Thomas Otter: Conquering the productivity gap

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In last month’s Bank of England Inflation Report, Mark Carney stated that unemployment has fallen faster than predicted and the target is expected to be reached by this spring. However, a troubling productivity gap still remains in the UK.

According to IDC, 24% of the UK’s workforce is made up of contingent staff; largely increasing due to the millennial generation seeking more flexible ways of working. Businesses need to adapt current HR processes to ensure temporary staff are just as motivated and driven as permanent staff.

The highlighted productivity gap within the Inflation Report gives reason to believe that businesses could do more to facilitate the positive attitude and motivations seen from secure, permanent employees to their loyal contingent workers. With this in mind, what can businesses do to ensure their contingent workers are as motivated as their permanent colleagues?

It’s clear there are two core areas for organisations to focus on – visibility and processes. By focussing on both of these, organisations will be better placed to address the productivity gap and ensure employees remain motivated, regardless of contract type.

Visibility

When looking further in to traditional methods, it seems ‘productivity’ is not the only gap that is in need of some attention. There are clear signs of a ‘visibility gap’ between employers and the contingent workforce. Often, contingent workers are doing similar roles to that of their permanent colleagues, but unfortunately, due to the temporary nature of the contingent workforce they can be easily ignored and neglected; this may be down to a combination of working hours, decline of communication levels and the nature of HR processes.

Indeed, it can stem from the initial recruitment process itself. Contingent employees should experience a similar on-boarding process to that of their permanent colleagues. The relevant amount of time and attention spent on understanding what drives each individual will improve performance and productivity levels. In return, job roles within the business will have a sense of personal importance and employees will be engaged in their work.

Paying attention to individual needs, such as working hours, career plans or ambitions, and previous employment history is vital to making the most out of an employee. Businesses should recognise and acknowledge these personal attributes and preferences from the first day an employee is interviewed, regardless of the role they are applying for.

Continuing to focus on innovation within HR departments and on communication with the contingent workforce is key to overcoming the ‘visibility gap’.

Processes

The process of implementing a core HR system can assist with integrating and motivating an entire workforce, including the contingent workers. These systems can assist in identifying where HR departments can support performance on an individual basis.

For example, performance management programmes can provide opportunities for employees to track their development and compare achievements to personal targets. However, it is vital that businesses remember the human aspect of long-term satisfaction of employees; technology will just ensure this service is optimised.

The innovative and forward-thinking technology now available to HR departments provides a variety of insights, from the way in which employees work to how their working practises can be optimised, and even their preferred management styles, offering suggestions towards personalised training. This will inevitably improve staff efficiency, performance and attitudes towards motivation

Contingent workers should have the flexibility to opt in, and take part in beneficial training programmes. By providing these non-traditional incentives, such as training programmes and personalised key performance initiatives, contingent workers will feel empowered, influencing mentalities in a positive way. This equates to a mutual benefit for both parties, supporting career development and ROCE (Return On Capital Employed).

Offering contingent workers the chance to enhance their personal careers by providing access to beneficial learning capabilities and programmes that develop vocational/personal skills will contribute to improving the productivity gap in the UK. If employees feel valued, they are more likely to show a willing and committed attitude. It can also lead to contingent staff exploring alternative roles within the business and potentially converting these employees, whom are familiar with the business, in to fully-fledged, motivated permanent members of staff.

It is clear that the recession has had a knock-on effect to the way in which businesses operate in regards to their recruitment process. Companies are expanding their use of contingent workers, allowing for a more flexible workforce and reducing long-term costs, which makes an effective management of contingents ever more important. However, as the economy starts to take a positive turn, businesses now need to focus on closing the productivity gap, and ensure that contingent workers are as committed and productive as their permanent counterparts.

Implementing innovative HR processes, providing support to employees, and offering training and benefits ensures contingent workers are being rewarded in similar ways to full-time staff members. This will not only integrate the workforce as a whole, but also maintain levels of productivity and motivation.

Only once UK businesses recognise the importance of firstly, their influence on the employment landscape, and secondly, their contingent employees will we see a decline in the productivity gap.

Thomas Otter, Vice President Product Management at SuccessFactors, an SAP company

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