4 October 2018

Who is responsible for low employee productivity?

In a recent Ciphr webinar, Nick Whiteley from hfx assessed HR’s role in identifying the root causes of low productivity, and offered simple solutions for tackling this urgent challenge


Rachel Wakefield

Rachel Wakefield

Rachel Wakefield was a copywriting specialist for Ciphr in 2018-2019.


Employee engagement Leadership and management Performance


In a recent Ciphr webinar, Nick Whiteley from hfx assessed HR’s role in identifying the root causes of low productivity, and offered simple solutions for tackling this urgent challenge

Whether you’re playing Guess Who? or Cluedo, there’s a lot of fun to be had solving a good puzzle game. But in the workplace, the crucial puzzle of low productivity is much harder and less enjoyable to solve. Often, this puzzle lands at the feet of HR teams who are tasked with finding out exactly why workers aren’t as productive as they could be, and how to turn the situation around.

Be honest: do you know the extent to which productivity is a challenge for your organisation? Do you know which of your workers or teams are the most productive, what makes them different, and where the biggest issues lie? If you don’t, you’re not alone: a fifth (20%) of HR professionals surveyed during a recent Ciphr webinar said they don’t know where the productivity challenge in their organisation begins or ends.

“It’s not easy to identify the underlying poor productivity issues due to hidden activities, hidden cultures, hidden practices and errors that are systematic within any organisation,” said webinar presenter Nick Whiteley, CEO of workforce management software firm hfx.

Productivity is a national challenge. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, since the 2008 financial crash, the UK’s national productivity (measured as GDP per hour worked) has stagnated while that of other countries has climbed. In fact, the UK is 20% less productive now than it should be.https://www.ciphr.com//wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Productivity-chart.jpg

And it’s likely that, even if you don’t have a firm handle on where the specific challenges lie in your organisation, you’ve already felt the effects of low productivity on your own organisation : a loss of competitiveness and contracts that causes profits to fall and growth to stall; and difficulty recruiting new talent and retaining existing staff.

So, can we attribute these problems to a single cause? Sadly not, said Whiteley: low productivity is often down to a mix of causes, such as poor training, cumbersome processes, and inadequate tools. He said: “The underlying reasons for poor productivity can be myriad, and not just in the same department or in different staffing groups.”

Basing assumptions about productivity on the experiences of just one team, department or manager is problematic, Whiteley added. That means that tasking the board, or HR, with solving the challenge on its own is not the answer.

“In our experience, the problem is solved more efficiently with positive collaboration and in multi-disciplinary meetings outside the remit of the board and managers, and to include HR and all departments of the organisation,” said Whiteley. “More importantly, the focus of the root cause should be based upon scientific thought, by measuring processes and looking at real-time data.”

According to Whiteley, in the quest for improved productivity, organisations need to be able to answer these five questions:

  1. Where are my staff?
  2. What are they working on?
  3. Are my staff working patterns aligned to business demand?
  4. What changes must be made to align staff to business demand and avoid unnecessary downtime, overtime or unproductive time?
  5. What is my staff’s overtime, absence and unproductive time today, this week, this month?

“Finding the right answers to these questions and then basing processes on measured, real-time data and a collaborative, all-department effort will easily identify poor productivity, reveal the real objectives and move towards solutions to address the low-productivity reality in any organisation,” he said.

Want to hear more from Nick Whiteley about the UK’s productivity challenge and how to tackle the issue within your organisation? Watch the on-demand webinar below now.