The industrial revolution transformed manufacturing. We could suddenly make a lot more with fewer people. Measuring productivity was as simple as calculating the number of widgets made per hour, day, or month. Everyone was given targets and employees pushed themselves to meet them. Measuring performance was straightforward.
These crude numeric tools continue to be used, even though we have evolved from the industrial to the technological age. Today, service jobs and knowledge work dominate the workplace. Manufacturing is a smaller part of the equation and a lot of manufacturing doesn’t even use humans. In this day and age, you can’t measure productivity by output alone.
The workplace is evolving. Corporate wellbeing or focusing on the employee’s health and wellness is the new mantra. Happy and healthy employees mean lower absenteeism and turnover and thus ensure higher productivity. Keeping the work environment alcohol and drug-free is increasingly part of this wellness program. Technology allows companies to routinely run cost-effective and voluntary testing programs. The employees willingly sign on as the benefits are there for all to see. Simple swab and swipe tests like the oral fluid lab test help detect substance ingestion up to 48 hours prior to the test.
Today, the quality of work is more important than sheer quantity. It’s not about the number of lines of code a programmer can write. Shorter code may solve the problem in a simpler and more efficient way. Quantitative matrices can’t measure outputs like “citizen behavior” with behind the scenes work like recruiting, mentoring, and communicating across business verticals. These activities are critical in knowledge-based organizations.
Productivity challenges also arise in companies that are highly team-oriented. Typically, each team will have one or two top performers, who become the “go-to” members in these teams. The team leader by sheer dint of human nature will load all the important, urgent work on these employees. This leads to burnout and the employees feel as if they are being punished for performing well, instead of being rewarded. Managing highly productive employees is just as important as improving the performance of those who lag.
Companies are going even further in the quest of raising productivity levels. Workspace design is a new way of looking at the workspace. Increasingly, workplaces are being designed to encourage people to move around, interact, and to let the creativity flow. Staircases are placed in the center of the office to increase chance encounters. The office spaces are today designed around the intellectual and emotional intelligence of the employees. People running into each other creates the stimulus for conversations and thereby solutions to vexing problems.
Office spaces are designed to offer these nooks and crannies that encourage interaction. Workspaces are now mobile. There’s no fixed seating based on what you want to do – you choose your work environment. When you want to concentrate, you work from that secluded bench, and when you want to interact with your colleagues you move to the social hubs in the office.
Quantitative norms don’t tell the whole story across workplaces today. You have to combine the quantitative matrices with qualitative ones in order to see the big picture.
Image Source: Productivity Concept.