Productivity at the workplace

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ARE your employees productive at work? Many organisations have problems in ascertaining productivity levels of their employees and it is most probable that they are wasting resources, financially or otherwise paying unproductive labour. No matter what kind of products or services your business offers, it’s important to measure employee productivity, and to measure it as accurately as possible. Peter Drucker, author and management expert had this to say: “If you can measure it, you can improve it.”

People Management Issues Robert Mandeya

Ensuring productivity in the workplace can be challenging. A 2013 Gallup survey revealed that 70% of US workers are disengaged from their workday. I shudder to think what situation is obtaining in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular with regard to work productivity. Distracted by smart phones, social media, personal emails and the demands of their personal lives, most employees find it hard to focus consistently and be productive. The problem could be worse in Zimbabwe as most organisations do not have the slightest clue of measuring productivity of workers-especially office work.

The lack of interest and involvement by many workers often leads to low or mediocre productivity. Accurately measuring your employees’ productivity is one clear way to gain insight into how skilled, engaged and productive your employees really are.

Creating high expectations

It’s essential to measure productivity appropriately. Many companies that want to raise their competitiveness are investing a lot of money and faith in methods to track their plants’ and offices’ efficiency. Taking accurate productivity measurements can mean more than simply counting the number of products made or sold, or services performed.

Look beyond direct labour

What is productivity? Remarkably, many people who make decisions every day about improving plant efficiency don’t know how to answer this simple question. Let’s begin with what productivity is not. A toy factory worker might produce 100 toys each day. But if most of those toys are defective and unsellable, that employee’s productivity level is not very high, and both work time and materials are being wasted.

When you measure your employees’ productivity and discuss your findings with them, you’re letting them know that you expect them to care about their work, perform it as well as they can, and work toward achieving individual goals that are aligned with company goals.

It also goes without saying that in revealing how individual employees are performing, these measurements can also reveal where the work flow gets slowed down or stopped due to equipment breakdowns, inefficient processes, poor job training, or lack of communication, among other problems. Therefore when used correctly, accurate productivity measurements can also reveal how well your business is progressing towards its goals and targets.
What are your business goals?

Productivity measurement should focus on overall capabilities, not on one set of costs. What are your company’s short- and long-term goals? Are you looking to increase profits, innovation or efficiency? Tap into new markets and find new customers? Increase customer retention levels? How good is your company at taking a pile of raw materials, a bunch of machines, stacks of paperwork, and groups of employees, and turning out useful goods or services? That’s what a productivity index should address. It is, as much as possible, a relationship between physical inputs and outputs. The formula is disarmingly simple.

However studies have shown that employees who are able to see a direct connection between their productivity and company goals are far happier-and therefore more productive-than those who don’t see how their work affects company goals.

From 2014 statistics of companies or organisations I have provided training for, I have noted that only 40% of workers know what their employer’s goals and strategies are. Whatever your business goals, it’s important to make them clear to employees. It’s also important to find the methods of measurement that reveal how well employee output is bringing you closer to your business goals.

What drives your business?

Before you can choose the most accurate productivity methods for your business, identify your key performance indicators (KPIs). These are your drivers-the profit-making, reputation-making parts of your organisation. Your KPIs must spring directly from your business’s biggest goals, and must relate only to those aspects of your business that you have some control over. For instance, If your store sells umbrellas in a very dry part of the country, the weather is not a KPI for you, because you have no control over it. Because you do have control over your inventory, sales for items such as sunglasses can be considered a KPI.

Choosing the right methods

Most employees perform several tasks, some of which will be easier to measure than others. When determining how profitable an employee’s actions are, include factors that affect those profits, such as the cost of overtime, annual turnover rates, and overall job satisfaction. Be open to different approaches, and be willing to try different methods at different times, to see which reveal the most accurate data, and reveal what’s most important in terms of your business goals.

There are about seven top methods for accurately measuring employee productivity which due to space I cannot allude to now but I hope the insights shared here will help give you a hint on the importance of productivity measurement.

No matter how big or small your business is, productivity measurement should be part of your instruments for propelling growth and profitability of your business.

Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com

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