Last Updated on June 1, 2020
The world from the outlook of things is experiencing a very serious productivity crisis. In a speech delivered by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF, “Building a More Resilient and Inclusive Global Economy,” the IMF estimates that if productivity growth had come up along the line of its pre-2008 financial crisis trend, overall GDP in advanced economies would be about 5% higher today.
It will, however, be wrong to attempt to blame this overwhelming downward trend in productivity growth on the financial crisis alone. There is a very big stagnation in the productivity growth that has been going on for several years to the extent that the U.S. is losing a whopping $450–$550 billion to it every year.
The case is not much different in the U.K, the government has been called upon to set new targets and create an independent watchdog to monitor progress to improve national productivity. As if the productivity growth issue is not enough, we are also being bogged down by a workforce engagement crisis.
A very good number of people are outrightly disengaged at work, with industry research showing that only 34% of workers are engaged in the U.S., which boils down to the fact that just 1 in 3 people at work are fully engaged and, therefore, productive.
Incidentally, most companies globally seem to relegate this fact to the background. From the annual employee satisfaction or engagement surveys, they definitely must come up with the same kind of scenario as described above but why they don’t do anything about addressing the situation is a cause for concern.
Employees are not being productive
In a survey conducted by Sage covering 3,500 employees, it was discovered that more than a third of respondents believe they are actually productive for less than 30 hours a week. If you view this on the basis of a 40-hour week, then it means that your employees are productive for only 3.75 days out of the 5-day working week.
The survey also found out that 8% of respondents which can easily be extrapolated to 92% of millennials say they are more productive at work when their working experiences are positive. Going by the fact that millennials are expected to make up about 50% of the global workforce by 2020, you can no longer afford to continue taking the situation with a pinch of salt.
The apt question to ask here is, what are you doing about enhancing positive workforce experiences for your employees?
While you may have the notion that your employees are happy and having a nice or comfortable time at work, those are not all positive workforce experiences are about. Marketers have set the ball rolling by ensuring they are capitalizing on information gathered from the customer journey and experience, which is working for them; there is, therefore, no reason for your HR team not to be deeply focused on the “employee journey” or workforce experiences.
Take-aways from the workforce experiences
Through workforce experience, you should understand that you are taking into consideration the totality of all the outcomes of all interactions between your organization and the people you have engaged. The response of your employees, whether part-time, full-time or even on a contractual basis, and suppliers varies based on direct and indirect contact with your corporation and its brand through their whole journey, right from the time each is recruited, through to offer and onboarding, to eventually becoming a fully-fledged worker.
This is a very important consideration for you to take due to the fact that your employees are telling you that their workforce experience is an important factor in their own success and, undoubtedly to that of the organization. To every employee, the perception is totally different and you must, therefore, apply a different stroke to managing and engaging people each time.
You can’t afford to rely on outdated human capital management (HCM) systems and processes that were not even designed to help solve this problem in the very first place. Nobody is asking you to go and dust up any outdated performance management software or paper-based holiday request processes; what you are required to do is to be agile, accommodating, understanding, and flexible to the needs of employees, with the overview of improving your business by enhancing positive experiences.
Inasmuch as HR and People teams should not be solely held responsible for workforce experiences, they are better positioned to impact management with the importance. If you succeed in understanding your employees and initiating better ways of working, you can be assured of a radical transformation in your organization with the attendant considerable improvement in engagement and productivity gains.
You and your employees are not on the same page
Enhancing your employees’ productivity means that there must be an unalloyed harmony between you and your employees. Going for modern workspaces that can be seen with the very big brands such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, as well as contemporary co-working spaces offered by the likes of Spaces, may seem the vogue but is that what your employees really care for?
With these big organizations, the general working atmosphere promises plenty of free food, chilled drinks, indoor games, and bean bags. They are targeted at the millennials projecting a conducive working environment that is fun-filled that may not be realistic.
According to a report, 40% of employers tend to believe that games in the office and some other types of benefits are important to employees. But on the contrary, later findings have revealed this may not be necessarily so.
Only a very few employees across all age groups think benefits, such as ping-pong tables (5%) or company outings (9%), add value to their workforce experience. According to the survey by Sage, more than half of respondents (53%) are of the opinion that games in the office are a source of distraction that does productivity no good. This is a clear pointer to the fact that you and your employees are not on the same side of the coin as regards a culture that improves engagement.
The annual employee engagement survey seems dead
The annual employee engagement survey seems not to be helping issues in any way. We can safely conclude from what is happening that either you as an employer is not asking relevant questions or that you are not asking any question in the very first place. There seems not to be any derivable benefit, by the employees from the whole exercise.
The expectation is that the survey will serve as a sort of catalyst that will kick start an overwhelming transformation in the productivity rate of employees but this has proved to be wishful thinking. Businesses make us believe their efforts are channeled towards being consumer-centric but the problem is that without employees you won’t even have any product to showcase.
You need to listen to your employees and apply the same measure if not more to their feelings and concerns. For an upwards improvement in productivity, the views of the employees count very much and they will contribute more if they are carried along.
There must not be a disparity between what employees say they need and what you believe or think they should want.
Appreciation as your magic wand
In a lot of instances, the fact that you recognize the importance and contributions of an employee makes a great deal of impact more than you have ever envisaged. All those supposedly “goodies” are not as important to productivity and improving engagement as creating great workforce experiences.
You need your best team to greatly enhance productivity and there are “wolves” out there in the market ready to grab your best workforce at any cost. The resources you have expended to convert these “raw materials into finished products” will be flushed down the drain because of your indifference.
Many employers consider it a waste of time embarking on building, training, and retraining workers and prefer to grab skilled workers from the competition. This situation is becoming more worrisome as you are battling with the global skills crisis, the World Economic Forum reports that 40% of skills are set to be lost every four years.
The competition is armed with these facts and is willing to spend more on recruiting. You must be very proactive in handling this situation and the best you can do is to appreciate the value put into your business by your present crop of employees.
A complete overhaul of strategies
Whether you like it or not, you need to put new strategies into place. Your old way of reasoning has not and can’t help issues.
Your employees want meaning and value and you must be ready to comply by making concerted efforts to improve communications and feedback between your workforce and leadership team. Your HR team must be up and doing, employees’ needs and preferences must be uppermost in their thinking.
Use technological advancements to your advantage by making decisions that are people-based. You can gather the information you need to check on performance, promotions, and talent development from your database. The time for relying on your gut feelings has long gone, your decisions should be informed and derived from actionable insights.
While technology cannot solve all of your problems, applying some of these advancements into your operations will ensure that tangible difference is made in the areas of employee retention and overall productivity. The information you gather from your employees’ demographic studies will enable you to disengage those who are naturally clogging the wheel of productivity.
A company that’s people-oriented
In order for you to end up with a people-oriented company that should be your ultimate goal, you must make the necessary leap in the understanding of how to improve productivity through a more engaged workforce, who will vouchsafe your organization’s great workforce experiences. You must with all sincerity value your employees, decisions you take must not always be financial, customer or operationally based.
Now that you’ve been able to arrive here, your HR processes must be adapting to the massive cultural transformation whereby your HR unit’s function, as well as associated systems, are in for a change too.
The following are key questions you should be able to provide answers to:
- How do you make decisions about your workforce, based on available data, analytics, and the application of People Science, or you just go about making assumptions about them on gut instinct and ad hoc manager feedback?
- Have you started to incorporate your employees’ ideas through paying attention to what they say, acting promptly on their feedback, interacting fully with them?
- To what degree is the flexibility of your HR systems and how supportive are they to you?
- Are you able to design and implement better ways of working promptly?
- Is your HR team proactive and able to automate new HR processes promptly and easily, or is it clogging your ability to effect changes?