Employers’ role in increased productivity
It has now become almost impossible to read any narrative on the current state of the economy or employment relations without seeing some reference to productivity of the workforce.
Union negotiations, bonus payments, and the introduction of performance-based pay schemes are all closely related to the belief that persons should be productive members of the workforce and that their contribution should match or exceed the investments made.
However, one of the key elements the discussions on productivity does not take into account, is the role of the employer. While the onus of productivity clearly rests on employees, we as employers must act as facilitators in the process. We must ensure that we are flexible, open-minded and willing to embrace those policies and practices which will help to increase the levels of productivity in our organizations, and create an environment in which productivity can flourish. Most of all, we must lead by example.
One of the key things employers must do is to realize that many of the business models currently utilized are very outdated, archaic and restrictive. They do not give workers the flexibility to be innovative or productive.
We still have a school of thought that is averse to fully utilizing technological advances such as Skype and other video messaging services. We all would have heard persons who stated that they refuse to use these systems which can enhance their business processes. For example, many people are reluctant to devote large amounts of face-to-face time to meetings or the general demands of the job tend to allow only limited time for this type of collaboration. However, by utilizing this method, meetings can be more productive and easier to schedule.
Further, technology can allow some persons the work from home option. One of the major arguments against “work from home” initiatives is that there is no way to prove that the person is actually working. However, a properly constructed scheme will have the same timelines and reporting requirements had the person been in the office. This type of system will not work for all categories of workers, and may be only afforded to staff members with a good track record or at a certain level in the organization, and definitely will not work for those persons who interface with customers. The major benefit of this type of arrangement, which may be for a single incident or for a specified temporary period, is that you can reduce the risk of presenteeism.
When a worker is more focused on the ailing relative at home or concerned about who will ensure that the workman around the house doesn’t abscond with valuables, they become distracted, uncomfortable and unproductive.
While some persons may think that this is of no concern to the employer, peace of mind goes a long way in ensuring the productivity of staff.
The final innovative way to help increase productivity is flexitime; too many organizations insist that staff are to be on the job at 8 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. This practice can be very restrictive, and detrimental to productivity. It also does not stop to consider what are your peak hours, and at what key times of the day does your business need to be optimally staffed.
Many times you go a to business establishment at what would be considered off peak hours to see a large staff compliment, and then return during peak time to see a large backlog and only skeleton coverage.
A flexible working hours system reduces the commuting rush both in the mornings and afternoon, and allows an employee to set her own pace. Flexitime and flexible working arrangements are key facets in allowing an employee to achieve work life balance and to contribute positively to the organization.
Remember that while these systems are flexible, they are not without rules and structure to ensure that they run smoothly. Guidelines on how these systems can be successful implemented and managed may be found in the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) publication The Red Book: A Guide To Employment Relations In Barbados.
While the concept of productivity is not a new one, it has become pertinent for businesses to refocus their efforts and energies on ensuring that its employees are productive. To ensure this we need to ensure that our systems, rules and policies are not hampering us from achieving this.
• Siobhan Robinson-Morris is an industrial relations officer at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation.