Today’s business leaders are dealing with a lot.
Along with the technology-shaped elephant in the room, the increase in internal business collaboration (50 percent in the past two decades), the change in performance management and the influx of millennials have left many companies scrambling.
Despite these changes, the goals of businesses have remained constant: Generate revenue in the most efficient way possible, and no matter what industry you’re in, the productivity of your employees matters.
The Productivity Constant
However, many businesses struggle to quantify their employee productivity, and for good reason: The shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy has forced many leaders to reconsider how they measure and inspire productivity.
However, productivity is still a metric worth considering. As with any difficult task, a step-by-step methodology is typically the best place to start.
- Define what employee productivity means to your business, and determine the metrics you want to use to measure it.
- Test and retest productivity efforts on your workforce until you figure out what works.
- Learn from your failures, and repeat your successes.
Let’s take a deeper dive into these steps.
Defining and Measuring Productivity
Every business is different; therefore, how businesses measure productivity should vary. Working with team leaders to identify what it actually looks like in your business is the first step to increasing it.
Keep in mind, definitions can be deceivingly thorny, so much so that HR and business leaders have had to endure a myriad of recommendations, from the vague (“be more strategic”) to the vapid (“paint your walls yellow, make more money”). Thought leaders constantly drop words like “culture” and “engagement,” and sometimes tie them holistically to an employee’s output, placing pressure on many businesses to either adapt or disappear.
One example of this difficulty lies in the connection between productivity and employee engagement.
In the past, if employees agreed with statements like “Company X is a great place to work,” they were considered “engaged,” while those who answered no were “disengaged.” However, a recent Harvard Business Review study reported that a “yes” to the question simply could mean that particular employee matched well with the corporate culture, while employees who answered “no” just could be dissatisfied with the status quo and looking to make big improvements. In that case, “engaged” employees were no more productive than their “disengaged” counterparts were.
Both engagement and productivity are worthy business objectives, but leaders must clearly outline their goals and then understand the metrics they are using to quantify said goals. Moreover, companies ought to utilize both behavioral and survey data to measure their workforce and then inspire management to take the findings to heart.
Because of such studies, today’s HR and business leaders should make observing and learning from their workforce a top priority. This notion aligns with practices of such successful companies as Google and Southwest, which employ “design thinking.”
According to a recent Deloitte University Press article, “Design thinking moves HR’s focus beyond building programs and processes to a new goal: designing a productive and meaningful employee experience through solutions that are compelling, enjoyable and simple.”
Design thinking begins at the base — the employee — and works from there in order to improve output.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that different personalities, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses exist within a single department; therefore, the ways in which businesses inspire those individuals to work harder and better inherently will vary.
Design thinking helps HR leaders classify people into different groups or “personas,” and once businesses form an understanding of their workforce, they then begin testing measures to inspire those different “personas” to produce. Design thinking is flexible; it tests each finding to its end. If the technique does not work, practitioners view it as a learning experience rather than a failure, and then continue trying different techniques until they figure out the best way to stimulate production from their different groups of workers.
But does design thinking actually work?
According to Deloitte, “The data from our survey this year suggest that the more importance an organization places on design thinking […] the faster the organization grows.”
Business leaders should remain vigilant about the experience of their employees without losing sight of their company’s overarching goals. This precarious balancing act requires constant observation, assessment and the occasional serving of humble pie. However, the result of an empathetic and nimble business is a churning, successful workforce.
Be sure to check out our article about personal productivity and how you are truly only two steps away from inciting increased productivity in your daily life.
This article was originally posted on Paycom.com.