About this thing called ‘productivity’ … 6


Increasing productivity in the workplace is important – or is it?

I guess the answer depends on what we understand by “productivity”…it is one of those concepts like “time management” – we can’t even properly define “time” yet want to “manage” it?

Is productivity just a ratio of “output” divided by “input”? Or does it include quality of life? And work/life balance?

Does it include having a happy workforce?

Is it “soft” or is it “hard”?

How do you measure it?

How do you know your people are more productive?

In the words of the popular song by Johnny Nash (from his 1972 album “I can see clearly now” – you been around then?!):

“There are more questions than answers

And the more I find out the less I know.”

(Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTHBfWcikmY )

Please post your insights about:

  • how you define “productivity in the workplace
  • what does increasing productivity in the workplace mean to you?
  • how would you measure productivity in the workplace?

Maybe we can get generate “more answers than questions”…

Gerrit Cloete

08 2 PERFORM (082 737 3676)

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6 thoughts on “About this thing called ‘productivity’ …

  • Lynnette Carrington

    I am with you on this one. Im wary of measuring ‘inputs’…..the focus is all wrong and should be concentrated on the agreed or expected output and the quality of said output in the context of the business context. Particularly true of skills development outputs.

  • Sipho Spele

    In my understanding “Productivity” refers quality of inputs, type of resource utilised, efficiency/effectiveness continuoua improvemwnt in the operational process etc. The cost on inputs should lesser than the outputs vice versa etc
    How to increase productivity – enhance employees skills/knowledge, recruit engineers, use technology tools to do a job better/improve on products, keep abreast with the environment where the business operates, identify competitors, their strength, the market share, develop new products

    Measure of productivity – output(usable quantity) divided by inputs expenses i.e. human resources, production factors, raw materials, resources etc. Were the business outputs meeting what the consumer views, add value to the business objectives and customer satisfaction, affordable,goods/service measure against quality/effectiveness/efficiency.

    Sipho Spele

  • Gavin Tonks

    what i do not understand is when you “design” the factory / [whatever else workplace] rand it’s process, you should have an idea of optimum output. If productivity is optimum out put then there should not be a question here.

    If one needs to create more product from an optimized facility then productivity is an essential, as it is the only way you will achieve a higher rate of out put.

    How productive is an employee or management is a key question as they are employed to produce a base line service for a fee. There performance based on achieving or under achieving these goals is of course a critical issue, especially dealing with the human factor.

    My concern is the productivity issue, is it to ensure the base line criteria is met or getting more than you are paying for from people?
    Optimum working conditions is not necessarily the most productive environment.I have seen the problem is more complacency than optimization. Many business fall into very secure comfort zones and therefore do not wish to be more productive. I have found some companies who were optimal and decided to expand resulting in the complete destruction of their business as they were unable to meet the new productivity design parameters.

    Productivity is the will and the desire to hold a % of a market and the driving needs to achieve this within a pre – determined budget. Sadly many of our companies are not hungry for business, and therefore do not constantly evaluate their productivity as a ratio.

    My haypennies worth.

  • Ian Webster

    Part of our definition of productivity has to be a focus on results rather than on activity. But “results” must be broadly defined.
    An increase in activities alone will not be helpful if I’m still only producing 15 widgets a day.
    But “results” should not only relate to number of widgets. It may be that be that I am able to improve the working conditions of staff making them more amiable and the workplace a more desirable place to be, which means recruiting will be easier. A good result, not mere activity.

  • Des Squire

    A simple 1% increase in productivity produces more than 10 times the impact of a 1% decrease in training costs. Old habits die hard. Nowhere is this more evident than in the manner in which companies tend to approach workforce productivity, especially in the face of a challenging global economy.

    Relying primarily on star performers to get you through tough times or to help you meet a new challenge is no longer pertinent. The old “80-20 rule” is no longer valid. Getting 80% of productivity from 20% of the can no longer be accepted. Companies need to consider ways of getting 100% or more productivity from as many employees as possible. This includes managers. Historically, when the chips were down, companies turned to the same 20% over and over again.
    This approach is just not working anymore. The challenges are too broad and too deep. Companies that will succeed in these tough times will be the ones that figure out a way to get all hands on deck. That means effectively engaging, supporting and improving the productivity of that “other 80 percent.” That in turn, means focusing on the right mix of levers that will optimally influence the ability, motivation and behaviours of that sizable portion of your workforce.
    Some considerations

    Companies wanting to succeed in these difficult times need to consider and take time to develop competencies in areas related to the various levers I have identified as absolute imperatives. That means effectively engaging, supporting and improving the productivity of the “other 80 percent.”
    It means focusing on the right mix of levers that will optimally influence the ability, motivation and behaviours of that sizable portion of the workforce. Some of these leavers are

    • Developing corporate and/or organisational trust
    • Developing understanding of self and others
    • Interdepartmental and employee communication
    • Understanding the business environment and the impact of poor productivity
    • Developing strong leadership who will address productivity issues head on

    The right mix of interventions to optimise workforce performance will certainly include training, knowledge management and self-directed learning. They will involve a strong leadership dimension, including communications planned and executed to be properly motivational. But organisational or institutional processes and structures are as much at the core of individual performance increases as are the more obvious personal components such as coaching and training.

  • George Fourie

    Good day Gerrit,

    Productivity in practice is simply explaining (contracting) to the employee what you expect from him to deliver in terms of his performance. At most companies where i train i fins that the employee does know clearly what is expected from him.

    The most important factor to keep in mind is the competence level of the employee. Competence has a direct influence on the productivity and SAFETY. In most cases if i ask management what the competence level of their employees are, they have no idea.

    What is expected from the employee should be measurable and documented. Both parties (employee / employer) should sing such a performance contract.