We know what productivity means……. working harder, working faster doing more with what you have and making efficiencies – surely?
Well, not necessarily…
Strangely enough, workplace productivity is far more closely linked to engagement than we imagine. The link between levels of employee motivation, mission support and personal investment to measurables like employee turnover (costly), brand erosion (possibly costlier) and profit loss (often the costliest) has been proven time and again.
Research conducted by the Gallup Organization (in a poll of over 1.4 million employees) showed that those businesses which have demonstrably higher levels of engagement also report 22% higher productivity.
So what is it that businesses need to do to hit that productivity sweet spot?
Well, firstly, there’s a mindset shift. Senior leaders have it within their power to create or change culture – for better or for worse – across the breadth of a business. And culture is one of the biggest factors in keeping employees engaged, on-side and productive.
If the workplace culture is one where being ‘efficient’ is valued more highly than being ‘effective’ there is a risk that productivity levels – however they are measured – will stagnate and ultimately decline. So what’s the difference?
Being effective means doing what’s right in the interests of the business mission. Being efficient means doing the right things – often in spite of wider business interests. If an organisational culture can be embedded in which being effective is prized as much as being efficient, the climate for increased productivity starts to emerge.
Engaged employees are those who know four things at a profound level.
They know WHY they are there.
They know WHAT they need to do.
They know HOW to do it.
They know WHO they can turn to for help.
The WHY relates to the overall business raison d’etre. It’s the big picture stuff – the headlines of the over-arching business strategy. Crucially it’s about the employee’s own part in making the plan happen – however small. WHY is also about recognition and value for what they bring the party. People don’t go to work because they like to feel isolated and exposed. We are a herd species and as such being part of ‘something’ that is seen as worthwhile has a deep impact on our ability to perform.
WHAT is key in any business and particularly when it comes to productivity. The saying goes that ‘what get measured, gets done’. And yet whilst we often know this on one level, there are always ways of improving our understanding about what is expected. Using SMART objectives may seem a little tired in today’s workplace, but the technique does bring clarity to what the WHAT of the workplace.
HOW is often neglected. The most effective and therefore productive people in business are those who are supported in recognising and addressing developmental gaps. Understanding HOW I will meet my objectives very often results in my feeling safe to try, to initiate and to create. It allows me to tap into the strengths I already have at my disposal and to seek out ways of meeting skills gaps. It means that my esteem and confidence levels will be taken care of and as such, I will start to stretch and surpass what is expected of me.
The final element of engagement for productivity is the WHO. This centres on the creation of a climate of trust and ‘psychological safety’ across the business. Knowing that you will be supported when you don’t know HOW to approach something or if you make a mistake is extremely powerful. Support can come from a range of places and we are seeing more and more that the highest performing and most productive businesses, are those that invest in creating a coaching and mentoring culture across the organization.
So, productivity then. Working harder, working faster, doing more? Maybe not. But using your energy elsewhere, ensuring you and your employees know WHY, WHAT, HOW and WHO? Absolutely.