Employers looking to boost productivity should focus on job satisfaction rather than salaries or employment security, an expert says, in light of a new report on Australian workers’ motivation.
The Ernst & Young Australian Productivity Pulse is based on a survey of 2,500 employees, spanning seven sectors and from all levels within private and public organisations.
The survey is the first of its kind in Australia, developed to directly measure Australian workers’ sentiments around productivity and what they perceive as the biggest barriers and opportunities.
The report reveals that while the majority of workers are highly motivated, 18% of their time at work is wasted, costing organisations an estimated $109 billion in wages alone.
Only 58% of an average work day is spent on work that directly adds “real value”, versus time perceived to be wasted as a result of factors such as wrong job fit and inefficient systems.
A further 24% is spent on core activities such as networking and professional development.
While 62% of people believe their organisation is operating efficiently, the biggest dampener of productivity is people management (54%), followed by organisational processes.
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Other factors that affect productivity include innovation (15%) and technology (8%).
Workers aged 45 and over have the highest motivation levels, with 74% motivated to do their job to the best of their ability, compared to 66% of workers under 45.
Ernst & Young advisory leader Neil Plumridge says it’s not surprising that people management has the highest influence on how productive people are in the workplace.
The main issues include skills not matching workers’ jobs, capabilities being underutilised, a lack of clear vision from leadership, and no direction for career progression.
Plumridge says monetary rewards are not the “silver bullet” to lifting productivity, particularly among older workers.
“Mature workers are the most enthusiastic performers and are more likely to be motivated by the actual work they do rather than salary, work/life balance or employment security,” he says.
“In fact, salary, incentives and bonuses fall short across the board, with only 13% of respondents saying it is a driving factor.”
Plumridge says boosting productivity is not just a matter of cutting costs, which is good news for cash-strapped start-ups looking to fast-track their growth.
“It is easy to jump to the conclusion that productivity can be fixed by downsizing or cutting costs. However, this is a short-sighted view,” he says.
“Organisations need to think in terms of making bolder, more revolutionary changes that move them into a higher zone of productivity, well above the long-term average of 1-2% a year.”
“Rather than cut jobs, organisations should be looking to eliminate wasteful work and redeploy those resources to growth and investment areas.”
According to Plumridge, there is a huge dividend available to organisations if they re-focus on upping productivity.
This can be achieved by removing non-value bureaucratic work, embracing technologies that drive efficiency, encouraging a culture of innovation, and developing and utilising the full talents and capabilities of people.
“It’s easy to consider productivity as a problem for the government of the day to deal with,” Plumridge says.
“While they indeed have a vital role to play, business leaders have an equal responsibility to invest in initiatives that drive productivity.”