Five ways employers can address declining productivity

From defining and recalibrating your culture to being the voice of the employee experience, HR needs to play its part

Falling employee productivity is a source of serious concern in the UK, with GDP per hour worked continuing to decline, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data. In addition, the Office for Budget Responsibility recently lowered its forecast on how quickly productivity levels are likely to improve, leading to ongoing concerns about the prospects for the post-recession recovery of the UK economy.

So how can human resources professionals help to turn these negative trends around? Many argue that you can relate lowered productivity and employee engagement to workplace culture problems. HR leaders can’t solve cultural problems in a vacuum, but they can provide the strategy and coaching to help business leaders cultivate an environment that will lead to employee and organisational success. Here are some top tips that can help companies in any sector address their issues with productivity:

Take the time to understand the current culture

Whether you use engagement surveys, focus groups or some other channel, you need to acquire clear and objective insights from employees about what it means and how it feels to work for your organisation. Are staff exhausted and disengaged because workloads are excessive? Are the tools and technology they use insufficient to improve productivity? Do inefficient and outdated processes get in the way? These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking.

Define the target culture

Decide what cultural attributes should be retained and identify those areas where new attributes need to be developed. Are your leaders sufficiently skilled and empowered to set clear objectives and coach your employees for better outcomes? If not, this needs to be addressed.

Choose the right levers for your transformation

Leadership, employee development, reward and recognition, communication quality and channels, process design, investment in tools and technology, work environment and company vision are all areas that can be leveraged to enhance employee engagement.

Plan the change

Don’t try to do everything at once. Assume that it takes one to two years to transform an organisation. Absorb the impact of one set of changes before implementing another. Communicate the transformation goals to your employees – over and over again – so that they understand what’s in it for the organisation and for them personally to make changes.

Revisit and recalibrate your culture on a regular basis

As the world moves on around your organisation, you’ll need to adjust your vision and culture to move with it. And what is most important of all for HR professionals is to be the voice of the employee experience to leadership. If you don’t help them make the connection between culture, engagement and productivity, that lacklustre productivity trend is unlikely to change.

Joyce Maroney is executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos