Business owners know that workers who aren’t using their time and resources effectively are costing the company money. Declining productivity means falling profits and sliding competitive position. That makes the findings from this year’s Proudfoot Productivity Report a cause of concern to employers.
The 2007 report covered businesses in the
Inadequate workforce supervision (31% of all wasted time)
Poor management planning and control of work (30%)
Poor communication (18%)
When managers were asked to select from a range of actions they considered could increase workplace productivity the top 2 they chose were investment in workforce skills and investment in management skills. But this may be putting the cart before the horse.
The interesting thing is that all three major contributors to time waste are directly referable to internal management practices. Wasted time may be up, but as the report recognises, the root cause for that is inadequate management supervision, disjointed planning of production processes and inadequate communication of the information employees need to work at their most productive level.
Managers can’t dodge their share of responsibility for the amount of time wasted each year by under-producing employees. When it comes to improving productivity the first area to attend to should be reforming poor management practices and getting managers up to speed in some basic skills.
How to supervise a group of people effectively is a basic HR skill for anybody in a position of leadership or management. Managers should have at least some training in critical HR areas such as employment law, selecting people with the right workforce skills, setting compensation packages, training and developing employees and carrying out performance reviews. These HR skills underpin your ability to get the best out of your employees and improve organisational performance.
The ability to work to a business plan that sets out the broad goals to be achieved in a given period of time, organise all the inputs required to achieve the goals, coordinate the activities and monitor progress towards them are all essential managerial skills necessary to achieve business growth, yet the ability of many managers in these areas is problematic.
Inefficient practices are rarely improved by simply automating them. Introducing technology before optimising the process it is intended to improve merely results in automated inefficiency. But how many managers take the time to analyse just how efficiently their key processes, such as supply chain operations, are working? How many take the effort to develop procedure manuals to ensure employees do things in a consistent and approved manner?
Managers often have issues with formulating and delivering clear verbal instruction. This can be addressed to a large degree by having the right support resources in place: a clear organisational structure; well defined job descriptions to avoid confusion about responsibilities; policies and procedures manuals to provide a definitive answer on the approved method of doing things; and investing time in inducting and training new employees. Implementing measures like these will reap huge long term productivity benefits.
Employees do usually try to achieve what they think the job requires of them. To get them achieving the right things you need to be very clear in the instruction you provide, whether that be at the level of explaining how to perform a process or what goals the business is trying to achieve and their role in contributing to their attainment.
Poor productivity can be the result of just plain time wasting by employees but more likely it’s the result of poor planning, inefficient practices and an inability to clearly communicate what needs doing. Whether through coaching, talking to a business advisor or putting themselves through one of the many SME management short courses on offer, a manager has a responsibility to make themselves the best they can be before laying problems of poor productivity at the feet of their employees.