UK productivity undermined by rule-heavy workplaces which stifle employees’ initiative and ideas
Employers can unleash the productivity of their workers by allowing them more scope to use their initiative, create more stimulating work and reduce the burden of unnecessary rules and procedures, according to a new report which considers productivity from the employees’ perspective.
The latest Employee Outlook Survey from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, in partnership with Halogen Software, surveyed over 2,000 UK employees, asking what enabled them to be most productive in their jobs. The most common responses were interesting work (40%), being able to use their own initiative (39%) and being given tasks which complement their skills (25%). On the other hand, the most common hurdles to employee productivity were unnecessary rules and procedures (28%), not having the resources available to do their jobs (28%) and office politics (24%). The report highlights a need for organisations to consider how they can increase the amount of autonomy employees have at work to use their skills and ideas through more empowering leadership and line management, as well as improved job design.
Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, commented: “Productivity at work has been a real focus this year for employers and policy-makers, but it’s easy to forget that the most important perspective on the productivity debate is that of employees themselves. This survey gives us unique insight into what workers feel affects how well they work, and the answer is much simpler than many would probably assume.“Improving productivity is an ongoing, long-term project for the UK, but in the shorter term, employers can help employees use their skills and ideas by focusing on developing leaders and line managers who empower rather than control staff and by designing jobs which provide sufficient autonomy. Setting employees free to innovate and play to their strengths also involves an employment relationship based on trust and removing unnecessary and restrictive rules and procedures that get in the way of common sense and agility.”Engagement is also a key factor affecting productivity at work, and the proportion of engaged employees has dropped from 39% to 36% this year, with men more likely to be disengaged at work than women. Amongst those that are disengaged at work, 44% feel they are over-qualified – indeed the survey also found that overall, nearly three in ten employees (29%) think they are overqualified for their role. Engagement also has an impact on productivity, as significantly more disengaged employees (17%) say they are less productive than neutral (5%) or engaged (3%) employees. The good news is that employees point to the solution to over-qualification themselves, with three-fifths (61%) suggesting that broadening their job role would make better use of their skills and experience.
McCartney continues: “There’s undoubtedly a mismatch of skills existing in the UK workforce, and we can see here how damaging over-qualification and skills mismatches can be to areas such as employee engagement, long-term retention and, of course, productivity. The CIPD is already speaking out on this issue and we’ve called on the Government to work with employers and other key stakeholders to develop a strategy to create more high-skilled jobs and improve skills utilisation in the workplace. In the meantime though, a focus on empowerment and good job design can make a huge difference. The survey shows that many employees see the over-qualification issue as a rectifiable one, and employers should take advantage of this.”
Dominique Jones, Vice President of Human Resources at Halogen Software, said: “These results show a strong need for organisations to focus on career development, growth and stimulation as a way to support job satisfaction and retention. Investing in employee development not only expands the employee’s capacity and ability to contribute, it can also translate into a range of business results. Further, when career planning discussions are tied to regular, ongoing feedback it has a tremendous impact on employee productivity and engagement. However, line managers need support themselves and HR plays a critical role here in providing the guidance, tools and systems that enable managers to help their employees succeed.” Further highlights from the survey include:
- Attitudes to senior managers have worsened across five areas of consultation, respect, trust, confidence and clarity of vision
- Many employees are feeling unfulfilled with almost a third (32%) saying they were unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation. This figure rises to 51% for 18-24 year olds.
- Just under half of employees (46%) say they receive limited or very little information about what is going on in their organisation
- Almost two-fifths (37%) of employees are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week
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