• 20 May 2021 10:18 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Agricultural productivity is one of the globe’s (and the twentieth century’s) great success stories. Over that century from 1900 to 1999 the number of people employed in agriculture dropped dramatically, yet yields rose just as dramatically.

    This was just as well since the global population also rose significantly and all those extra mouths to feed required a lot more food to be grown and produced.

    The trend seemed unstoppable. Of course, productivity growth had to slow since the number of people could not continue to drop massively since there were so few people employed in the sector but advances in pesticides, seed formulation, weather forecasting - and agricultural technology - were sure to keep productivity rising, weren’t they?

    Well, no actually.  Those optimists that forecast continued productivity growth forgot to factor in the effects of global warming and climate change. The sector has been struggling to stand still.

    The effects have also been disproportionately felt in poorer, developing countries - where population growth is highest.  We richer countries have to work harder, and share our knowledge more effectively if we are to avoid pan-famine following pandemic. 

  • 13 May 2021 2:49 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There is quite a bit of debate about whether working from home is good or bad for productivity.

    Are working-from-home employees as efficient as those in the office?  

    The jury is still out.... but perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

    We need employees to be innovative and creative as well as, or even rather than, efficient.

    Since many phases of the innovation process require the sharing of innovative and collaborative thinking, innovation is only likely to happen if close relationships and effective communication processes are maintained for those workers not in the office.

    There can be advantages for home working - like less distraction and reduced energy lost to commuting.  But the main loss is that of the casual conversation, the experimental thinking and informal co-operation that close contact brings.

    Technology can replicate some of this - but not all of it and not for all people.  It is too early to say but creativity may take a hit.  Certainly firms need to be on the ball, monitoring the situation and checking that innovation levels are being maintained. 

    If not, they had better open the office to all.

  • 06 May 2021 5:17 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many employees seem to want to ‘hide in the shadows’ - to get on with their work without disturbing their supervisor/manager.  Many supervisors/managers seem equally happy with this approach, feeling that employees who ‘raise their heads above the parapet’ are likely to do so for negative reasons - because they have made a mistake or forgotten to do something. 

    Of course this often means that employees are also not visible because of exceptionally good performance.

    Managers should try to make all employees visible - by checking regularly on them, not in a punitive way, but simply to check that they fully know their role and responsibilities, have the knowledge, skills, tools and equipment  required to carry out that role effectively, and are fully engaged and motivated.

    Supervisors should look at performance data - throughput levels, quality levels, etc - but should also talk to employees while observing them in the workplace at the source of good or bad performance.

    Employees who are invisible may be dragging down your productivity. If employees are visible, you can make a judgement about their performance and manage it accordingly.

  • 29 Apr 2021 11:14 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Anyone with a hyperactive child knows how wearing it can be to have to cope with the demands such a child can make on a regular and continuing basis.

    Well, email and continual zoom meetings have been like that for many remote workers.  Everyone gets copied into emails or invited to zoom meetings which are of only peripheral interest or relevance.

    If they decide not to engage with an email thread or a meeting, they get FOMO (Fear of missing out) and anxious.  Their stress levels rise. Their productivity drops.  

    If they do engage, they waste time on irrelevant correspondence and inappropriate meetings. Their productivity drops.

    Yet, many firms have let this happen for over 12 months.  

    Few firms have issued guidelines about copying people into emails or inviting people to online meetings - even when they have seen email threads and zoom meetings which clearly have too many people in them. 

    If not careful, this will continue as people return to the workplace. Productivity will be sucked out of the organisation into these communication tasks.

    Treat the return to the workplace as an opportunity to issue (or re-issue) guidance and tame the beast.

    Control people’s FOMO and you control their anxiety. You make them more productive. And it costs you nothing. 

    Start now!

  • 22 Apr 2021 7:37 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Before the pandemic, evidence suggested that many employees were not really engaged with their work/workplace/employing organisation.  The results of a lack of engagement are absenteeism, poor quality of work and a lack of concern for customer service.

    So, what has happened during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, engagement has not increased. It is difficult to maintain  engagement over distance …. but too manny firms have ignored this problem and made no real attempts to engage their employees with positive action .

    As employees drift back to their places of work, some of this lack of engagement may automatically disappear … but it is a dangerous strategy to simply make this assumption. 

    Re-establishment of positive engagement should start with the communications about returning to the workplace.  These, themselves, should be positive, thanking employees for their contribution if they have been working from home, or for their patience if they have been furloughed.  Previous relationships should  be re-established so employees feel comfortable and careful re-training provided in case employees have lost skills or confidence.

    This also applies to supervisors and managers who must be made aware of the importance of a ’smooth’ return to work and to established working practices.

  • 15 Apr 2021 5:26 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Most small businesses fail before they grow into big businesses. One of the commonest reasons is that they run out of working capital. In turn this is because the business leaders often do not understand the relationships between different aspects of their business. They fail to fully connect sales, production and finance.  

    At times they concentrate on sales, without bothering to ensure they have the capacity to meet enhanced sales contracts.  Or they concentrate on production without having those enhanced sales contracts - and end up with lots of unsold stock.

    Even when they consider sales and production together, they might fail to fully understand the implications for financing - in both the short and long term.

    Yet these leaders of small businesses are ‘smart’ businessmen - they have fought tenaciously to establish and grow their business.  They have probably hired someone with financial acumen and installed one of the standard accounting packages.  They have created the conditions for financial control - just forgotten to exercise it.

    Their performance management is probably similar.  They might measure performance  - output, quality, etc but fail to make all the necessary linkages or take the hard decisions that sometime need to be taken. If, for example, they tolerate poor performance (or even fail to recognise it), their workers will recognise this and may act accordingly - becoming de-motivated or exploiting what they perceive as management weakness.

    In both areas, managers need to ‘join the’ dots- to make the various links between measurement and control; to establish measures which uncover poor performance and highlight problems’; to establish  communication processes which ensure everyone knows what their role is and how their performance is perceived; to establish rewards for good performance and sanctions for poor performance.

    Then they might actually create the environment in which they can prevent small problems becoming big problems and enhance the possibility that their small business might grow into a large business.

  • 08 Apr 2021 5:34 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Did you have any New Year resolutions?  If so, are they still intact?  Do you have ‘staying power?

    If you do, it is perhaps because you build some kind of reminder into everyday events when your resolution is needed.  Perhaps a reminder note on the fridge or in the car. Perhaps you go further and build a ‘system’ to continually remind you’ve - like a daily/repeating  calendar entry.

    Most of us need some kind of support system to keep us focused and make sure we don’t simply forget.  Any reminder should be at the right time and should be appropriate.  For example, any reminder about our diet might include our present weight or waistline measurement to more directly motivate us.

    The same is true of such resolutions in a work environment.  If we want to establish a kaizen or continuous improvement regime, we need to know we can maintain effort and direction over the longer-term. We can use calendar entries, daily inspirational quotes from the web, make it a standing item on all meeting agendas or whatever.   We also need everyone to understand bits importance so our ‘reminder regime’  must include communication.

    We must be resolute!

  • 01 Apr 2021 3:29 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    March 15th was National Napping Day and March was National Sleep Awareness Month. 

    A Pew Research Center survey found that 34% of Americans take daily naps.

    Many peple find a midday snooze flips off their power switch and reboots their work engine for the rest of the day. Its certainly less harmful to your body than drinking several  cups of coffee to keep you alert and productive through the afternoon slump. 

    According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30 minutes or less of catnapping can “restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents” in the workplace.

    Some businesses have caught on, recognising the benefits of alertness, reduction in errors and increased productivity. In fact, more and more companies are encouraging employees to take power naps at work. Some such as Nike, Pizza Hut and Thrive Global Inc. even provides special rooms with specially designed chairs for snoozing.

    So, if you see some of your employees taking a nap midday, congratulate them for their initiative.

    Your productivity should benefit.

  • 25 Mar 2021 5:13 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Can a personal productivity guru help you reach new productivity heights?

    Many of  us look to new tools and techniques, new technologies, new approaches to stimulate our thinking about how to get more done in the same time.

    These new ‘things’ seem to work for a time and then run out of steam … but, in reality, of course, it is us who run out of steam. 

    Its like our New Year resolutions and our new fitness programme.  The excitement of a new initiative will keep us motivated for a few sessions but then it gets repetitive and the excitement wanes. We move on to the the next exciting initiative. 

    A personal trainer can make a big difference. They can cajole and motivate us, as well as improving technique and helping us do the right things.

    Well, a productivity coach can do the same things - help us improve our productivity.  In the world of Lean Six  Sigma, a Black Belt can perform this function - maintaining a central focus on longer-term productivity improvement.

    If we are not a Lean/Six  Sigma organisation, we still might need someone to help the organisation maintain this productivity focus - someone in the senior team who can direct efforts continually towards productivity improvement.  They should pay for themselves many times over.

    Can you afford not to have such a person?

  • 18 Mar 2021 10:25 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    According to the US Economic Policy Institute, productivity increased by 69.6% since 1979, while the average compensation in wages across the entire economy has grown by 11.6% over the same amount of time.

    The poor workers face other threats.  According to MIT, nearly half a million jobs were lost to automation between 1990 and 2007 alone. Furthermore, the Brookings Institution states that nearly a quarter of all jobs done by humans today are considered at “high risk” of being lost to automation in some way or another in the coming years. 

    As robots and complementary technologies become a fundamental part of the economy, they will drive productivity while ensuring wage growth stagnates as desperate people accept lower-paying jobs.

    So where has the excess wealth gone?

    This question is not hard to answer.

    Over the last 30 years we have seen the rise and rise of the super-rich. In most western countries, and quite a few Eastern ones,  The ruling classes get richer. Many countries are ruled by an oligarchy.

    Those who generate the wealth - by improving their productivity, and taking the risks of being automated out, are falling further behind. This is a basis for social revolution not a happy society.   The ruling classes have failed democracy; voters feel they have a part to play - but whoever is elected makes little difference.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    Unfairness cannot work over the longer term. 

    We need to ensure that social productivity is improved alongside economic gains.

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