Are your employees fully productive ?
How do you answer the question when there is no exact measurement to employee productivity ?
Individual Productivity is a relative term. You try to evaluate based on difference between the output of those staff who you think deliver a higher output and those others. Or as in certain manufacturing industries, the number of units manufactured and the trends over a period gives a fair idea on which direction productivity is moving. But in the knowledge industry it is next to impossible to measure through simple parameters. For e.g. in IT industry, lines of code (LoC) per day was once considered a parameter. It is no longer relevant. Several new technologies don’t work through LoC model of development. It also does not take care of the time and effort spent on analysis, reviews and other processes.
Still, enhancing productivity is a concern for leaders in every industry. The inherent and easiest understanding is for staff to be at their desks or work locations for maximum possible number of time during the working hours. There are several hardware equipment and software tools to keep a track. Bio-metric attendance systems, Cameras, Login trackers etc. In addition, the comparative output between staff on similar jobs is another parameter that is tracked.
While these can cut down wastage of time and help identify less productive resources, they don’t really help in increasing average productivity from X to Y.
Productivity Drivers for today’s economy
Apart from generic aspects like commitment, attitude and quick-learning nature, the ‘manageable’ among the drivers for productivity and efficiency are:
- Knowledge and Skill level to execute the job
- Analytical and Problem solving capabilities
- Job-satisfaction, bonding with the Organisation
- Project and Task Planning
These are very important traits for staff to excel in their job. These aspects are not standalone but a mix of the personal nature and the work environment. Companies should put a great focus on these aspects to build an attitude, culture and environment suitable for high productivity.
Org processes and policies need to be regularly reviewed and updated to change with regulations, staff feedback, internal and external demands. It is not the other way round, where rigid, outdated and unrelenting policies bind staff.
Described below a suggested high-level approach. There is more to it but starting with focusing on a few low-handing factors can help in enhancing productivity.
Assess the four aspects mentioned in the Drivers section above through some form of tests, evaluations and reviews. Make it appear as an employee feedback mechanism rather than a threat. Otherwise readings will not be genuine. The exercise can be done anonymously if needed. There are standard questionnaires available in most job areas in these aspects.
B. Consolidate & Analyze
Collate data across the organisation. Look for trends, spikes, troughs. There could be some departments where values are very high or low compared to company average. Review the managers vs staff assessments in departments where variation from the mean is high. Closely review comments and feedback even if some of them look silly. It is after-all affecting someone’s morale.
C. Plan and Act
Key actions for each of the productivity drivers mentioned above are suggested below:
Knowledge and Skill level to execute the job.
Training, skilling and cross-skilling programs is not a weekend, overtime or after job exercise. Regular training should built into the schedules. Mandate training in certain areas. Training programs should be very interactive and un-inhibitive.
Skills include both hard skills (Core-job skills or Technical skills) and soft skills (Personality, Communication etc). While technical skills are given high importance, soft skills are often ignored. But as staff grow up the ladder, the importance of skills like teaming, presentation, communication, articulation, executive presence, project management, time management etc become more and more important. A lack of these skills can severely impact their performance despite being excellent in their core subject. Customer facing staff critically need language, communication, presentation and MS Office skills.
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Analytical and Problem solving capabilities
Analytical and problem solving skills are needed for people handling complex projects and teams, sometimes spread across geographies. Capability enhancement in these areas should be done personal sessions and simulated scenarios of tough real life situations are work. For e.g a manager handling a staff who faces a family emergency during a very critical and indispensable phase of production. It should also include experienced professionals taking junior staff through their personal experience of crisis situations in past and how they successfully handled them.
Job-satisfaction, respect for the Organisation
The staff position, career path, growth, manager relationship, freedom, work hours, performance appraisal systems, leave process, company communication, grievance redressal mechanisms, rigidity/flexibility of policies, staff integration & recreation activity, reimbursement process etc- all these together impact these aspects.
“You are being paid for whatever you do”, “Leave the org if you don’t like it here” are very regressive expressions from certain managers which can impact staff morale around. A top-down approach from senior management to ensure job-satisfaction aspects go through continuous improvement is important. A large MNC recently did away with outdated appraisal mechanisms. This is the kind of agility needed.
Project and Task Planning
This is a weak area in most organisations, especially in India. We lag far behind developed countries in creating a realistic and professional project plan, bench-marking it and systematically tracking it. We believe more in everyone doing everything to make a plan work rather than clear task allocation. Project plans are created more for academic purposes rather than being realistic. Plans are made to fit into present goals rather than the other way round.
The resources, skill, infra and facilities to complete the task are not comprehensively considered. Old plans and its deviations are not utilized to improve on future planning exercises.
Poor and ad-hoc planning results not only in schedule and effort overruns, but also causes stress and dissatisfaction with the project manager as well as the company. Professional quality project planning in the initial stages of any project in terms of dates and resource allocation, its validation against practicality, and continuous tracking can drastically improve productivity and appreciation towards the job.
D. Re-assess and continuously improve
After implementing improvements, re-assess parameters after about 6 months. Continuous improvements and agility is the key. Until the assessments reach fairly consistent levels across the organization and the result is satisfactory, efforts need to be continued through the same cycle. Many middle-level managers need to accept change towards a more lateral management approach, as compared to a master-subordinate system. The outcome will be eventually be seen in terms of higher output, lesser attrition and better end-customer satisfaction.