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Compensation Cafe: What’s Happened to Worker Productivity?

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Compensation Cafe logo

Numbers have come out recently from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on worker productivity, and the conclusions aren’t all that positive. According to the report, productivity has been on the decline in the US for the previous four quarters at an annualized rate of 0.4%. Yet, number of hours worked over the same period have increased by 1.5%.

What’s going on?

There are a couple of opinions out there, summarized in a recent post I wrote on Compensation Cafe:

One argument is that all of that innovation and technology aren’t doing much to help productivity. … Another argument points to lower levels of investment by companies, responding to greater uncertainty in markets and talent pools alongside downward pressures on profits.

Underpinning both arguments is the idea that fundamental changes to the employee experience and the expectations of the employee-employer relationship may be playing a role. Gone are the days of long-term relationships built on mutual investment, in personnel and technology.

As I write in the full post:

Instead, employers need to rethink the terms in a way that maximizes benefits to employee and employer alike. The emphasis needs to rest on enriching the employee experience beyond the standard quid pro quo. One way is to introduce greater humanity into the workplace, specifically in ways that allow employees to feel valued and empowered to maximize their own productivity.

A particularly valuable approach along those lines is in building a culture of recognition, which allows a company to signal its investment in its people while also reinforcing more human ways of working. It can be an effective solution supporting change management and innovation, ultimately improving productivity.

What types of factors are important to your own productivity?

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