Productivity in the UK is in decline. But if businesses start to focus on employee needs they have the power to turn the tide. Here’s what every business needs to know about the relationship between employee needs and business success.
What’s your priority as a business – your employee needs, or your commercial needs?
If you’re asking yourself this question, then you’re approaching it all wrong. There is no separation between employee needs and business needs: or at least, there shouldn’t be.
For any business to be successful, it needs a productive workforce. This isn’t rocket science. Yet many businesses are failing to ask what their workforce needs in order to be productive. If they’re not being productive, then why not? What actions need to be taken as a business to do something about it?
As the world faces one of its most significant economic challenges in recent history, this issue needs to be addressed urgently. The question is, how?
What makes a productive workforce?
Let’s start by casting aside a common misconception. The world is not split into productive people and unproductive people. I believe that low productivity is never linked to behavioural ‘laziness’: there are always situational, environmental or psychological barriers standing in the way of an individuals’ productivity. If businesses can understand what those barriers are, they can usually work with the individual to knock them down – and create a more productive business as a result.
Psychology Professor Devon Price put it best when they said that, whenever they see one of their students struggling with productivity, they ask: “What are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? What are the barriers to action that I can’t see?”
Price goes as far as to say that ‘laziness’ does not exist, and I’m inclined to agree. Given the right circumstances, I believe any employee can maximise their productivity – but businesses need to recognise and address the driving forces at play.
Are enough businesses currently doing this? No. Performance management is broken, thanks to this disconnect between business requirements and employee needs. Leaders are looking at productivity as a problem in and of itself, rather than a symptom of workplace culture, management techniques and the way they communicate with employees. This has to change if the UK is going to fix its falling productivity and get through the challenging months (or possibly years) ahead.
Seeing individuals, not a workforce
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when trying to boost productivity is looking at the workforce as a whole, rather than the individuals that create it. They focus on creating an employee experience that they think will drive performance, rather than assessing individual performance and what influences it. It doesn’t work. It creates an illusion that they are putting people first while putting a plaster over the issues that really impact on productivity.
Those issues differ from person to person. Knowing what they hold is the key to getting results from the employee and results for the business. For managers to connect employee needs with business requirements, they need to adopt a people-centric approach. But what does ‘people-centric’ really mean – and how can you make it a part of your business?
People-centric performance management as the solution
The concept that a satisfied employee leads to better business results is nothing new. Even Victorian industrialist William Lever stated, over a hundred years ago, that “if we leave the human factor out of our business calculations, we shall fail every time.”
People-centric management formalises this idea, putting individual employee needs at the heart of everything. It enables managers to see people, not just performance statistics. Done correctly, it boosts productivity across every part of the organisation by driving change at an individual level.
Employees who feel that their voice is heard at work are nearly five times more likely to perform at their best (Salesforce) than those who don’t. But a casual open-door policy is not enough. In a people-centric set up, managers know how to have the right conversations, ask the right questions, and take the right actions.
By building open, honest dialogue into regular one to one conversations, managers can discover what situational, environmental or psychological challenges employees are facing, and do something about them: whether that’s work hours impacting or personal priorities, excessive workload damaging confidence, or lack of recognition dampening morale. In turn, it enables the employee to take accountability for their own productivity without barriers getting in the way.
Taking action to create a truly productive workforce
Productive teams don’t just happen – they are made. That’s where a people-centric performance management tool like OpenBlend comes in. It is a performance platform that connects the dots. It supports managers and employees to have effective check-ins that enables employees to feel that their needs are being listened to and managers to feel empowered to drive change and productivity.
The Business Transformation Network has shared this article in partnership with OpenBlend.