Why Productivity is Lacking

IT professional at work. Confident young man working on laptop while his colleagues talking in the background

The UK Government’s recent ‘Productivity Plan’ was attacked as lacking in original ideas and clear goals, and was slammed as “nothing more than a list of recycled policies”, by a group of MPs. It is clear that the UK is facing a long-term productivity problem which is being made worse by the financial crisis that the country has faced over the years. The economic downturn was labelled by MPs as “the most damaging financial crisis seen in generations”.

It seems as though the battle between productivity and the economy is transpiring as nothing more than a vicious circle. High levels of productivity contributes to growth, and growth prompts high levels of productivity. The Government’s efforts to “fix the foundations and create a more prosperous nation” is under severe criticism. Is it time to take the growing issue into our own hands?

Learning and Development

It is reported by the OECD that the UK suffers from several weaknesses in its overall skills base which is what is heavily contributing to the longstanding productivity gap with other European countries and the United States. According to the report, numeracy and literacy skills in England and Northern Ireland are among the lowest, and the standard and level of intermediate professional and technical skills are set to drop to 28th out of 30 European countries. 

The rapid pace at which working environments are changing due to technology, laws, policies and global competition means that skill sets must be continually updated. Learning and development is a crucial organisational strategy that ensures a sustainable and successful organisation through the identification of core skills and competency required in order for staff to achieve to the best of their capability, and the implementation of development plans.

An employee is more likely to perform to a higher standard and demonstrate a higher level of productivity if they are confident they have the knowledge and capability to achieve in their role.

Company Vision

Any good business has a clear vision, and through this vision goals can be set. Goals can be set for both the business as a whole and for each employee as individuals benefiting everyone. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. A lack of clear vision and goals can be detrimental to productivity, satisfaction and ultimately retention. Productivity levels begin to deteriorate when people feel little purpose or as though their contributions are meaningless.

Begin by assessing the current state of your business and determining what your team expects of you, and what you need from your team in order to reach your objectives. Determine also, any personal career goals your employees may have and how they want to reach their goals. This way, when you set objectives for both the business and for individual employees, you can tailor them so that they benefit all parties. Productivity levels in likely to increase when an individual feels that they are not only contributing to the companies targets, but are working towards reaching personal goals too. Read more on implementing career development plans.

Setting KPIs is a great way of measuring and determining whether employees are meeting targets and fulfilling objectives, but be careful not to create additional stress or pressure to the employee, you will ultimately achieve the opposite of what you are trying to if you do. Set provisions in place in that cater for those who may underachieve, nurture these employees, identifying where the employee is struggling and aiding them in achieving goals, or adjusting objectives where necessary. Help your team reach their full potential rather than firing those who are underachieving. Don’t forget, a high turnover costs more to a company than simply nurturing and retaining your staff. Set goals that will not only benefit the business as a whole, but help your employees grow and reach their personal targets to the best of their potential.

Workplace Stress

Stress is detrimental to all aspects of an employee’s performance. According to research conducted by Towers Watson, employees suffering from high levels of stress have lower engagement levels, are less productive, and ultimately absenteeism levels are far greater compared to those who are not working under excessive pressure. Stress is inevitable in most working environments. They key to retaining and maintaining satisfaction and productivity levels among employees is helping your staff to manage stress more effectively. Time management plays a pivotal role in reducing stress. An overwhelming workload, too many demands and feeling like there is not enough time will undoubtedly trigger a sense of frustration and panic, and helping your employees to organise, prioritise and plan more effectively is the first step in managing productivity levels.

Of course, stress can have a positive effect on some, kick-starting adrenaline and motivating an individual to perform quicker in order to meet demands and requirements. But poor management and too much exposure to stress will eventually induce a lack of engagement and productivity, as well as negatively influencing loyalty and commitment to the company. Read more on stress management.

Lack of Effective Communication

One of the fundamentals to enhancing productivity is creating satisfaction, and the key to achieving that is by creating clear and effective communication. An effective system of communication means that all employees must have full knowledge of the hierarchy. Each member of staff must be aware of who they can talk to in regards to any issues they may be facing, and ensuring accessibility to the mentors and managers who deal with their issues is of paramount importance.

Creating clear communications refers to both interpersonal communication, and communication through technologies. Utilise technologies and systems that help employees compete tasks more efficiently whilst allowing them to share information, ideas and help and support colleagues. Tools such as Yammer and Office 365 are a great way of allowing staff to share and communicate efficiently. When communicating with employees, ensure that every comment you make is actionable; provide feedback to employees on a regular basis; and ensure that any criticisms are constructive. Following these three simple steps will promote open communication and encourage honesty. Read more on open communication.

If you are looking for someone to join your team who can help you manage employee productivity, satisfaction and retention, then call us today on 0207 788 6600 and we can help you find the right HR professional for the role.

Interview Refresher

Smiling young couple shaking hands with an insurance agent or investment adviser

Have you become an interview robot? It can be easy forget the aim of what you are wanting to achieve when conducting an interview – especially when you have sat through so many. If you are in need of an interview refresher, you have come to the right place. It can be difficult to determine what will equate to a good IT candidate. Here we have compiled a few pointers to finding a great candidate and the best questions to ask in order to prize out the information you really need from the candidate.

  1. “Outline any current issues or trends in technology”

Ask the candidate to outline some current issues that are impacting upon the technology industry. You are not focusing on the specific issues they discuss, but their ability to identify these issues is key. This demonstrates reactiveness and outlines how the candidate would react to any changes in technology that would impact upon them.

  1. “What did you do when you were asked to undertake a task you didn’t understand?”

This question provides the candidate with an opportunity to demonstrate how they problem solve and overcome issues when faced with them. You can assess how well you feel the candidate overcame the issue. Did the candidate overcome the issue through thought-out strategy and planning? Or did the candidate leave the issue to spiral until someone else became involved. Determining the quality of a candidate’s problem solving skills is crucial in determining whether they will be a good fit for the role and for your organisation.

  1. “Outline a time you were asked to complete a task or project that you had no previous experience in”

This could be regarding a new technology, a new industry or a project they had never undertaken before.  This is a great follow up from the previous questions as it allows the candidate to further their explanation of how they respond to change and overcome issues. It is good to get to know how a candidate reacts to change to be able to gauge how well the candidate will settle into a new working environment. It is also a good way of assessing whether their answer confirms or contradicts their previous answers.

  1. “Do you get bored easily?”

A candidates instant reaction to this type of question is quite often ‘no’. It is assumed that boredom equates to a low performing, underachieving employee, so people will often steer clear of admitting to boredom. But in an industry such as technology, new tasks and projects are often arising, so a candidate who is frequently looking for new challenges can be a positive thing.

  1. “What do you expect the role to entail and what would you like the role to entail?”

This is an opportunity to manage expectations – do their expectations meet yours? At this point you can assess whether you feel the candidate understands the role and the task in hand, and also gives the candidate the chance to disclose any expectations they may have of the role. This question allows you to decide whether you feel they will perform well in the role and meet the required expectations. You also want to ensure that the candidate can get the most out of the role from a personal and professional level and will fulfil the candidate’s requirements too. If expectations do not match, it may be a big indicator that this person may not be right for the role, and may impact upon your decision as to whether to proceed any further with their application or not.

  1. “Where do you see yourself…?”

At this point you can give a timescale. 6 months? 1 year? 10 years? Whatever timescale you provide, it will indicate whether the candidate has any aspirations or goals, and whether they have the desire to achieve these goals. You want to find out what they want from their career. Does the candidate want to further their career through L&D, courses, qualifications or experience? At this point you can clarify whether you will be able to aid the candidate in reaching their goals. Again, this is all about managing expectations.

  1. Case study

Provide the candidate with a small case study outlining an issue the company may have faced in the past (this can be fictional) and ask them to provide you with a solution to the problem. It is not so much the final answer that you want to focus on, but how they break down the information you give to them and how they utilise the information effectively to come to a conclusion. This does not need to be a complex issue, the purpose of this is not put the candidate under a great amount of pressure or confuse them. It is good to encourage them to ask questions. It is important to observe the relevance of the questions and asses how they utilise the information to contribute towards the outcome.

  1. “Tell me about your hobbies and interests”

Do not overlook this step as unnecessary or unimportant. This is a chance put the candidate at ease, and a chance for you to get to know their personality. This question is a great way to allow the candidate to demonstrate their passion for something they enjoy doing and express their enthusiasm.

The interview process can be a stressful time for both the candidate and the interviewee. If you need help recruiting the best IT professionals, our expert consultants are on hand to help you at every step of the recruitment process. Call us on 0207 788 6600.

Work-life Integration and the Rise of the Remote Worker

Portrait Of A Businessman Using Digital Tablet

So we know that work life integration is on the rise, and goes hand in hand with remote working. But does it really work? New research that captured data from the UK, the United States and Germany revealed that almost 70% of people who described their team as “very successful” have more than half their team members in different locations, and collaborate freely and successfully regardless of their location. These figures demonstrate that being sat at the same desk each day with all workforce under the same roof does not necessarily equate to productivity.

As with any new way of working there are benefits and challenges. Remote working is increasing particularly within the digital sector. It is evident that remote working appeals to most employees. It allows flexibility, allows for both personal and work goals to be achieved and cuts down on wasted time and money spent on commuting.

But will employers reap the same reward from implementing a remote working plan. It is actually proving beneficial to both staff and employers, with firms who advocate remote working stating that it is a great way of attracting and retaining staff and increasing productivity. It also shows the employee that you trust them and demonstrates your confidence in them to which, in turn, will boost their confidence.

It is argued, however, that implementing remote working policies can be a challenge and that potential issues with technology pose a great threat to the employee’s productivity levels.

Although this is a growing concept that proves to be working for those organisations who practice this working method, most companies do not cater for this type of working environment. In fact, it is discouraged due to rules, regulations and set working hours. Perhaps now is the time to rethink the way we structure the working day, and allow more flexibility.

Let us know your thoughts on the issue. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Why Work Life Balance is Becoming a Thing of the Past

Reconciliation of family and work life: Attractive blond woman in business attire proudly carrying a small boy in her arm in office environment

98% of executives check their work emails during personal time outside of the workplace and 63% check emails as often as every hour according to research conducted by Gyro and Forbes Insight. Team Viewer and Harris Interactive furthered this, reporting that 61% of employees are willing to work during vacation. Reasoning for this was put down to the nature of their role. In particular, Managers and Directors feel they have no choice due to ongoing responsibilities.

Professionals are increasingly willing to blur the line between work and home. It is argued that if people love what they do then why should there be a strict divide between work and home? There has always been a strong emphasis on prioritising between work and lifestyle through creating a work-life balance. Whilst this concept remains a fundamental part of maintaining job satisfaction, minimising stress levels and ultimately maintaining good health and wellbeing, the focus is now on managing time effectively so that you can integrate the two without added stress.

Work-life integration is a concept that allows workers to accomplish both work requirements and personal requirements in a more blended process. It is about allowing flexibility meaning time does not have to be so rigidly split between working hours and non-working hours. This works well for those who are happy to take a 6am conference call but then take an hour out mid-afternoon for a gym session; or for those who prefer to be able to take calls from family members and friends, but then are willing to take work calls during holidays or attend to emails at night.

The rise of the remote worker has contributed significantly to the shift from a ‘work-life balance’ to integrating work duties and lifestyle. Technologies and platforms such as Office 365, Google Docs, Skype and social media platforms have played a big part in allowing remote working to take place and has made work life integration far more possible than ever before. It is suggested that by 2020 the number of people working from home at least once a week is set to increase by over 60%.

Let us know your thoughts on the issue. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Poor Employer Branding could cost you £3,297 per hire

stretta di mano uomo in ufficio per colloquio di lavoro

Just how important is employer branding? The transparency that social media has brought to employer branding has prompted the need for a strong brand advocacy.

Richard Mosley, author of The Employer Brand supported this “the most important change [in employer branding] has been a shift from promoting employer brands through recruitment advertising campaigns to a more diverse flow of authentic, employee generated content through social media.”

Websites such as Glassdoor are contributing to the shift in power, with companies needing to sell themselves to candidates as opposed to candidates having to sell themselves to the company. We also know that due to growing competition in acquiring talent, people now have a far greater choice over where they work. This means employer advocacy is more important than ever before.

Recent research into the importance of employer branding has finally put some hard figures to the issue, supporting that a poor employer brand can be detrimental to your company and it will cost you.

The study comprised of over 1000 nationally representative respondents, all of which are full time professionals. The top three concerns that would deter a potential candidate from taking a role within a company included a lack of job security, dysfunctional teams and poor leadership. Almost half of the respondents said that they would rule out working for a company all together if they displayed any of these traits.

The three traits that potential employees look for when applying for roles are employer stability, opportunities for career growth and the chance to work within a good team. These traits are considered as important to potential employees and demonstrate a good reputation.

The research revealed if the reputation of the brand is poor, that a pay increase of at least 10% was needed in order to entice a new employer. This translates to approximately £3,297 per hire.

The study also revealed that that in order to compensate for a poor reputation, a company with over 10,000 employees or more could be spending £5.3million in additional wages.

According to the study, job applicants soared by up to 500% when a company showcased aspects of their working environment on social media.

“The crucial first step is to understand why you’re struggling to hire,” said Mosley. “Some organisations help employers determine levels of awareness among the talent groups they are seeking to hire, what these people currently associate with the employer and how this aligns with what they’re looking for.

“Once this is clear, it makes it a lot easier to define a more compelling employer value proposition, focus your communication efforts and ensure you deliver on your promises.”

Read our tips for creating a strong employer brand.

If you are looking for someone to help you to improve your employer branding then please contact us on 0207 788 6600 and our expert consultants will help you find the right HR professional for the role.