What is high productivity and how can we achieve it?
I have been writing articles about improving productivity for the last two or three months. There are often press items about how the UK is suffering from low productivity. Employers are continually being encouraged to do things to improve productivity.
But what does high productivity mean?
What does “high productivity” actually mean?
Essentially, to be highly productive, we need to make the best use of our time and resources.
This does not necessarily mean doing things more quickly. If we rush things and make mistakes, we might need to do them again. So that is not very productive.
Productivity is not about perfection. We might want to be the best at what we do. We might want to manufacture the very best products in our field. Or maybe we want to beat the competition and make our items better than others that are on offer. But being the best may not be productive. It can take a long time to produce something which is better than the competition. Others might be churning out something which is not quite as good, but at a faster rate, or lower cost. So who is then the more productive?
Sometimes “good enough” is good enough
If our products are of a standard which is acceptable and which sells well, then we may not need to produce the very best. Of course, we may want to have a reputation as “the best”. In that case, we need to strive to create perfection. But the majority of businesses can do very well by producing a quality that is good enough, but not perfect.
If we do want to produce premium goods and be known for being “the best”, then our measure of productivity will be different to that of our competitors.
High productivity is not an absolute and is not strictly measurable. It is also something which changes on a daily basis. It depends on a variety of things, only some of which are under our control.
Factors which affect high productivity
Things which affect high productivity are many and varied. If we employ people, then those employees have a large impact on the rate of productivity. If they work quickly and accurately, then the business is more likely to be highly productive. When they are not able to work as speedily as we would like, then they may be less productive.
The availability, cost and quality of raw materials to produce our end goods has a huge impact on the productivity of our business. This may – or may not – be within our control. But how we manage the supply chain is critical. We may need to regularly review our suppliers.
The weather, state of the transport system, global economy, clearly all have an impact. These things affect us all and so our competitors also have to manage these peaks and troughs. But they are often outside our sphere of management.
Managing people to create high productivity
The one factor which is in our control is the way we manage the people who work for us. On a daily basis, there may be external factors in their lives which affect their individual productivity. We may have a limited ability to change that.
But how we manage people in general, and individuals in particular, is a critical factor in the level of our business productivity.
As human beings, we all want to be valued. We all want to be loved and appreciated. This is true in the workplace as much – or more – than in our private lives. We have a need to be accepted and to believe that we are useful. We shine more brightly when we know our purpose and feel appreciated.
The one, major, thing which every employer can do to improve productivity within the workplace is to value, thank and cherish our employees. Do they know their purpose and how their particular role fits into the overall business vision? Do they understand that you appreciate their efforts and value their input?Can they be sure they have the right skills to do the job well? Do they believe they are being paid fairly for their work? If the answer to all of those questions is “yes”, then you are well on your way to high productivity in your workplace.
A salutary tale
I had coffee with a friend this week. She has recently left her workplace after 9 years in her job. When she told her boss she was leaving, he said he was really disappointed. He said she was highly skilled and that he really appreciated her work.
Too little, too late.
Her feeling was this. Had he told her how she was valued earlier in their working relationship, she would probably never have got to the point of moving on. Had she felt appreciated and fairly paid, then she would never have looked for another job.
I have known employers who offer a pay rise to prevent someone from leaving the company. Sometimes that offer is accepted. But it is never a good solution. People will not feel the warmth from a pay increase for long. They will remember that they had to resign to get the appreciation. So they will keep looking for a better employer.
If you want to improve productivity, then look after your employees – and do it now.