Defining and managing HR's understanding of being productive

So how do managers find balance especially with remote work in mind?
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Defining and managing HR's understanding of being productive

Being productive can simultaneously be a practical thing – meeting deadlines, submitting slides for a presentation, sales goals – but also very emotionally driven.

We can feel productive, even when there is, on the surface, nothing to show for it. For example, the person who watches three training videos might not then have a physical element to show for their work but they have been productive in learning. It’s different for all of us – and that can be a headache for managers.

According to a recent survey, nearly three in five Brits feel that they are more productive when working from home. Toner Giant also found that Brits aged 35-44 are the most productive at home, with 64% saying they get more done outside of the office, whereas Gen Z is the least productive.

Working from home seems to be synonymous with productivity – but it’s all relative. Defining productivity is one thing, and also, for managers, monitoring it in some way. Sustaining that monitoring can lean into micro-management, confusion and, above all, resentment.

Jane Gibbon, Chief People Officer at the London Business School explains: "An organisation needs to have a hard think about why it might want to measure individual productivity. It could make sense in an industry where manufacturing or sales are central, but might it be demotivating amongst knowledge workers?"

"The best thing an organisation can do is to clearly define it’s objectives for the time period, and ensure employees understand and document their role in delivering it. At LBS we check in once a month to ensure employee objectives are either completed, (or on the path to completion), stalled or no longer relevant. This way managers can play their critical role of celebrating completion, removing roadblocks, or acknowledging that productive time should no longer be used on a task. This also emphasises the adult-adult relationship with staff, leaving individual choices about the best way for an individual to be productive up to them provided they are delivering their objectives."

An organisation needs to have a hard think about why it might want to measure individual productivity

Jane Gibbon, London Business School

Productivity and personal values - a clash or a connection?

Toby Hough, People & Culture Director at HiBob agrees that managers might see productivity in different ways, “and that can be a problem.” The mis-match of one person's definition of being productive compared to their manager's defintion can be catastrophic long-term both on individuals and companies.

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