Being a strategic partner, Human Resources cannot ignore the employee efficiency issue. HR has a shared responsibility with other business leaders to increase the operational effectiveness of the organization. The competitiveness of the firm always depends strongly on the productivity of the workforce. The best organizations outperform competitors, and this competitive advantage allows them to invest in the research and development. They can invest into new markets and run the business at a loss there. Moreover, these companies invest into the development of employees. Being the top performer from the performance and productivity point of view brings tremendous benefits, and it has no weaknesses. However, the increase of the employee productivity is a complex task for the leadership team, because it is the essential component of the employer brand.
Also, it is important to mention that by the improvement we usually mean the sustainable increase of the labor productivity. Most managers still do not think out-of-the-box when it comes to new people management practices in the business. They still use old ways that do not work today. Employees have more opportunities to change the job, and the fear as a management tool does not work anymore. The active stimulation is always a plus; in this case, it is a must. Just the highly engaged and motivated employee can think about the job creatively and propose relevant improvement and changes. Managers are not the best source of innovations; employees are.
The employee productivity improvement should always be a long-term initiative. Most leaders and managers are great in gaining a short-term increase, but it is usually followed by a long slide again if it is not supported by the fundamental changes in the organization. The constant pressure on employees does not work as the best management tool. It brings a tremendous result, but they are not sustainable. Moreover, the workforce does not respond positively to another wave. They expect the same approach just repackaged again. Another mistake is mixing employee engagement and employee satisfaction. The satisfied workforce does not have to be the most efficient one.
From the financial point of view, the employee productivity is always reflected in net profits. The best performing organizations always have a higher net profit per headcount than the competitors. It is a source of a very strong competitive advantage. These businesses have found a secret how to produce more with fewer resources. They can also use it as a communication tool towards employees. Everyone want to work for a winner. No one intends to work for a loser. Each man in the company wants to be proud of the employer. He can identify with a strong brand name of the company. He can promote different techniques used in the business, and he can promote the corporate culture and values. Everything mentioned has a significant influence on net profits.
The productivity in the workplace is always a question of the management. It makes the issue highly complex because Human Resources cannot bring a significant improvement without influencing and changing the mind of the line management. Most managers have to change their approach to manage employees, and they have to become true partners. Employees can usually run their tasks autonomously, and they just require help. They do not want to be told how they should perform individual tasks. It is also about the mismatch of employees´ and managers´ expectations.
There is a great employee productivity measure that indicates a significant yet hidden issue. It is the retention of the key personnel. When top performers and high potentials start to leave the organization, it is a sign that the business will significantly suffer in coming days. They usually talk about better job opportunities, but they do not see a future for them in the business. They do not ask for a change because they gave up. It is a serious leadership issue that needs an immediate attention of the CEO. It is not just another mission impossible task for Human Resources.
The best way how to improve the employee productivity
First, Human Resources has to make sure that all leaders understand their roles in the business. The employee morale is not a responsibility that can be delegated to lower hierarchy levels. It always starts with the CEO. She always acts as the role model. If the CEO is positive and open minded, most managers will follow this attitude. It is the role of Human Resources to teach the CEO how to demonstrate the full ownership and accountability for the employee productivity. If there is no owner, Human Resources has no chance to bring a better operating model. It would rather not start any initiative.
Most leaders and managers do not know where to start. They know they can upgrade and increase personal goals and objectives. However, this is not the right approach. They should focus on employees first. They have to ask them where they see the potential. Employees have to express what they miss in the business. The Employee Engagement Survey is the best tool how to catch emotions, feelings, and ideas in the organization.
It has to be followed by several closely focused workshops where employees can talk about results. Employees are the ones who know everything about questions asked in the questionnaire. They can evaluate the position of the organization against competitors. It is usually based on interesting facts, and the leadership team should know them. The team should also understand them. The CEO has to ask employees to be open, honest and willing to change the business. He can ask individual groups to compose the action plan that can be prioritized later.
The leadership has to read the action plan carefully. It usually contains small visible improvements in the workspace and individual cubicles. Employees often wish a quieter workplace, more colors and a better relax area. These items are easy to improve, and the leadership team should take actions quickly to keep the momentum. However, there are issues about the corporate culture, Human Resources and management practices used in the company. These are much harder to tackle and require a coordinated and committed answer from leaders.
Next, it is time to update the HR strategy. It has to reflect all findings from the employee survey. It is usually about the corporate culture and the need to improve managerially and leadership skills in the organization. It has to strengthen the role of the direct superior. It also has to introduce a new look at the empowerment and delegation skills. Most managers do not like changes that limit their power. However, the business is in danger, and they have to understand that without this transformation the organization will die. Managers are usually the biggest obstacle to improving the employee productivity. The update has to focus on a new and meaningful goal setting procedure. We usually stick to old processes that do not work anymore.
The last step to improve the employee productivity is the change of strategic planning processes. The leadership has to invite employees; everyone has to feel the opportunity to influence the future of the business. This is the only way how to make sure that the organization does not stop and stagnate. It has to gain its speed again.