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Let Us Take a Rational Look at Productivity

The Productivity Council designated the year 2017 as "The Year of Productivity". In the days, weeks and months following, there has been much discussion by many on the question of productivity, with calls by all for more productivity by Barbadian workers. This call was made the more vocal since a study showed that the public service has shown improvement, whilst the private sector has been lagging.

We must say up front that we in the Barbados Workers’ Union have been in the forefront in the call for enhanced productivity by every Barbadian, at all levels, from the directorship to the floor levels. We believe that enhanced productivity is the only way by which we can move our country forward.

So what do we mean when we talk about productivity?

Productivity is defined as a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, among other things, in converting inputs into useful outputs.

Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources – capital, energy, material, personnel – consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

In the great majority of the newspaper articles that have been written on productivity, including the editorials, as well as the public discussions, much responsibility has been placed on the workforce – and this focus on the workforce is made as if the workforce is the single factor in the productivity process. The workforce, important as it is, is only one part of the process.

What about the role of management?

What about the physical and mental state of the working environment?

What about the quality of the tools issued to workers?

What about the maintenance of the equipment used by the workers?

What about the levels of compensation?

What about the quality of the interpersonal relationships?

What about the broader psychosocial factors at work?

Yes, and we do certainly agree that good work habits are important elements in our quest for improved productivity, and we, as a Union, preach that; but the question is simply this: have we in Barbados been making effective efforts, at the enterprise level, to create and maintain conditions in the workplace, physical and mental, as well as applying appropriate training, supervision and tools that allow the work force to give of their optimum? What we often forget is that workers are human beings, first, and that human beings are affected positively or negatively by the physical and psychological conditions in which they find themselves whether at home, at work or at play. Even machinery, if it is not properly maintained rusts, and become ineffective.

We ask: how many workplaces in Barbados initiate relevant training for new entries and sustain that training?

How many workplaces have developed a culture that allows the workforce, first, to want to come to work and to produce at their optimum levels?

Let’s share the opinion of a non-Barbadian. We recently came across an informative article, entitled “Six Effective Ways to Enhance Workplace Productivity”, written by John Boitnott which we wish to share with you this evening.

John Boitnott states that the need to ensure and enhance employee productivity is a reality no business can ignore. Boitnott states that if you run a business you’ll want to lean away from doing the mundane and routine when you can. However, he says that it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter factors that may weaken or extinguish employee motivation and dampen productivity.

Obviously, you will need to mitigate these productivity killers. The first thing to do, he suggests, is to identify these factors, so that you can consciously prevent them from emerging or aggravating. You should also be able to suppress them if they already exist. However, avoidance is not enough; a proactive stance is always preferable.

The author identifies Six Ways to Enhance Workplace Productivity. They are;

1. Get Rid of Motivation Killers

2. Motivate through Gamification

3. Set Clear Goals and Provide Feedback

4. Use Technology Responsibly

5. Set Standards Effectively and Efficiently; and

6. Communicate Effectively and Efficiently

With regard to the point of Getting Rid of Motivation Killers, the author stated that, as mentioned earlier, there is a need to identify motivation killers in the workplace. A good manager will find ways to carefully observe the work environment in search of problem areas that adversely affect employee motivation.

Typical motivation killers include:

· toxic people,

· abrasive personalities,

· lack of organisational vision,

· absence of opportunities for professional development by the workers,

· poor communication systems,

· autocratic management styles; and

· the feeling by the workers of lack of appreciation by management.

Addressing each of these requires a variety of approaches but there are ways to kill these motivation killers.

We now turn to the second point, Motivate through Gamification. The author emphasises that motivation is a very important factor in ensuring productivity. He states that unmotivated employees get bored especially when they are dealing with monotonous routines. Likewise, employees who lack motivation may not have the enthusiasm, to complete challenging tasks. One effective way of motivating employees is through the use of gamification techniques. Tasks like completing reports or contributing ideas for projects and policy changes can be gamified to make them more appealing, exciting, or interesting.

He explains that gamification involves the use of badges, rewards, leader boards or rankings, points, challenges and other game elements to make repetitive and quantifiable tasks more engaging. Enterprise gamification platforms like Game-Effective can be integrated with ERP, CRM or other enterprise applications, making it easier for employees to use these and get ahead in the game. These can be readily deployed to add a play dimension to various aspects of a business operation, like sales and customer service.

Number 3, Set Clear Goals and Provide Feedback

Employees or personnel will be more involved if they know what they are expected to achieve. Cleary stating goals or having a company vision provides guidance for everyone. Short-term goals, in particular, are effective in encouraging employees to properly manage their speed in doing tasks to meet targets. Additionally, it is important to provide feedback or show that employees are being supervised.

Accomplishments should be acknowledged, while errors or failures in meeting targets should be promptly addressed. Good management practices can enhance and help maintain employee productivity.

4. Use Technology Responsibly

Refusing to leverage technology could be considered a grave mistake for any business. There are many technologies that significantly increase productivity in a workplace. To emphasize, using technology is not just about having computers and an internet connection in the office. It’s also important to study and utilise different hardware and software solutions that can improve employee productivity.

Collaborative applications like Asana can be very effective in making employees more productive, especially for organisations with geographically-distributed set-ups. Some employees do better if they are allowed to work in locations they find more comfortable, such as their homes. In other cases, travel is simply too expensive or time-consuming, and telecommuting, remote working or even co-working are viable options/.

Increased mobility can break down barriers to productivity. Mobile devices enable access to communication and collaboration tools, as well as work-related documents and information. It is important, however, to prevent overly thinning the line between personal and professional lives. Work-life balance should be respected.

5. Set Standards and Provide Skills Development.

In every business, it is important to establish standards. Employees should be familiar with what the company expects from them. They need to know what they should be doing as well as their assigned roles. Without clear or explicit expectations, people tend to find excuses when they fail to achieve targets. Be clear at the outset: define what you expect of everyone, and how you expect people to perform their assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Moreover, address the aspirational needs of employees by providing opportunities for developing skills or advancing professionally. Management should expect every employee to seek challenges and to not want to be stagnant. It’s not enough that they have mastered the skills needed to efficiently accomplish their current assignments. Let your employee realise that there are other things they can do, so that they can progress to higher positions. If you don’t help employees develop professionally, that may become motivation for them to seek a new company.

7. Communicate Effectively and Efficiently

Communication, without a doubt, is a crucial aspect of business operations. Without an effective system of communication in place, you will have difficulty in achieving goals and even in functioning properly. Communication here, by the way, is not just the simple use of devices, such as phones or verbal and written exchanges of information. It is about designing and using communication systems that are appropriate for the needs of a business or company.

Effective and efficient communication means that employees should know the hierarchy and expertise within the company. They should know who to reach out to regarding their concerns.

In terms of tools, take advantage of modern platforms and applications available. Enterprise social networking tools applications available. Enterprise social networking tool Yammer make it easier for employees to contribute to institutional knowledge and help colleagues with onboarding. Cloud-based office suites like Office365 help contribute to a culture of sharing and helping across the enterprise.

Maintaining and enhancing productivity in the workplace is not always vey easy to accomplish but it can also be boiled down to some simple concepts. Here are three key things to remember:

a) the need for employee motivation,

b) the proactive involvement of managers, and

c) the use of technologies and systems that greatly help employees in doing their work more efficiently.

If you thoughtfully execute plans with those concepts in mind, you are on the right track.