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Increasing Workplace Productivity: The Role of HR

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This is a guest post by Alexander Honeyman, a Business and Finance writer based in Hong Kong who specializes in HR and process issues. He has a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Westminster and collaborated on this piece with the help of Withers LLP. You can visit his website or connect with him through Twitter.

Increasing the productivity of your businesses is a central pillar of success. However, in the world of HR, productivity is seen as secondary to procedure, policy, and people management. This is understandable, but there’s really no reason why HR legislation cannot be linked to employee output and productivity increases.

In many industries, it’s accepted that a business must improve its productivity by between 10% and 25% each calendar year. If you can improve by this margin, you’re likely to dominate the market, but how is it done?

In short, you need a continuous level of innovation in both the internal processes that you use and the products that you sell. HR employees can be central to this process—developing processes, training programs for staff, and measures and incentives to maximize workplace productivity. Here’s how.

Changing HR Psyche: A Focus on Productivity

When you consider all aspects of working life, from recruitment through to training, little thought is given from HR employees as to what will be the most cost-effective option for the company. Instead, they focus on sourcing the lowest-cost provider.

As a result, it’s important to shift the focus. There’s no reason why HR shouldn’t be productivity-focused in these tasks, focusing on securing the most effective provider. After all, ultimately, a $1,000 training course that all employees will use to boost their productivity in the workplace is far more valuable than a $200 course that is never used.

The solution to this dilemma is to calculate the factors that influence the performance of your workforce and persuade HR to focus on function and positive influences that will improve the capacity of your team to succeed.

But what makes a high performing workforce and how can HR help to boost productivity? In this post, we take a detailed look at factors that drive high performance in business and how HR can help to emphasize and encourage them.

The Foundations of Productivity in the Workforce

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Hire innovative employees and allow them to grow – In order to be productive, your employees need to be working in an innovative atmosphere. As such, you need to place a focus on self-motivation and team productivity in your recruitment process. To do this, management and HR must work side by side to attract and hire the best candidate to the business.

However, it’s not just about attracting the best candidate, as you need to develop and train the staff member in order to ensure that you retain them. Without a proper support structure from HR and management alike, even the best employees will struggle to succeed.

As part of this process, it is important that both the manager and the HR employee have a defined role. The manager must identify an employee who has less than optimal skills, but HR must develop a process to increase employee learning, knowledge, and skill development so that nobody is left behind.

Learning should be a continuous process in the workplace, starting at recruitment. So ensure that management and HR are aligned on a training and retraining strategy. This way, you can retain key staff members and enhance productivity through driving knowledge levels.

Ensure managers are clear – Productive employees need proactive managers. An effective management team sets the tone for the workplace, not only leading from the front, but also defining the priorities of the workforce and ensuring everyone is aware of the overall direction of the company and their roles as individuals.

However, be careful with balance. If you monopolize control, you can hinder the decision-making process. This can lead to a small management team quickly losing control, with excessive freedom for employees leading to waste, duplication, or a lack of workplace focus.

Likewise, micromanagement slows decision making and means that employees cannot get on with their jobs. In order to maximize productivity, a balance must be found, which provides employees with control and authority while still holding the management team to account.

It’s important to get the HR team involved so that they are aware of their responsibilities and how they can improve this process. After all, motivation also includes employee development and career progression. Here, HR can complement management, acting as motivators and progression plan developers. This also includes the management team themselves, as HR have an active role to play in improving the management team, helping to inspire great leadership and productivity. One way that this is best achieved is to ensure that everyone is clear about the operational goals of the company as well as what is expected of them as individuals.

After all, if you set employees goals that are manageable but a stretch to achieve, they’ll stay motivated to achieve these goals. However, be careful to not over-stretch your staff members, as unachievable goals can have the opposite effect. Ensure you have monthly reviews to understand how that staff member is getting on. This way, there are no secrets or obstacles that could harm productivity.

In short, each team, each individual and each manager should have a defined role and purpose, and HR should know and focus on these to ensure that productivity is as high as possible. Productivity will always fall if roles are undefined and tasks are duplicated or not completed by experts. So, although it is the responsibility of the line manager to ensure each employee feels valued, HR should also ensure that they’re engaged and motivated.

Business People Sitting in an Office Building Having a Meeting

Make communication a central pillar of strategy – If HR and management don’t communicate effectively, then employees will naturally get frustrated and will become prone to making errors and being less productive. This is understandable. After all, if feedback isn’t given to good pieces of work, then employees will feel undervalued and there will be less incentive for them to continue to work at that level, thus lowering productivity.

Ensure that management and HR work together to develop feedback mechanisms that fit the needs of both the management team and the employees. You can even include the employees as part of this process if you wish. This way, both management and employees will know exactly when feedback should be given and received, leading to greater transparency.

Create performance metrics and measure productivity – If you monitor performance carefully, you can see how much it has improved. This is where HR can help, as they can help you create effective metrics to measure individuals and their productivity, including team and individual goals. By reporting on these regularly, each team member will know exactly where they stand, and HR can ensure that they’re fair. The regular feedback also ensures that staff members remain focused and allows both parties to give continual feedback to ensure continuous improvement from the team.

Prioritize resources – By prioritizing your resources, all employees will know exactly what is important to their roles and what isn’t, so that they can prioritize their individual workloads accordingly.

Setting clear and manageable priorities can help ensure that time and resources are allocated to impactful and important tasks rather than those that may be fun to do but of little value to the company. Here, HR can help you by developing processes that ensure that resources are allocated depending on the importance of the task at hand.

Create an effective rewards program – Effective rewards can drive employee performance. However, as any HR professional will tell you, providing monetary incentives to employees based on their performance can also be an HR nightmare, so you’ll need to ensure that your HR representative is on board with the idea.

Bonuses and monetary rewards can be useful, though, as they can help you not only reinforce your message about what’s important for your employees to achieve, but can also drive consistent performance and ensure focus.

However, if your HR department is hesitant about you using monetary rewards for your staff members, then you can also consider using non-monetary factors to excite and motivate your employees to be more productive.

Here, the role of HR is to ensure that all managers in the business know how to effectively instill productivity-producing behaviors, including feedback, praise, and recognition.

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Harness the power of technology – Technology should be the centre of any workplace, so ask HR to focus on budgets for new tech. Moving to VoIP, using the power of the cloud, or upgrading your Office account can all help people do their jobs far quicker, boosting their productivity. With the backing of HR, you can scale this process and ensure whole-company buy-in.

Technology can also play a role in enhancing collaboration, so best-practice processes can be shared, improving productivity.

This way, you won’t lose productivity through trial and error (which is essentially a waste of time). If team members freely collaborate, share their knowledge and wisdom, and share best practices, you’ll boost productivity. HR should be responsible for formalizing this process of cross-collaboration and sharing, promoting it at every opportunity.

To conclude, your business must become between 10%-25% more productive each year in order to succeed. Although at face value it may seem as though HR is a barrier to productivity, a shift in HR mindset can mean that they actively help to unlock this productivity, so consider the above carefully when looking to make your workforce more productive.

This is a guest post by Alexander Honeyman, a Business and Finance writer based in Hong Kong who specializes in HR and process issues. He has a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Westminster and collaborated on this piece with the help of Withers LLP. You can visit his website or connect with him through Twitter.

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1 Comment

Posted by Anirudhan vasudevan  | September 21, 2017 at 9:05AM | Reply

Great article with some solid points, thanks for sharing!
With Less than 20% of the workforce being engaged, it is crucial to understand the various drivers of productivity like the ones you’ve mentioned in your blog.

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