August 20, 2019
Performance Management 25 September 2017
How to deal with Decreased Workforce Productivity
Harmion Morris

Countries across the world are experiencing subdued levels of economic growth. The reasons cited for the slowdown are reduced levels of productivity due to an aging population, shrinking workforce, and low level of skills. It is observed that a lot of countries have a workforce that is on the verge of retirement. According to World Health Organization report, nearly 2 billion people across the world are expected to be over 60 by 2050. So there are clear signals of a dwindling workforce in the next few decades. 

Dropping off of work-force will consequently reduce the productivity further affecting the growth. The other reasons for reducing work-force are stringent policies by countries like China in adopting measures such as “one child policy”. Unskilled labor is also responsible for low level of productivity. Lack of proper education and rapidly evolving technology have resulted in a majority of the workforce having a low level of skills, thus making them unproductive.

The issue of an aging population and a paucity of work-force involve variables that are beyond our control. However, the issue of 'low-level of skills' can be resolved by the proactive implementation of policies at the government as well as the organizational level.            


Adopting evolving technologies: 

Evolution of technologies such as cloud-computing and artificial intelligence is creating a buzz in the industry. The outcome of these technologies in industries is promising. The main goal of these inventions is to reduce human interference in various processes that can be mechanized. 

Use of automated bots and mechanized processes has led to an increase in productivity. However, it has also led to a rise in skepticism among various stakeholders as it has resulted in job losses across different sectors. It has the potential to jeopardize the job market as it can replace humans with machines. 

A rising skepticism might nudge the governing bodies to intervene in order to mitigate its impact. But in doing so, they might lead themselves astray on a regressive path. So instead of having a regressive approach, companies should focus on initiating structural reforms along with imparting the right skills to the employees to cope with such disruptions. 

For example, in Japan - where the 'robot density' (Number of multipurpose robots per 10,000 persons employed) is 339, which is the second highest after South Korea, has ingeniously come up with ideas that can help employees in upgrading their skills. Instead of laying them off, they have devised policies which enable the employees to work across different departments.

Skill development: 

Imparting necessary skills in a constantly changing global scenario is critical. Enhancing the existing skills and developing new ones is not a one-way approach, but can only be achieved with collective efforts. Just as employees have to adopt a progressive stance by unlearning the existing obsolete skills and relearning the new ones, even the employers must shred old practices of imparting training. 

As learning nowadays is deviating from the old models of classroom training and becoming digital, so companies must resort to digital mediums in order to deliver content that is easy to comprehend and improves the overall learning experience. In addition to that, it is also important on the employers' part to impart training in the form of bite-sized modules as there are growing instances of a decrease in attention span. With help of such modules, it is possible to impart on-job training where the employee can learn as well as implement the same.

Use of management techniques to improve productivity:  

  • Work standards: Work standards specifically aim at doing a job in the most effective manner. Companies establish these standards documented in the form of policies, rules, directives, and procedures for all the major operations. These sets of guidelines enable the employees to perform their jobs without errors and help the management to minimize the costs and reduce the process time, thereby improving the overall productivity. The key elements in setting work standards are (1) identify key issues in the current process (2) mapping the process (3) improve the process (4) implement the new process (5) and finally sustain the process. Hence, setting up work standards can help in process optimization so it is important for companies to set certain standards and strictly adhere to them.

  • Statistical process control: It is the application of statistical techniques to control a process and eliminate all the shortcomings in it. It requires all the employees to do a periodic review of their own output, and enter the data into control charts. On entering the data, the next step is to analyze it and draw pertinent inferences and take corrective measures on the shortcomings. This type of analysis is used particularly in manufacturing industries.

  • Quality circle: A quality circle is a group of workers who do similar work. The basic purpose of a quality circle is to conduct regular meetings with the group of workers in order to analyze and solve work-related problems. Normally, a quality circle is headed by a manager. All the vital issues are discussed with him and are resolved after a thorough discussion. It is an effective tool as it can help in the collective resolution of issues and include all the employees in making important decisions. It can create a positive work environment and enhance productivity. 

A decline in productivity is one of the major concerns the companies are grappling with. In order to improve productivity, companies must draft policies for achieving the desired target. They must embark on the technological changes and ingeniously develop methods to achieve the said goals. For instance, HR Technology has been helping organizations in involving stakeholders in decision-making, training employees, and boosting productivity.

Harmion Morris is a career advisor by profession. She is always eager to share her knowledge and experiences on various topics related to myriads of professions through her Expert Career Guidance Blog. Harmion writes many articles and is also a contributor to BSR : Resume Samples. Connect with Harmion on Twitter, Google+ or through email.