Getting to grips with productivity is a leadership challenge of critical importance. The UK has been lagging behind the US, Germany and France, producing a third less for every hour worked. But what does productivity really mean, how is it measured, and what can we do to improve at an individual business level?
These are some of the questions due to be discussed at the University of Gloucestershire’s ‘Productivity Summit’ on 17 May, at which Stewart Barnes, from QuoLux, will be speaking. If there was an easy answer we’d have solved the productivity puzzle already. As with most aspects of leading a successful business, there are many dimensions to consider and a one-size solution does not fit all organisations.
There are, however, some leadership priorities that every business owner or director can employ which will create an environment in which productivity improves.
1. Understand your numbers. Look beyond the profit and loss accounts to where your profitable income is made. Profit may vary according to product and market segments, by size or type of customer, or the staff you deploy to service those customers. Find some simple measures for productivity: what revenue is generated from each hour worked?
2. Identify bottlenecks. These occur in service-led businesses as much as manufacturing lines. What would it take to ease them? What impact might that have on operations, the speed or quality of delivery?
3. Establish key performance targets that are focused on delivery and quality.
4. Set out a clear business strategy based on marketing planning – where should you compete in order to gain (and sustain) competitive advantage?
5. Then set about developing a truly engaged workforce. Share your clear vision; devote your attention to the most positive and committed people in your team, not the moaners; communicate clearly, regularly and truthfully.
6. Celebrate successes among teams and offer a personal, sincere and discreet thank you to individuals.
Time and again, these steps have driven quality and productivity up, pushed operating costs and sickness absence down, and engendered continuous improvement, whatever the sector or size of operation.