The problem with productivity… (and it’s not what you think)

The problem with productivity… (and it’s not what you think)

Written by Smarter Not Harder, leading Providers of time management training

Ask any CEO or FD about the things they worry about most, and the likelihood is that ‘productivity’ is towards the top of their list.

Why? Well, the fact of the matter is, Britain has a longstanding ‘productivity problem’. Last year an All Party Parliamentary report concluded that UK output, on a per-hourly basis, was 17% lower than the G7 average.

Not only is this the widest it has been since 1992, but overall output per worker is 19% lower. Of all the G7 countries, only Japan performs worse. In some respects it’s easy to see why this is the case.

In industrial Britain, pulleys gears and mechanical processes dictated people’s output. In today’s service-dominated economy however, staff are no longer working production lines; they are no longer regimented by structure – and the reality is, that in these structure-less circumstances, consistent productivity is a pipedream.

Not only do employees face an unrelenting tide of emails, meeting requests and miscellaneous activities that fritter away their time, most offices are open-plan – which also means ‘work’ is itself a fertile ground for interruption and distraction rather than focused concentration.

And yet, despite all of this, perhaps the biggest problem with productivity is that many organisations don’t think it’s something staff can be trained and developed to improve.

Resilience Training – the new ‘silver bullet’

Employers spend thousands of pounds putting their staff on all sorts of other courses, the latest of which is ‘resilience’ training. But, really, all this does is reveal that organisations are looking at things the wrong way round.

When you think about it, wanting staff to be more resilient isn’t really very good for employees at all – because it’s about firms saying they want their staff to take on even more work – just not feel as swamped by it.

The fact is, piling people up with more work isn’t a long-term answer to solving low productivity.

Gain back three extra days per month

The answer is to make people better in dealing with their time in the first place. Companies that Smarter Not Harder work with recognise that productivity is a learnable skill and see the sorts of improvements resilience-led employers can only dream of.

Clients that learn our productivity skills (being disciplined about time; having a system for planning the day; setting achievable lists; building-in interruption time; and working out periods of better ‘flow’) report productivity gains of 10-15%.

Or, to put it another way, each member of staff gains around three days extra per month.

A mindset of mediocrity

Improving productivity isn’t just about staff learning new skills; it’s also about organisations themselves acquiring a new productivity mind-set too.

Too often we hear that people ‘fear’ being seen to be more productive and efficient than their co-workers – simply because they don’t want to be swamped with more and more work. Yet, it’s this culture of fear that maintains mediocrity and what encourages the ‘good enough’ (rather than ‘great’).

Shouldn’t employers be striving for something better than this?

Don’t they want to encourage their staff to be better bosses of themselves, so that they willingly grasp new opportunities; from a starting point of engagement rather than ennui?

What we find is that when employees feel in control, and have the tools they need to manage their time properly, they no longer just want to do the minimum, or just do what is good enough.

They soon discover that with the time they have spare, they want to do more, suggest new things, take on new projects, simply because they’ve grown to want to do their jobs well again. Engagement is a powerful feeling to foster and has a direct impact on productivity.

What’s not to like about that?

A message from Smarter Not Harder

We wrote this first article to introduce ourselves and hope that you have enjoyed it. The purpose of our business is simple; to help people work smarter, achieve more and live better.

If you are one of the many people who struggles to find enough hours in the day to get things done and one of the many who craves a less frenetic, less stressful, more balanced and satisfying life then this series of articles is written for you.

Most people have goals, without them we lack direction; BUT without the ability to be productive each day we lack momentum and when we lose momentum our lives can feel unfulfilling, pointless and frustrating.

The worst case is that we set goals, feel we are making little or no progress; become demotivated and our hope fades. These articles are written to give you the feeling that you are winning every day.

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