How to improve productivity in the workplace

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce – but how do you make it happen?

Defining productivity

It’s easy to confuse the meaning of the word productivity with the idea of getting more things done every day. There’s an assumption that to be a productive employee, you must be working flat-out from the moment you enter the workplace until the moment you close the door behind you at the end of the day. While, of course, working hard is an element to be applauded when considering productivity, it’s more a case of getting important things handled consistently, at a steady pace, working smarter not harder. And for that, knowing what is important is a crucial first step.

Brainstorming innovative ideas, spending time with colleagues creating a marketing strategy, or participating in team-building exercises might not, in themselves, seem to be productive.  If your business is manufacturing garden gnomes, no garden gnomes are manufactured while you’re busy with these activities. But they absolutely underpin your business, they help to create the company culture within which your employees will feel engaged – or not – so they must not be undervalued.

Productivity as a function of employee engagement

The Workplace Research Foundation, a one-time subsidiary of the US-based EMPA (Employee Motivation and Performance Assessment), examined the relationship between staff engagement and productivity. They discovered that highly engaged employees were 38% more likely to have above average productivity. Why is this?

For a start, engaged employees take fewer days off sick – the statistics say an average of 2.5 days, as against over 6 for less highly engaged staff members. During their working day, they tend to work in shorter concentrated bursts but also take regular breaks, managing their energy as well as their time. It seems counter-intuitive, but productivity increases in a work culture where rest is valued instead of staff being expected to pull all-nighters to get a project done.

Employee satisfaction, then, is fundamental to high levels of productivity, but whose responsibility is it? While some of it rests squarely with employees themselves – one can choose a positive attitude and commitment, no matter the circumstances – it’s an employer’s duty to create a work environment where employees feel valued and know that their voices are heard. That’s the route to productivity, growth and providing excellent service for customers.


How to improve employee engagement in the workplace

There are many ways to keep a workforce happy, engaged and therefore productive.

We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s a false equivalence to assume that happy staff members are also engaged and productive. They might be, but happiness may conflict with productivity if, for example, more attention is given to the table-tennis area in the lounge or frequent lunch outings to the local hostelry.

Countless business self-help books recommend (common-sense) practices to improve staff satisfaction, such as:

  • Recognise and encourage excellent work
  • Set realistic targets
  • Provide training
  • Promote a sense of shared ownership in company values.

However, Gallup’s 2017 report, The State of the Global Workplace, looks more generally at how engagement directly affects employee productivity and wellbeing.

‘Vital to maintaining high-productivity workplaces is an organizations’ ability to engage their employees. Gallup’s extensive research shows that employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes — such as productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction — that are essential to an organization’s financial success.’ p 12

They put forward three insights, the first of which particularly interests us at Future Resume because that’s our realm of expertise:

  • Select the right people
  • Develop employees’ strengths
  • Enhance employees’ well-being

Yes, increase productivity at work by hiring the right candidates!

An in-depth knowledge of a prospective employee – not so much informed by their past performance, but what they can offer now and what’s their potential for the future – provides the opportunity to hire managers and other staff members who will drive engagement and productivity amongst their co-workers. They will care about people, but just as much about performance. They can build strong relationships, empower workforces and engender a positive work culture in which every employee feels supported and motivated to give their best to the company and to stay long-term. Increased productivity will follow naturally.

That’s our mission at Future Resume.