The productivity drain: How to keep productivity high.

February 20, 2018    Tim Frankland     ,

Examining how and where people want to work is the key to unlocking greater productivity and because the UK lags behind its G7 counterparts for output, it’s an all-important issue that UK business leaders cannot afford to ignore.

A recent survey by Vodafone highlighted that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of UK employees rate themselves as ‘unproductive’ at work, which is the equivalent of 7 million of the country’s total workforce knowingly being inefficient and not working to their full capacity or potential. The report captured the thoughts of 3,000 workers and is a mere glimpse at the size of the country’s productivity challenge.

Numerous complex factors affect workplace performance and employers striving to unlock greater productivity must give due consideration to each one in order to make significant progress. The main areas to consider are:

1. The right place and the right tools for the job

Although agile working is now a common part of the modern work experience, the office is still the most common place of work.Environments that are conducive with productivity have been designed with the act of work in mind – they co-locate departments that work together, provide a multitude of different spaces to suit different work tasks, enable efficient collaboration and knowledge sharing and importantly, are digitally rich, using intuitive and integrated technology. They also combine strong aesthetics to provide visual stimulation and to motivate and inspire.

The Vodafone survey went on to reveal that 42% of employees say poor technology is hampering their productivity. In a tech-led age, productivity demands the right digital tools in order to make employees efficient. Employers should consider the need for enhanced connectivity, collaboration and communication in every part of the working day. From employees using their own devices and sharing files and working collaboratively at the push of a button, to booking facilities online and having seamless un-interrupted Wi-Fi whichever workspace they choose – technology underpins the modern work place and poor technology undermines productivity.

2. Improved communication and engagement

The most productive employees are those that feel the most engaged with their work, something that is typically derived from shared organisational goals, ongoing communication and an understanding of how their individual efforts matter. Internal communications and a staff engagement programme should focus on making employees feel valued and informed. Show the workforce that you recognise they are bright, intelligent and interested and that their efforts matter to both the organisation and where appropriate, the wider community too. The greater the communication, the better the level of engagement and therefore productivity.

3. A supportive culture

Younger generations find the idea of team work and a collaborative, supportive work environment a particularly important and motivating part of the work experience and, as they start entering the workforce it’s important to meet their expectations (74% of Generation Z, born 1996-2010, want team work opportunities compared to 60% of baby boomers in the Vodafone survey). Creating opportunities for colleagues to work together, whether that’s formal team-working or informal ideas sharing and peer mentoring, a sense of belonging and camaraderie is important to unlocking extra discretionary effort and boosting output.

4. Agility and flexibility

Today’s employees want to be trusted and given the autonomy to decide how and where they work and employers should be willing to harness agile working to meet that end. Environment is an important tool and enabler in the bid for productivity but this isn’t just about looking at the fixed office location – it is about accepting that today’s work can be done anywhere. It’s working from a laptop at a client’s office, hosting a video conference from a home office and working remotely with colleagues from different locations around the world. Successful agile working requires the right technological infrastructure, workplace culture and support systems to allow flexibility to be harnessed for good effect.

5. Ensuring effective processes and behaviours

Too many meetings, poor internal communication and poor leaderships are just some of the factors that can impede productivity. Companies seeking to unlock greater productivity should review how work is done and look at the behaviours and activities that are both conducive and potentially detrimental to that.  Start by evaluating and improving management practices and streamlining working processes to put the focus on efficiency rather than ‘this is how we’ve always done it’. Ensure that the new desired behaviours are actively encouraged and on-boarded until new efficient and possibly tech-enabled processes become the new status quo.

Companies striving to achieve greater productivity can only do so by developing a greater understanding and appreciation of how their workers want to work. The businesses that succeed will have not only improved productivity – they will have improved staff retention, earned the best employer reputation, created the best workplace environments and put their people at the heart of the organisation’s decision making. Productivity can only peak when a company’s understanding of its people has done the same.


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