January 15, 2016

Productivity a key concern for HR

The UK’s productivity is lagging behind that of other advanced economies. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics, its Index of Production, suggests that output decreased by 0.7% between October and November 2015.

On the back of these findings, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has announced that improving national productivity is a priority for 2016. CBI data indicates that the UK is 20 percentage points below the G7 average, which is the widest the gap has been since records began in 1991.

Productivity is of course a key concern for HR. After all, productivity is largely about how effectively an organisation and the people within it operate and produce best value from the resources available.

A 2015 CIPD report, ‘Productivity: Getting the best out of people’, showed that organisations are not focusing sufficiently on productivity – a least a third of businesses do not measure their productivity levels.

A CIPD survey of 633 HR leaders in 2014 found that increasing productivity was a current priority for 41% of them. How did they plan to do it? The top priority was workforce and succession planning (60%), performance management (59%), improving leadership and management capability (51%) and training and development (51%).

The report found those organisations that had invested in training for all or nearly all of the workforce reported higher levels of productivity. The CIPD works in partnership with several organisations (the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Chartered Management Institute, Investors in People and the Royal Society for the Arts) to help businesses measure what impact their workforce is having on organizational performance. Called ‘Valuing your Talent, the idea is that businesses can use the data to then strategically improve workforce skills and productivity.

It’s not just about improving the skills of the workforce however. Just as important is helping people to work better. One way that organisations can do that is to simplify the working environment. So says the global professional services company, Deloitte, after its research found that many employees are feeling swamped by the pressure and workloads of the modern workplace.

Based on the findings of the organisation’s annual Global Human Capital Trends 2014 survey of more than 2,500 business and HR leaders in 94 countries, Deloitte put out a call to action in a report called: ‘The Overwhelmed Employee: Simplify the work environment’. In it, Deloitte talks about how information overload and the 24/7 work environment are overwhelming employees. What is the result of this situation (apart from overwhelmed employees)? Productivity, employee engagement and overall performance are negatively affected.

Of those polled in the survey, 65% of them said the ‘overwhelmed employee’ was an urgent or important trend, but it was a trend that 44% said they were not ready to deal with yet.

This is a critical HR issue and one that needs urgent attention in a lot of companies. Some organisations are making headway in this area – flexible working practices, encouraging employees to switch off their devices and work email in evenings at weekends, etc. But much more is needed across the board.

Next week we look at how HR professionals can be more productive themselves in their jobs with DPG’s top 10 productivity hacks.