Productivity Isn't What You Think

Thursday, September 3, 2015
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This is part of a special advertising section featuring strategies for productivity.

While it's one of the most critical business outcomes for executives, and the Internet is rife with recommendations for how to "get productive quick," there are, unfortunately, no secrets, magic wands or easy formulas for driving productivity. However, HR is perfectly positioned to shift the dialogue about productivity to a new, more strategic place.

Productivity is all about people. Collaboration, engagement, well-being and productivity combine to create a positive total experience of work and, in turn, positive business outcomes. Recognition of this inter-relationship provides the opportunity for human resources to play a more intentional role. Here's how:

It's not just about the value-add. Frequently, productivity is connected with the reduction of non-value-added time and the pursuit of increased efficiencies. But this isn't the whole story. Rather than extracting all that we can from people, businesses will achieve greater productivity by considering how to add value for people.

HR can uniquely contribute by providing a holistic view.

* Create the kind of workplace that is focused on the balance of all these elements: engagement, collaboration, well-being and productivity -- not just productivity.

Provide amenities that send a message that employees are valued. Great coffee, access to services on-site and healthy lunch options all send cues about the business' investment in people.

It isn't about doing the job right. Instead, it's about doing the right job, as management consultant, educator and author Peter Drucker once said, which is the "why" in what we do. People are motivated by feeling engaged in their work and being connected to a greater whole, and by feeling like their work matters.

HR can guide the business in ensuring that its vision is inspiring, that job expectations are clear and that employees feel connected to shared goals.

* Provide venues within the work environment where associates can connect with colleagues informally and see how their work intersects with that of others toward the company's overall goals.

Work cafes, connection zones with comfortable seating and outdoor lunch areas, for example, all provide this kind of opportunity for linking with others.

It isn't about activity. Many times, productivity gurus advocate for counting, analyzing and monitoring tasks in order to ensure productivity. But an over-reliance on measurement can be counterproductive, since just being busy doesn't necessarily produce desired outcomes.

Again, HR has a critical role to play in helping to focus on accomplishment over more activity:

* Create a culture and a workplace where leaders and associates are truly rewarded for results and performance.

* Establish an atmosphere in which plenty of feedback is shared. Ensure that venues are available where people can connect informally over coffee or lunch as well as collaborate more formally in conference rooms or zones with more privacy.

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* Ensure that associates have the opportunity to take breaks throughout the day. Giving the brain appropriate downtime throughout the work day enhances well-being and helps ensure that focus stays on the most important aspects of tasks.

* It's not just about the head. In reality, it's also about the heart. True productivity starts with inspiring and motivating people to focus their time, their attention and their energy on the company's goals. This kind of motivation comes from people feeling engaged, involved and appreciated.

Like the other aspects of productivity, this, too, includes a key role for HR:

* Foster a culture in which people are appreciated -- regular team events or the provision of amenities can help.

Bring in pizza every now and then, or surprise a group of employees with popsicles on a hot summer day. The specifics of the reward or the surprise matter less. What matters most is that you can find ways to demonstrate gratitude for the work that your people are doing.

* Create places where leaders and team members can connect and leaders can express gratitude for the job employees are doing.

Bringing together engagement, collaboration, well-being and productivity will create work experiences and environments that attract and retain associates and contribute to business results. No group is as strategically positioned as HR to create this kind of vibrancy for people and productivity for the business.


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