache for companies and a source of concern and frustration for the UK economy - but there’s more to this problem than meets the eye.

Many companies have focused all their attention on labour output per hour, but that’s not the be all and end all. Businesses should be looking at the bigger picture instead, and take into account all the different elements that make an organisation run more smoothly.  

Get to know your team

It’s impossible for a company to think about productivity without first looking at people.

It’s no great mystery that the happier people are at work, the more productive they’ll be, and one of the best ways to keep people engaged and motivated is by working out what makes them tick - but how?

First, managers need to see their team members as individuals and that means having a solid understanding of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

It’s also important to remember that seasoned employees who have been with the company a while should be able to cope with their workload at a faster rate, while newer workers may mean lower productivity by default.  

Managers should also look at past projects and see how long it took to complete and with what resources. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and this kind of information will make it much easier to draw a realistic timeline for projects.

Also, knowing how different employees deal with projects will also help managers figure out which aspects might need extra training or support to improve the overall efficiency of the team.

Once managers are armed with this information, they can benchmark their teams’ productivity and use incentives and rewards to show their gratitude and keep team members motivated. After all, successful business is as much about valuing staff and recognising their hard work as it is about pushing for output.

The stats here speak for themselves; we found that businesses with a high-recognition culture have 31% lower voluntary turnover than those who just push people without acknowledging their hard work.  

Embrace technology

There’s no denying that technology can have a huge impact on a company’s productivity, but it can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how it’s used.

Increasing productivity with technology can be a real godsend for companies, but only if the right tools are used. The key is not to go for what’s trendy right now – instead, businesses should find out what the team actually needs to do its job and do it well.

The growth of a business – and with it, its output – not only depends on acquiring new customers but making sure those customers stick around.

A survey by Vodafone revealed that over half of employees (51%) say that certain work processes can hinder productivity. Businesses therefore need to put some time and effort into working out what helps staff feel more productive – and that includes what technology they like to use.

Making sure that technical support and training programmes are available also might help, but these should focus on the benefits of technology, rather than just showing staff how to use it.

The key here is to really engage employees so they understand and use the company’s IT tools to do a great job that they can be proud of.

Measure customer service

If businesses focus their attention on labour output alone, it’s easy for them to forget that productivity also depends upon how much a customer values the final product or service.

We’re seeing more and more evidence to suggest there’s a link between customer engagement and the financial success of a company, which isn’t very surprising.

The growth of a business – and with it, its output – not only depends on acquiring new customers but making sure those customers stick around. This means keeping them engaged at all times.

From surveys, to customer satisfaction scores, and social media, businesses need to be regularly measuring the customer experience and how happy their customers are.

Improvements in customer satisfaction can mean less time devoted to returns, rework and complaint management and more time focused on the product/service, creating a win-win all round.

Ultimately, if the UK is going to climb back up the productivity ladder, businesses need to look at all of the ingredients that make up an efficient workplace – and not get hung up on just one part of the story.

Want to learn more about this topic? Read Complacency kills: three ways for SMEs to foster employee engagement and productivity.

About Nicola Britovsek

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By donr1
12th Aug 2018 23:45

In my experience involving both industrial relations and management training, one of the most valuable tools available to assist with achieving productivity outcomes for both the person and the organization, is a very detailed explanation of what is required.

That means not just the jobs to be done, but more importantly the specific things to be done to ensure those jobs are completed as required. Too often performance requirements/key points/performance criteria/call-them-what-you-will, are not easily understood especially by new members to the Team.

Having everything spelt out in simple language they understand helps introduce the productivity issues right at the beginning. It's not good enough to have performance requirements listed as having to be "tradesmanlike"; or "professional"; or timely, as these will mean different things to different people especially in the beginning.

So telling people exactly what is meant by being a team player...…...or putting the customer first and other such terminology, is invaluable. And what makes things even worse is when organisations fail to apply this thinking to senior positions as well. No wonder the world is still struggling with helping people achieve to their best!!! Perhaps if we spent less time changing "induction" to "onboarding", as well as producing volumes on "wellness" when what people more easily understand is that organisations must consider the more basic health and safety issues for their Staff both at work and where possible, away from work. Leave the fancy stuff until later.

Cheers. DonR.

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