UK productivity is not as good as it could be. Maggie Williams looks at the responses from the survey to establish what employers believe is making their staff less effective than they could be, and offers some suggestions for improvement

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Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that workplace productivity across the UK are still falling below the levels seen before the financial crisis in 2008. We asked our respondents whether productivity levels are a concern for their company and explored how they are reacting to the challenges of improving it.

Only 19% of participants said that they do not have a problem with productivity. Nearly half (46%) said that they either had a company-wide need to improve productivity (21%), or had concerns in certain parts of the workforce (25%). A further 36% said that although it’s not a major problem, they are still looking to increase it.

We asked respondents to rate how five different factors affect productivity in their organisation, on a scale of one (very important) to five (very unimportant). Six out of ten (60%) said that ‘the strength of employees’ was either important (21%) or very important (39%) when it comes to productivity, making this the highest scoring factor in our list. Amongst smaller companies with less than 1,000 employees, this factor was even more important, with 70% ranking either important (25%) or very important (45%).

‘Processes and the relationship between and within departments’ also scored highly with 52% ranking this as either important (32%) or very important (20%).

Participants said that ‘company culture and image’ was of moderate importance, with 28% of respondents giving this a mid-ranked score of three, and 38% saying it was either important (20%) or very important (18%). ‘Reward strategy’ was felt to be less important when it comes to productivity, and had the lowest average score of the five factors. Sixty eight percent said that this was either unimportant (37%) or very unimportant (31%). Participants from smaller companies ranked reward strategy lower still – 80% said it was either unimportant (45%) or very unimportant (35%). Overall, reward ranked even lower than ‘company internal communications’, which 20% of all respondents said was unimportant and 36% said was very unimportant.

We asked respondents to rank ten motivation drivers in order, in terms of their impact on productivity. A ‘great workplace environment’ and ‘company values in line with employees’ were the two top-ranked factors, with 17% ranking the first of these as their top factor, and 15% putting company values at the top of their list.

However, when looking at the factors that participants chose as their top three considerations, the top answers were ‘great workplace environment’ (52% put this in their top three); sense of achievement (40%) and competitive salary (38%).

When asked about the relationship between productivity and reward strategy, there were some surprising findings. Thirty nine percent said that there is no relationship between productivity and reward in their organisation. Among the remaining 61% who do make a link between the two factors, 41% said that they are related at an individual level and 35% said this was done at company level. There is less of a link at department or team level, with only 13% and 17% respectively saying that they relate reward and productivity in those contexts.

Benefits and productivity

We also asked if our audience offer any benefits or have any internal processes that are specifically designed to drive better productivity. Fifty three percent said that they were addressing his by working to improve staff engagement, and 49% said that their pay and/or bonuses are related to productivity. Other initiatives included offering health benefits, such as a cash plan or income protection (38%) or encouraging an occupational health department to drive initiatives that reduce absenteeism. However, 21% said that they have no initiatives in place to improve productivity.

We asked our participants if they measure the relationship between health benefits and productivity. Only 9% of our respondents offer no healthcare benefits at all – but 70% of respondents say that they do not measure the relationship between the health benefits they offer and productivity. A mere 7% said that they measure it using metrics and benchmarks, and further 13% said they track the relationship on an ad hoc basis.

Employee burnout

Our findings on employee burnout make uncomfortable reading. Only 6% of respondents said that burnout is not a concern for their organisation. Nineteen percent said that this is a significant problem, and a further 41% said that burnout is an occasional problem but not widespread. The remaining 35% said that they are aware of the risk, but it has not been an issue to date. Public sector and not-for-profit organisations were slightly more likely to have concerns around burnout, with 20% saying that it is a significant problem and 52% saying that that it is an occasional problem for them.

Line managers have a crucial role to play in seeing and responding to signs of burnout amongst team members. However, 69% said that they do not currently provide any training to equip line managers with the skills to spot it, although a more encouraging 52% said that they intend to provide this in future. Respondents from companies with less than 1,000 employees were more likely to provide training than their larger counterparts, with 38% saying that they already do so (compared to 31% overall), and 47% reporting that they intend to in the future.

When it comes to using benefits to address the risk of burnout, most respondents (87%) said that they have turned to an employee assistance programme (EAP), and 25% also said they have other healthcare benefits that provide support for the symptoms of burnout. Among smaller businesses, the use of EAPs is even higher, with 94% of participants from this size of company saying that they have an EAP.

Fifty four percent of respondents overall have introduced stress resilience training, but this jumps to 71% amongst respondents from public sector and not-for-profit companies. Twenty one percent overall have created an awareness programme. Apps and technology are currently less popular as a burnout management tool, with just 15% using these to help employees reduce their risk.

Tracking and measuring wellbeing

Our findings showed that companies have a mixed approach to tracking the wellbeing of their workforce. The most common indicator is sickness absence, with 83% of respondents saying that they use this as a measure of workplace wellbeing. Collating subjective views from staff using engagement surveys is also common practice (65%). However, respondents are less likely to use data to measure wellbeing. Although 33% said that they collate data from wellbeing and health benefits, this is done for each benefit in isolation – only 2% said that they have an integrated approach to collecting and analysing health data. One in ten (11%) do not track wellbeing at all.

Given that so few businesses collect data about staff wellbeing, perhaps it’s not surprising that 80% of respondents said that they have no benchmark in place for it, although 30% say that they are developing plans to do so. This trend is consistent, regardless of company size.

In general, our research findings show that respondents are aware of the need to improve productivity within their companies. The role that staff burnout can play is also high on the agenda – and already a problem for some. However, there is still much more work to do in setting benchmarks and collecting data that will help businesses really understand and react to the challenges of staff wellbeing and productivity.

This article is featured in Reward’s Rewarding Tomorrow’s Workforce research report. CLICK HERE to read the full report.


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