How ingenuity, empowerment and investment can help boost organisational productivity.
The UK is a hard-working nation there is no doubt. We put the hours in and have a work culture that is based on doing whatever we need to, in order to reach the end goal. But does putting in those long shifts always give us the result we want? Not always.
So, maybe it’s time to shift the focus away from the long shift, to celebrating a more productive and probably shorter one. There is definitely evidence that suggests our productivity is slipping. At the end of 2017, the UK fell to the bottom of the G7 countries in terms of productivity.
In the first quarter of 2018 things didn’t get much better. Figures from The Office for National Statistics show that output per hour worked fell by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2018; hours went up, but there was no corresponding rise in economic growth.
Improving the productivity of the UK workforce, alongside GDP growth, is considered one of the ways of countering the impeding impact of Brexit. It’s something an organisation can control and work on while the national economic outlook is uncertain.
Not only does it help, lower the risks of that uncertainty, it can have immediate impact on the profitability of our firms. This will be particularly important post-Brexit when a lot of uncertainly remains around currency fluctuations.
Perhaps in our final months in the EU we could learn from our German cousins, who have a better work/life balance in terms of working hours and still achieve more. In Germany, effectiveness, rather than presenteeism is the key to success.
So how do we change a presenteeism culture to one of work hard and go home early? How can an organisation improve its own productivity? Aside from micro-management tools like timesheets, we’ve found three things that work; empowerment, simplicity and excitement.
Empower the workforce
Firstly, we foster a culture of empowerment. A good idea can come from anywhere, not just the senior team. Everyone in the business can have an idea that improves productivity, particularly when knowledge is shared effectively across the organisation.
At Spreadshirt, we use an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework to share, encourage and motivate. Our aim is to make important things visible to everyone, encourage every department and employee to come up with ideas to meet the targets.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this approach is to decide what NOT to do in a quarter. Trying to do too much usually leads to a poor outcome.
This is where a CEO can help the team be more productive, by clearing the way. We are no longer hands-on value creators. The role of the CEO is to keep our value-generators pointing the right direction and create an effective company culture.
We should fight to make sure the right people, with the right skills and resources, are empowered, so they can make a difference to productivity.
Make the workplace exciting
Staff should feel that what they do is interesting and exciting. The role of the CEO and C-Level Executives is to make it that way. To make it clear to the team the interesting challenges the company has and generate excitement about over-coming them.
These might be; beating competitors, overcoming technical and marketing obstacles or hitting major milestones. Excitement drives people to do their best.
Excitement also comes out of feeling you are part of a team and culture you want to be in. Teams work harder when they like and respect the people around them. When they wake up in the morning they look forward to seeing their colleagues and during the day, they don’t want to let their colleagues down.
At Spreadshirt, we have introduced a Feel Good Manger to promote this side of our culture. The crux of the role is to keep the team enthused and encourage informal events like the C-level lunch where staff and the Executive team can discuss ideas.
Our Feel Good Manager also organises many other events or services that are designed to build relationships between the teams and also foster colleagues to feel happy about coming to work.
Keep it simple
Businesses can be complex and bureaucratic. Processes and rules are important, but there comes a point where the hinder, rather than help productivity. Work towards making your business simple. We work hard to keep the Objectives and Key Results process as simple as possible. OKR is a communication tool, not a complex process.
In summary, most people have to go to work, but what they do when they get there and how hard they work is in your hands. Hours and being seen is not a measure of productivity; busy people can achieve nothing and a person at the computer could be doing social media all day.
And the same rule applies to Execs, we need to remember to look at results, not hours.
The difference is simple: does someone know what they are achieving, why they, their tasks and results matter? Either in the big picture or at departmental level. Can they effect change, are they empowered, and do they have the tools? And are they part of team and culture that they miss when they are not there?
Even dedicated and fully motivated CEOs occasionally wake up on cold winter Monday mornings, with a little hangover from the weekend and think, ‘do I really want to get out of bed?’. But I can at least say that it is not duty or pay that gets me out of bed.
It is wanting to get back in with my teams, see them achieve the next thing and, from the cleaning lady to the top executives, know that they (mostly) feel the same way.
Philip Rooke is CEO of Spreadshirt.
We Can Use Productivity To Counter The Brexit Effect