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Culture shock – the productivity benefits of employee engagement

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by Startacus Admin

work productivity
Research has demonstrated how productivity can be positively impacted by employee engagement and workplace culture. Jonathan Richards, CEO and co-founder at Breathe, explains...

Productivity in the UK has been falling for more than a decade. According to the Office of National Statistics, it currently takes the country about 10 years to deliver the same level of growth it would once have achieved in a single year.

It’s with good reason, therefore, that the Government has increased its efforts toward addressing the issue, introducing the Industrial Strategy in 2017, and supplementing it work productivitywith additional investment in subsequent budget announcements.  

But according to recent extensive research carried out by Breathe, around a quarter of SME owners (22%) admit that they don’t measure productivity, despite such a dramatic decline. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not concerned, of course. In most cases, it’s just that they’re focused on simply keeping their businesses running. That said, there are always steps a business can take to ensure it gets the most out of its employees – whatever its size.

Among its many other benefits, for example, workplace culture can have a significant impact on an organisation’s productivity. Our research found that 60 percent of SME leaders believe a positive workplace culture will lead to better levels of customer service and satisfaction, and around half (49%) expect to see greater innovation from their employees.

Importantly, 55 percent said they anticipated a more focused, driven and engaged workforce would improve employee performance and – in turn – productivity. It appears that, just by making a few changes to their internal culture, SMEs can begin to reap the rewards of greater productivity.

Measurements and metrics

“Don’t make the measurable things important but make the important things measurable” is an oft-used quote in the business world. Productivity certainly qualifies as important, and so should definitely be measurable.

work productivityOur research found that most SME owners measure their organisation’s productivity by analysing money in versus money out. This is, however, just one of many different forms of measurement; other options include measuring headcount or production volumes, analysing 360 degree feedback, and using a growing range of specialist digital solutions and apps.

But there’s no one right answer. Each business should use a metric that meets its own particular needs; understanding how peers and competitors measure their productivity can be helpful in defining this. It may learn lessons by doing so, or uncover a means of benchmarking against another organisation’s performance. With various different options available, it can often be a case of trial and error, to discover which is the best fit.

Audits and automation

With repetitive tasks taking up roughly a third of an average employee’s time, administration can be a huge drain on an organisation’s productivity. What appear to be minor actions, such as checking emails or approving holiday requests, may only take a couple of minutes to perform, but they soon accumulate.

Auditing an organisation’s technology to analyse the amount of time spent on tasks such as these can be beneficial. Identifying where most time is being spent allows those areas of the business to be automated, freeing up employees to focus on tasks that matter more to the business such as business development, customer relations, or developing the company culture.

Relieving employees of much of their administrative burden can often motivate them to perform better too. Indeed, understanding what motivates an organisation’s workforce is key to fuelling its productivity.

By monitoring culture, happiness and employee engagement, businesses can gain a greater appreciation of what work productivitymakes their workers tick – and what turns them off. Small businesses will often use employee satisfaction surveys, with questions on work/life balance, managerial styles, and sense of worth. Startups will often take an even more personal approach, holding open and honest discussions with their employees in face-to-face meetings. Either way, encouraging openness and honesty is essential to understanding the level of engagement and, in doing so, improving productivity.

Rewards and incentives

When it comes to motivation, we humans are hardwired to respond positively to rewards. We like to feel valued and appreciated, that our work has been recognised; that we matter to a business. Incentivising employees with the promise of rewards is therefore certainly an important means of improving productivity.

It’s important that these rewards actually work as incentives, however. Over-deliver, and they become expected. Underwhelm, and a reward becomes a hollow gesture. It’s worth remembering too that, as no two employees are alike, so no two rewards will be equally effective. Some may see a free breakfast as an incentive, for example, while others may prefer to be given the option to work from home more often.

Whichever way a business chooses to incentivise its employees, it should remain mindful of the significance of productivity. Key to business and economic growth, it represents a range of benefits from the performance and survival of a business, to the wellbeing and income of its workforce.

It’s concerning, then, that so many appear not to be aware of how they are performing in this area. Research has demonstrated how productivity can be positively impacted by employee engagement and workplace culture. With the British economy facing an uncertain future, productivity needs every chance it can get.

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Published on: 5th August 2019

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