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Why is it that productivity in Barbados continues tobe of much concern? The shortfall in productivity compared with other countries has been Barbados’ economic Achilles heel. It is a problem the Barbados Productivity Council has been focusing on during 2017’s Year Of Productivity.
Productivity is a guide to how efficient a country is at delivering the goods and services which are bought and sold. Technically, it is the rate of output per unit of input, measured per worker or by the number of hours worked. It is through productivity improvements that higher levels of employment and better living standards are achieved.
There are a number of ways in which an organisation can make itself more productive. It can invest more in the education and skills of its employees, and in the timely application of new technologies. It can also adopt a better people management system and develop a culture of trust by empowering and involving employees within, in a culture of openness where they feel confident to speak candidly about issues facing the organisation and to suggest new ideas, to make decisions and act on them.
Since we are reluctant to embrace new technology and have opted to remain very labour-intensive, our mission, should we accept it, is to work more intelligently and industriously and fully develop the human capital by better people management. This should be one of the drivers for continuous improvements to productivity and efficiency.
Drawing from my own practical experience and expressing my own business perspective, it is my view that to fully engage employees there must be a culture of trust and ownership in the organisation where employees feel empowered to make decisions and act on them. Employees whose conditions are good and whose ideas are welcome, are more committed, productive and efficient.
An organisation that recognises employees as partners in the enterprise is more likely to deliver continuous improvements to its operations through a more engaged workforce. In turn, the workforce will benefit by sharing the efficiency gains achieved as a result of their higher productivity.
Empowerment should come about through continuous education, support, training and trust. Regrettably, the word empowerment has become a meaningless buzzword in Barbados, so too is the mission and vision statements and core values of many organisations. There appears to be no mission to deliver, no drive for excellence and no pride in service.
We must give employees with the necessary competencies the opportunity to have ownership of good quality work and the decisions they make. They should have the responsibility for ensuring personal choice is exercised with care and concern for other people and the requirements of the organisation. Senior managers should let go some of the reins and offer some of their power, information and responsibilities to subordinates.
To achieve this, we must be able to foster leadership skills at all levels of the organisation. I suggest that all managers should be able to operate at least two levels above their substantive grade and non-managerial staff at least one level above their grade. This would assist in the responsible delegating of tasks not only to provide a flow of interesting quality work, but to offer the opportunity for their personal development. It would also help to establish a more genuine team-like/collegial approach. In short, it would provide for a less top-down dictatorship and micromanagement approach which is so unproductive and demotivating. There would be less of the posturing at the top and drudgery at the bottom.
The lack of empowerment, it would appear, stems from a high trust deficit in our society today. There is a collapse of trust in Government, in some of our public institutions, and in political and corporate governance. There is distrust towards companies and their leaders. Within organisations, there is mutual mistrust among employees, subordinates and superiors, and among employers and employees.
A working environment lacking in trust fosters defensive, suspicious, insular and fearful behaviour which depletes the organisational energy and destroys creativity. It imposes a burden of micromanagement and the attendant poor productivity and inefficiencies. The customer experience is poorer as a result.
Competent managers should be happy to be surrounded by people who would challenge them with innovative ideas. They should have confidence in the abilities of their teams and ambitious for what they could achieve together. The drive should be to experience the peak moments of team work, where achievements come joyfully and effortlessly.
– MERVYN HOLLIGAN