There it was on a public holiday, that workforce subject: “I want an Australia where workplaces are collaborative and creative, which bring out the best in people and allow companies to adjust and stay competitive in a global economy.”
So the CEO of the Business Council of Australia is worried about your productivity, and why not? You know the line: productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run, it’s almost everything.
Ever wondered how an organisation might calculate your productivity? One simple way is:
And there lies the dilemma. In the ceaseless pursuit of productivity, it’s always tempting to just focus on the bit below the line, the cost of all those “heads” at work, and think about reductions.
One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization, written by past and present IBM executives, who state:
Many executives don’t appreciate the competitive advantage that they can achieve through their workforce. Too often, they see their employees as a cost of doing business that they need to control and a common denominator that all their competitors must deal with. … We believe that workforce analytics is not about counting “heads,” but rather how “heads” can be organized and utilized most effectively.
I agree entirely. In the productivity calculation, increasing the part above the line is far more important than reducing the part below the line. Increasing output—better and more products and services—is one of the big stories of modernity. Cost-cutting won’t ever hang in a museum.
But there is a way to win both above the line and below the line. As John Kotter puts it in The Heart of Change, “There is a way around this problem … It’s crafting customer service-oriented visions that are impossible to achieve without actions that significantly reduce unnecessary expenses.”
The key is the alignment of the workforce we already have towards goals that prove to be of real customer value, and away from otherwise unnecessary hours of work. And since customer needs change rapidly, that alignment must be continuous.
That is, your learning and development are always critical to a business. When I finished my PhD in 2010, it capped four years of learning for me and the business I contributed to. Then I took a developmental pause. A year later I missed the publication of a body of work that would have been so useful to the larger project I worked on. A collaborative opportunity was well and truly missed.
Such experiences inform my training these days, particularly in Expressive Engineering’s Communication Courses. But more than that, they give me a small window to understanding the question above: how we allow companies to adjust and stay competitive.