It doesn’t take rocket science to boost employee productivity – simple changes to the content of job roles and the control employees have in their day-to-day jobs could make a real difference, according to the latest Employee Outlook Survey from the CIPD , in partnership with Halogen Software. Employers can increase the productivity of their workers by allowing them more scope to use their initiative, creating more stimulating work and reducing bureaucracy. Employees surveyed identified the main workplace barriers to productivity as unnecessary rules and procedures (28%); inadequate resources available to do their jobs (28%); and office politics (24%).
Workplace engagement is a key factor affecting productivity and the proportion of engaged employees dropped from 39% to 36% during 2015, with men significantly less likely to be disengaged at work than women. There is clear evidence that employees feel most productive when they are enabled to use their initiative, are given goals and development opportunities that best align to their skills – three-fifths of those audited (61%) suggest that broadening their job role would make better use of their skills and experience.
Organisations should be looking at putting in place strategies to reduce bureaucracy in the workplace and encourage more out-of-the-box thinking to foster the innovation that drives the business. HR plays a critical role in giving line managers the guidance, tools and systems that enable them to help their employees succeed, be more productive and focus on the things that matter most to them, and to their organisations. Career development, growth and stimulation are keys to creating a culture of trust, while increasing job satisfaction and retention — and out-of-the-box thinking. Investing in employee development not only expands the employee’s capacity and ability to contribute, it can translate into improved business outcomes.
To encourage more innovation leaders themselves need to be comfortable with change and moving away from the status quo; they need to be receptive to new ideas, to trying while sometimes failing and always learning from experiences. If leaders can cultivate these behaviours, it’s a lot easier for employees to do the same. There is also a need to support this with better leadership training and deeper investment in employee development – to not only address the talent shortage but also to boost employee engagement, productivity and innovation.
Work-life balance – an issue of trust
The latest Employee Outlook Survey reported a slight increase between Spring and Autumn 2015 in employees reporting they feel able to achieve the right balance between their work and home lives. Notably employees are much more likely to agree that their manager provides them with support with work-life balance than their organisation as a whole. Clearly employees need to understand that the organisation itself is prepared to support flexibility when and where possible. Underpinned by a culture of trust, an organisation can scrap rigid working hours and focus more on employee productivity and outcomes and less on what time an employee began and ended the workday. This may be about giving employees the ability to leave for a doctor’s appointment mid-day knowing they are trusted to get the work done that they are responsible for.
Leaders need to model the behaviour they want to see in their employees – if the leader is emailing or calling late into the evening, employees are going to feel pressure to be ‘always-on’ too. While a 9-5 day doesn’t really exist in today’s global economy, organisations should look at what boundaries make sense for their culture and their business and then respect those boundaries.
The findings of the survey point to seven top tips to improve staff productivity:
- Create a culture of trust to underpin a winning combination of flexibility and productivity.
- Develop leaders and line managers to understand how to empower their staff rather than feel the need to micromanage employees.
- Provide employees with projects, responsibilities and goals that match their skills and enable autonomy.
- Connect the work employees do clearly with the needs of the organisation so employees see the impact they have on organisational success.
- Make sure employees have the right resources and training they need to do their job.
- Review rules and procedures to ensure these are necessary and not hampering productivity.
Ensure career development conversations take place regularly and where possible tie employee development to both the needs of the organisation and the individual’s career goals. Investing in employee development not only expands the employee’s capacity and ability to contribute, it can translate into improved business outcomes.
Employers can do so much more to empower and stimulate employees at work. Top of employees’ list of things employers can do to help them be more productive is to give them work that they find interesting and allows them to use their initiative. If employers can achieve this alongside matching employees’ skills to their roles, giving them the tools they need to do their job, while trusting them to deliver in a flexible workplace, the organisation will reap massive gains in productivity.
Dominique Jones is Vice President of Human Resources at Halogen Software. She holds CIPD Certification.
 The latest Employee Outlook Survey from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, in partnership with Halogen Software, surveyed over 2,000 UK employees in September 2015, asking what enabled them to be most productive in their jobs. http://www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/employee-outlook_2015.pdf