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HR’s role in increasing Productivity

The dictionary definition (Wikipedia) of Productivity can be viewed as a simple equation describing a measure of efficiency – total output / divided by total input. Models and graphs can illustrate the connections between processes and what needs to change in order to increase productivity. In competing organizations, products and services can be essentially the same, however, HOW employees go about their work, is the biggest differentiator of overall success, and likelihood of future growth.

From my own extensive HR experience, and in Coaching Leaders with various organizations, I am often amazed at how easily the focus of high productivity actions and tasks can go astray. By having clear Performance Goals set, yet only having an annual review process in place, I frequently observe a lack of alignment between the daily activities of employees and the overall goals of the corporation – resulting in decreased productivity.

What can HR impact? There are several components that impact how likely an employee is to give “high input”, or follow a defined process. A few of those include:

  1. If a task is practical, makes sense, is logical (clear role profiles)

  2. If the employee has the tools, knowledge and capability to complete the task (training/career development plans)

  3. If it provides a measure of self-satisfaction (employee feedback)

  4. If the opportunity to enhance the process exists (change management)

  5. If there is a strong evident link to the overall departmental or corporate goals (*Balanced Scorecard or strategic linkage)

  6. If immediate action is taken when a process is not working (employee relations, coaching for behavioural change)

  7. If the rewards are greater than the effort expended (rewards and recognition).

The 4th quarter is around the corner, often the final opportunity to turn a business loss into a profit for the year. So what can HR professionals and Leaders focus on in order to maintain or even increase productivity for our organizations?

Looking at the factors above, one of the most obvious methods may involve automation and computerization which can minimize the routine tasks that must be performed by employees, and provide consisent quality. How does your organization determine if there is strong ROI (Return on Investment) for any change initiative?

  • Factors should include consideration of the core issue, link to strategy, WIIFE (What’s In It For Everyone), impact and potential risks, costs today vs. future predicted savings or costs, and success measures. Additionally, a focus on HOW the change can occur smoothly is critical, the communication strategy, and project management approach.

  • A colleague recently shared that 70% of projects fail due to a lack of planning. However, by combining well thought out Project Management and Change Management, this failure rate can be cut by 50% (ref: Cathy McIsaac – Agility Factor). Thinking one year ahead to consider the impact of the change is recommended.

  • Often organizations operate in silos, not considering the total amount of change occuring within the organization at the same time, and unintentionally initiate “change saturation”. HR can play a pivotal role in monitoring these change initiatives and guiding the overall speed of implementation and impact on the organization as a whole.

On item 2 - Employees often attend training, however only retain a small amount of the information, if not applied immediately (and with clearly successful results), with the full value of the training not received. Research has shown that pproductivity gains from a learning event alone can be enhanced from 28% to 88% when followed with personal Coaching (Ref. Study - Olivero, Bane, Kopelman – Barush College).

Item 3 - HR teams can gather data, however, need to first determine the true Leadership “buy-in” to make any significant changes internally. (Often gathering this data can open “Pandora’s Box” and raise issues without solutions.) Not surprisingly Leadership impacts employee engagement by 78.5% (Ref:The Wynford Group Casual Model).

With item 6 - staying aware of changes and issues, HR can support the Managers in ways to “deal with issues” promptly, and in building strong relationships across the organization to foster collaboration between departments. According to the ICF (International Coach Federation Study – 2009) professional coaching has shown increased productivity and positivity (with improved work performance - 70% and improved relationship skills - 73%).

Having a clear understanding of the ROI that any change initiative can bring, combined with a clear vision and project plan for the change is critical. Supporting Leaders and employees during change initiatives with external coaching in particular has significant benefits of an unbiased and objective third-party, a sounding board, without the emotional ties to the organizational relationships.

So can HR impact Productivity? I say “Yes” – by having a focus on managing change effectively, providing coaching support, and fully understanding (and articulating) the ROI impact of any new organizational initiative.

(* Ref: Schneiderman, Kaplan and Norton)

Yvonne Silver is a seasoned business Professional, Certified Executive Coach and CHRP, and is the Principal with Leveraged Leadership. She can be contacted at: yvonne@leveragedleadership.ca or 403-999-4749.

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