February 25, 2014 11:30 am
Updated: February 25, 2014 2:07 pm

5 essential elements of increasing workforce productivity

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Every organization in both the public and private sector strives to maximize the productivity of its workforce. However, there are a variety of challenges and misconceptions about how best to achieve that goal.

This article will share five top tips for understanding and enhancing productivity in any organization.

Measure

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No one will find a solution to a problem if they don’t know that it exists. Understanding the extent of the issue is key. There are many ways to measure productivity and the best approach will vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size of the organization, industry and management preferences.

Employee output or ‘revenue per employee’ can be defined and measured based on the volume, speed and quality per each dollar spent on labour costs. It is critical to understand the factors that can drain productivity, for example: How much time does each employee spend on the Internet or their mobile device outside of business related operations? A key aspect of measurement is goals – it is important to set realistic targets. Management needs to understand the limits of achievement. While an aggressive employer may want his team to push themselves to achieve lofty goals, it may also lead to negative results including burn out and reduced retention.

Communicate

Employees require meaningful, insightful and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. Effective communication reduces errors and builds confidence. Likewise, a lack of effective communication will frustrate employees and make them feel less important. Inadequate feedback will lead to wasted energy, increased errors and lower overall productivity. Feedback mechanisms need to be developed in collaboration with employees to ensure that they fit both the needs of management and employees.

Train, train, and train some more

A recent report from CERIC highlighting career development in the Canadian workplace found that nearly all large organizations with 500 or more employees (97 per cent) provide consistent training; however, for small businesses with fewer than ten staff, ongoing training is much less common and in some cases non-existent.

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There is a commonly held misconception among many organizations that if they invest in training their employees, they will lose them to other organizations. The CERIC Report found that 64 per cent of employers share this concern. The reality is, the more an organization invests in developing talent, the more likely they are to retain employees. According to the ASTD Report “Bridging the Gap,” 41 per cent of employees in companies that invest little or nothing in training said they are likely to leave within one year. However, that number plummeted to 12 per cent for employers who invested significantly in developing their people. Interestingly, the CERIC Report found that businesses located in Quebec and other major cities are least willing to provide training.

Ensuring you have the right tools is critical for effective training. All too often, training tools are procured via the lowest-cost provider with minimal consideration given to which provider would be most effective over the long term. Training practices with the primary goal of minimizing cost, not enabling business capability, are doomed to fail.

Reward

Beyond the obvious financial rewards, leaders and colleagues can provide nonmonetary recognition that increases energy, excitement, loyalty and motivation. These non-financial factors may include recognition, exposure to new challenges, positive feedback and new learning opportunities. Awards and profiles in organizational communications (newsletters, all-hands meetings, etc.) demonstrate that management values and reinforces achievement. The most productive organizations have a defined culture and formal processes to ensure achievement and dedication are recognized.

Innovate

Innovation is a requirement today. Across most industries, the increase in the level of productivity that is required to maintain a competitive position in the market is growing constantly. A continuous drive towards innovation both in solutions, services and in business processes increases efficiency. Management must develop processes, training, measurements and incentives that support continuous innovation across the workforce. Employees are often the best source of new ideas and methods of driving efficiency.

Many factors impact productivity. Employers must explore broad changes in their processes and culture to improve the overall productivity of their workforce.

In today’s world of shrinking budgets, many organizations are hesitant to implement changes because they are concerned about costs. However, the best practices discussed above are not as expensive as you may think, and many can be implemented at no cost. The practices that do cost money don’t have to be implemented all at once. Determine what the actual costs will be, and deploy small pilot programs before rolling them out across the organization. The productivity improvements will greatly outweigh the costs.

 

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