Productivity without the P word

Productivity without the P word

Productivity without the P word

In a recent article on productivity the Financial Times quoted the example of Proudmax in Shipley, West Yorkshire. The company had increased productivity by 38% over three years as a result of treating it’s workforce with humanity and fun. They actually enjoyed coming to work. Return on assets had doubled over the same period. The Finance Director said she didn’t use the word productivity much because it was a consequence of what they did, not a system for doing it. By all the management experience that I have had, she is so damn right.

Productivity is a major headache for Britain and it is going to become one for every developed country. That includes more recently developed countries like Singapore. Prosperity brings with it a belief in ever-rising standards of living and entitlement to a job that does not demand too much physical or mental effort. Humans are human. When survival is threatened they pull together, work hard and achieve. When good times roll on they spend – see the recent displays of this in the property market in SIngapore and elsewhere. They also expect sustained, increasing comfort.

To see how your productivity can be improved ask yourself these five questions:

[1] How do I know whether my workers are happy, feel listened to and enjoy coming to work? If the answer is ‘someone else, maybe my HR, tells me’ you are failing in your job of CEO, Divisional Director or Manager. The hierarchical line between your workers and you is a trap. Bypass it or lose productivity.

[2] What does the chart of worker turnover over the last seven years show you? Obviously, rapid and increasing turnover is the most serious symptom of bad management but no turnover at all is also very worrying. Beware an answer of unexpected stability. Find out why, whatever the answer.

[3] When you talk to your workers what is their tone? Do they smile a lot in a way that affirms satisfaction with their jobs or do they smile in a way that says ‘yes, I know you’re boss’? Smiling is important, especially on your part, but it can be a signal of dissatisfaction as well as of pleasure.

[4] How much do you tell your workforce about the progress of the business? I’m not talking about boring lectures with incomprehensible and unreadable slides. I’m asking about your ability to have a coffee with a few workers and relax – and worry – them into feeling part of the business.

[5] Every business has a few ‘key’ characters in it. They are recognisable to any experienced manager. They are often somewhat forward and a bit flippant. They are usually thought of as ‘characters’. How do you recognise and cultivate them? They are the people who decide your productivity.

I’m sure business management schools would have checklists running to fifty pages to deal with the question. They are for a theoretical world and very big companies who, I regret to say, often misuse them. Professionalism is not long winded dissertation. It is short, common sense doing.

And thinking about the other person first.