Productivity – the challenges go beyond processes and systems?

The budget this week was interesting and there were some surprises. One such surprise was the focus the government have stressed on increasing productivity as a key priority for the future.
A natural response for many would be to revert to the continuing quest for more efficient and lean processes, new systems, for seeking ways of accelerating output mechanisms and for driving the more for less mantra.
Despite advances in artificial intelligence, people are still the variable within any effort to lift and change productivity levels.  In taking two definitions of ‘productivity’ as being (1) the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services  and (2) when relating to economics: the rate at which goods and services having exchange value are brought forth or produced, the role of people is key to the ‘deliverable.’
There are so many people factors that will impact on their capacity to deliver optimal performance and productivity levels, individually and collaboratively with others and/or with systems.
To consider just a few:

  • Fitness – physical and mental. Well-being is being considered by many organisations and there is a lot of thought being given to it in terms of education, diet, health screening and physical well-being. We should not forget brain fitness. The ability to take good decisions for longer, the level of ‘learning receptiveness, the ability to work safely throughout shifts. Explore products such as Neuro-link which provide snapshots of the ways you are wired and go beyond personality and basic physical fitness when providing baselines for personal improvement.
  • Connection – exploring and being clear on levels of engagement, detachment, motivation, and resilience help establish pathways for productivity improvement within the people support frameworks. There is then a myriad of variables that are impacting these factors such as management impact, the working environment, the organisation culture and team sub cultures. Is there a fear of failure or a desire to succeed or willingness to take the ‘risk of winning?’
  • Clarity – To what extent are people clear on the expectations from them, the organisation purpose and intent and their immediate objectives? How easily is simplicity of task being driven from the complexity of the role and contribution? To what extent are processes and systems fully understood and utilised to enable optimal productivity.
  • Critical Skills – Are you equipped with the level, and range of skills and capability within your organisation to meet and deliver your purpose, intent, and expected levels of productivity?
  • STRESS levels – Last week AXA published a report highlighting the incredible levels of stress being experienced by UK workers in the workplace. It highlighted today’s ‘Always On’ environment was a major contributor to workplace stress. There is a difference between pressure and stress yet a belief that pressure is good can sometimes go too far and become stress. The 24-hour connected concept when treated inappropriately and with a lack of respect (often time zone related) can create major stress points. The report highlighted the high levels of people checking e-mails and taking calls beyond their standard working day.

[bctt tweet=”It is time for expertise in people to be seen as valuable and to be considered in all change” via=”no”]
We conducted some local research to see what the common stressors were for office workers in our immediate region. Factors included – poor communication, poor working environment, office ‘bullies (not necessarily their managers), the culture detachment from personal values, technology issues (wifi, ‘stuff’ not working), constant change, and the ‘Re’s (Redundancy, Reorganization, Respect for the individual).
We were surprised though by the high level of response citing stressors that can affect us before we even get to the office. Car journeys with high volumes of traffic, others driving badly, roadworks, train delays, train overcrowding, and weather conditions. These, as much as anything else, can disrupt our day and affect our well-being and productivity. On a similar front, the research also highlighted the impact of  ‘the little things’ (tapping fingers, clicking pens, squeaky chairs, poor timekeeping, food smells) as a cumulative stress source. When stressed, productivity reduces.
There are also things beyond the workplace that can and often do impact us at work. If we want to help our people to be less stressed at work, we need to be sensitive to what’s going on for people outside the physical walls of the workplace. Such as worry over paying the bills, illness, fitness, weight, house moves, relationship issues, bereavement. The Axa report highlighted these types of worry can stress when considered for partners and family as well as personal.
So, the message is clear, for the sake of the UK economy, look after yourself, look after your colleagues, look after the people in your company, look after partners and family. At the very least it will make the workplace a much happier place to be. Productivity management will need to go beyond processes and systems and the complexity of people factors will require much higher awareness if it is to shift perception in terms of their importance and influence on results. It is time for expertise in people to be seen as valuable and to be considered in all change, transformation and performance related initiatives; including productivity projects.
What is the one thing that causes you to be stressed at work? Let us know in the comments below and we will publish the results in a future blog …
Neville Pritchard
November 2017
For more information on how HR in Flow and People in Flow have developed analysis that matters, measures that enable, and new approaches to old issues contact or call +44(0)1280 823 702

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