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First published in four parts on www.successfactory.co.za
Copyright © 2007 Elsabé Manning
Used with permission of the author:
Author: Elsabé Manning
13 December 2007

To increase productivity means to produce more with less. High productivity is about operating the most efficient and effective organisation possible, with the least cost and zero waste. The organisation has to make smart use of their resources, technology, equipment and knowledge and skills of their staff. It’s about running an intelligent business. Every person in the organisation from top management right down to the bottom should be aware of the organisation’s capabilities and should ensure that they are used appropriately and that they are constantly improved upon.

How does one go about raising productivity? The first step is to do a thorough assessment to understand the capabilities of the company and/or division within the company and to track its progress against benchmarks. An assessment will give clear indication of how well the company or division is achieving its current objectives and its goals for future growth and competitiveness. An assessment will identify important gaps within the organisation’s core capabilities and in its competitive environment.

New company policies and objectives should be created and implemented to ensure streamlining and increased productivity on completion of the assessment. The educational needs of the organisation should be addressed and the focus should turn on the creation of a new leadership core, trained and coached to develop leaders at every level of the organisation who not only understand, but who think and display high productivity behaviours.

Having said all that, we need to understand the constraints of productivity:

  1. Poor selection is one of the highest reasons for low productivity. Companies are only starting to understand the value of hiring staff for attitude first and then for skills. Skills can be taught, but attitude is innate – you either have it or you don’t. It doesn’t matter how many training courses you go on, if you do not have the right attitude for the job, you should not be in it.
  2. Companies that select poorly tend to train poorly as well. Employee loyalty and performance is low when they are not adequately trained. The employee leaves and the company have to recruit again
  3. Unclear expectations result in poor performance. I often come across situations where employees and their managers have totally different perceptions of the employee’s job description.
  4. Poor alignment of personal and organisational goals and objectives and there is often no buy-in from employees into the company’s Values and Mission.
  5. Company culture and employees’ principles and values may be misaligned. Well educated and highly skilled people are lost because they simply don’t fit in. Company politics is one of the biggest reasons someone with high values and principles may leave a good job.
  6. Personal issues are a major reason for low productivity.
  7. Hygiene factors like salary, benefits, working conditions etc. play a major role in low productivity.
  8. Burn out. Tasks and activities may have to be re-engineered in order to speed up processes. Employees are working harder instead of smarter simply because they do not know better.
  9. Constraints and obstacles should be removed to streamline jobs and to create staff loyalty.
  10. Non-urgent activities of low importance such as personal e-mails, personal telephone calls, travelling, gossip etc.
  11. Unproductive interruptions can be a major block to high performance activities.


High performance behaviours can be developed throughout an organisation. Careful selection combined with proper training, clear and concise key result areas and good leadership will result in higher productivity, higher profits and staff loyalty.

Elsabé Manning is an Executive, Life and Business Coach; Facilitator; Author of Up The Corporate Ladder - Professionalism in the Workplace, Public Speaker and Consultant. She studied Human Resource Management at RAU in Johannesburg. Elsabé founded Success Factory - a highly successful business, specialising in professionalism; communication; sales training; performance management; leadership development; coaching, mentoring and team re-building. She consults with organisations on skills development and coaching for individuals and teams from foundation to executive level. Elsabé is a sought-after public speaker and an accomplished writer. She writes weekly leadership and self-development articles for organisations and she has a monthly television slot on Professionalism in the Workplace on the commercial channel of DSTV and her own professionalism slot on ABSA Bank’s internal television training channel. Elsabé is a member of the Coach Trainers Association of South Africa - A Special Interest Group of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). She stays abreast of all the latest ideas and developments through constant self-development and her own personal coaching programme. Success Factory is an accredited service provider - SETQAA Decision Number 2075. She can be contacted at 011 648 8969 or www.successfactory.co.za

Short summary
Addressing low productivity in the workplace starts with assessing obstacles preventing it and the behaviours of employees that might lead to low productivity.

Keywords and relevant phrases
Alignment, assessment, capability, coaching, company politics, corporate culture, expectations, goals, job description, leadership, learning, loyalty, mission, objectives, operation, perceptions, personal issues, policies, principles, productivity, recruitment, remuneration, resources, rewards, selection, training, values, working conditions.

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

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