The Great Reflection: Productivity

Written by

Cavelle Joseph-St Omer

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All ArticlesProductivity

More than two years coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are yet again at another liminal moment for work … the issue of productivity. Between organisations reengineering their systems and processes, restructuring, layoffs, the migrant challenges and employees quitting their jobs, it is becoming clearer that the principles underlying the employee value proposition (EVP) are outdated.

Many organisations still seem focused on patching together short-term tactics to solve what has become a series of longer-term systemic truths regarding the work environment; namely: (1) Employees are people, not just workers, (2) Work is a subset of life, not separate from it, and (3) Value comes through feelings, not just features.

And while to employers, productivity is an issue, the employees today are reflecting, and they are discovering that a sense of personal value is key. While chatting with some individuals, I recognise that people are continuing to ask themselves questions such as: (1) What makes me happy and whole?; (2) What truly satisfies me?; and (3) Where have I given away too much of myself for little return?

The reality is COVID-19 (the isolation, pain, trauma, anxiety, depression and loss) was a catalyst to elevate personal purpose and values over other aspects of life, like work and that focus on productivity. That period during and after (even now) of soul searching over whether one feels valued in their work, or whether they are merely a factor of production, creating outcomes and value to benefit others, has become a real question. Dissatisfaction with the answers increases employees’ intent to leave a job and has certainly contributed to the rise of the gig economy and the mental health challenges we are experiencing in the workplace.

We can agree that a shift is happening. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic and social volatility have resulted in many people examining their choices about how they spend their time, energy and social capital. Employees seek to gain more value from their jobs. When we examine the concept of value, we can see five themes stepping forward: (1) Deeper connections, (2) Flexibility (what I call a cafeteria of offerings) (3) Personal growth, (4) Holistic well-being and (5) Shared purpose.
How does this all connect to productivity?

In an economic context, Productivity is how to measure the output that comes from units of input. Using agriculture as a good example: One acre of land produces 10 watermelons. Now from the onset that’s not very productive. But one acre of land that produces 2,000 watermelons is a much better return on your watermelon planting.
To the business owner/employer, the productivity of the company’s workforce plays a key role in its profitability and competitiveness. It makes sense: Increase productivity levels and you can expect to generate higher profits without adding headcount. That boosts the likelihood of long-term success in competitive markets. And we can all agree that business and most sectors if not all, are highly competitive. So for any business owner, productivity is a priority for them.

Productivity is a measure of economic or business performance that indicates how efficiently people, companies, industries and whole economies convert inputs, such as land, labour and capital, into outputs, such as goods or services. Productivity from the macroeconomic to the microeconomic level, can be measured at any of these five stages: (1) Personal productivity, (2) Workforce productivity (3) Sector productivity (4) Team or department productivity and (5) National productivity.
It is only at one stage that productivity is individualistic and in all other stages, it is the collective efforts of individuals. However, the individual’s productivity is critical to the collective, and the aggregate productivity of all stages/industries in an economy is an expression of the economy’s productivity.

So, knowing the aforementioned information, it is important that business leaders understand how to measure productivity, and then use that data to identify and overcome obstacles to making their workforces more productive. Productivity is key to a company’s profitability and ability to thrive and it is also key to country performance. But we can clearly see it starts with you, the individual. As a consequence, the end goal for how to be productive in life is personal, but for the business owner, productivity is always about getting the results you want with less time and effort.

Naturally, there is a conflict and a balance is needed to understand how to be productive. What the employee is really seeking is a way to achieve their goals while having time to spend on what truly matters to them. We are living through an economic revolution of some sorts, and as our economic drivers have shifted, productivity has become an increasingly important concern.
A more human-centric approach is required which provides people with more control over their work and work environment, which also makes them more productive. As with all fundamentally transformative strategies, this will require strategic commitment, leadership, culture development and thoughtfully applied technology.

Both employers /leaders and employees must incorporate new norms and behaviours for a business culture that supports the new reality. For example, leaders and managers will need to focus on eliciting sustainable performance without compromising long-term health through practices such as proactive rest — helping employees maintain their emotional resilience and performance, as opposed to focusing on recovery after both have plummeted. This may show up as mandated vacation leave before high-demand working periods, no-meeting Fridays, access to the company-funded EAP services, corporate gyms and allotted wellness events/time and managers rostering annual time off.

It is in recognising these issues that HRMATT is hosting its 5th edition of C-Suite Conversations and the theme is Productivity. Productivity isn’t just a way to get more done at work – or grow more watermelons. It is more complex than that. So we invite you to join us at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad on Wednesday, June 12th, 2024. We will kick off the day with featured speakers, including Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings; IDB Senior Specialist, Labour Markets & Social Security Division Carolina Gonzalez-Velosa and a wonderful panel of experts.

At HRMATT, we concede that when we unlock the real answer to “What is productivity?”, we won’t be chasing deadlines or running five steps behind on everything we need to get done in a day, week, month or year. Quite the contrary; we will probably be ahead of schedule and won’t feel stressed and anxious about an endless to-do list. We want you to feel on top of the world!!!!

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