Downward spiral | Are Americans really becoming less productive than ever?

Are Americans really becoming less productive than ever?

Whilst the pandemic may seem like a distant nightmare in our memories, the effects of the changes to the world of work caused by COVID-19 are very much ongoing.

Largely, these fundamental changes appertain to the expectations that workers have for their experiences at work, and the commitment that they’re willing to offer as a result.

A headline finding of the research into the ongoing changes to the talent market (provided by FRED Economic Research), is that the US workforce isn’t by any standards as productive as it was just one year ago.

Productivity is down 4.1% on an annualized basis, the biggest decline since the Government started keeping track of the number back in 1948. Since then, US productivity had been on a steady upward slope. Until now.

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In short, people are not producing as much output in their allotted working hours between clocking in and clocking out each day. And, this could have a profound effect on the country's well-being, according to economists.

As for why this change has come about, a recent article published by NPR alleged that workers simply don’t have as many working hours as they used to. According to the research many are finding that, as businesses struggle with economic volatility, hours are being slashed.

However, Erin Lazarus, SHL’s Head of Solution Architects in the Americas, told HR Grapevine that this is not the core reason for the decrease in productivity. “There is a myriad of factors, including quiet quitting, the great resignation, and continuous change and economic uncertainty causing fatigue and discouragement,” Lazarus said.

“We have a huge portion of the workforce just starting out in a new role and not yet fully up to speed, and also organizations who have lost all their institutional knowledge trying to piece back together processes in the rubble. I would argue that these factors are causing lower productivity - not fewer working hours.”

So, what does the future hold for US productivity? It seems, in the short term at least, more of the same. SHL’s view is that such a slump can become a self-perpetuating cycle. Unproductivity creates unproductivity, and businesses will continue to feel the pinch of a workforce unable to operate at full effectiveness.

That is, unless fundamental changes are made to the way that we consider how the factors listed above affect the wellbeing of our people.

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