corporate success

Worker Productivity is Falling Sharply and CEOs Don’t Know Why

Worker Productivity is Falling Sharply and CEOs Don’t Know Why

(Disclaimer: This article is examining the general trend of falling worker productivity and may or may not apply to your company in particular. Cogcentric does not claim that this article is comprehensive or complete in its analysis.)

All across the globe, companies are facing an unprecedented challenge at every level. For the first time in 40 years, worker productivity is decreasing.

On top of record-high inflation and stagnating growth, this worker productivity slump is yet another economic headwind hitting companies just when the COVID-19 economic recovery had reached full swing. During a CNBC Town Hall, Nela Richardson, Chief Economist at ADP, told attendees that 2022 is the first year to see three consecutive quarters of falling productivity since 1983. Workers are less engaged and less productive, and their job performance has suffered.

Complicating matters is that business leaders can’t figure out why their organizations aren’t more productive. Marc Benioff, co-CEO of Salesforce, recently said in a company Slack message that newer hires aren’t as productive as he wants them to be, and he doesn’t know why. Benioff invited team leaders and employees to account for their reduced productivity and explain what isn’t working within the company.

This productivity slump isn’t just specific to North America. Companies in  Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom are also seeing productivity fall.

What’s behind this trend? Why are workers suddenly less productive than they were just a few short years ago? And is there a solution to this productivity slump? Here’s what we know.

What Might Be Behind the Worker Productivity Slump?

Different companies may define worker productivity in different ways, but generally, worker productivity is defined as a worker’s hourly output.

While CEOs have said they don’t know why worker productivity has fallen, there are some other coincidental workforce trends that might explain reduced productivity. Real wage growth stagnated in 2021 and shrank in 2022, indicating that across the globe and in North America in particular, wages have not kept up with inflation. 

The International Labour Organization’s 2022 Global Wage Report states that in North America, real wage growth was zero in 2021. In 2022, meanwhile, most North American workers saw a real wage loss of 3.2 percent.

This real wage loss occurred as a result of not decreasing wages, but historically high inflation. In Canada, the annualized inflation rate was 6.8% in November 2022; this stands in contrast with the Bank of Canada’s target inflation range of 1% to 3%. 

In other words, inflation has taken such a large bite out of wage increases that most employees are taking home less money in 2022 than they were two years prior, despite earning higher salaries.

According to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, higher wages are associated with higher productivity. So when employees’ inflation-adjusted wages fall, they’re less motivated and therefore less productive.

Better Engagement, More Training Can Mitigate Worker Productivity Losses

With higher wages being associated with higher productivity, it only makes sense to dole out cost-of-living raises. But in addition to cost-of-living raises, employers can advertise financial incentives for employees who complete additional training, achieve certain targets, or show some sort of initiative. When employees can see that their contributions are valued, they become more engaged and more productive as a result.

But increasing employee compensation is just one of several ways that companies can boost productivity; other measures can help to increase output without adding to payroll costs. For instance, there are several types of training that can increase employee productivity.

Time Management Training and Skill Cross-Training Can Help

One of the simplest kinds of training to give your team is time management training. If productivity is poor because your team isn’t managing their time well, teaching them how to better manage their time while at work can be an effective means of boosting productivity. For instance, you may want to teach your employees the Pomodoro Technique or various energy management strategies. Teach your team to tackle easier tasks when they’re low on energy and harder tasks when they’re alert and motivated.

You’ll also want to ensure your employees aren’t overworking. Burnout is a key cause of low productivity; if your team is spending more time than needed on non-critical tasks or taking on too much work, they could be burning themselves out. Check in with your employees regarding their workloads to get a sense of whether they’re taking on too much.

Or maybe your team isn’t as productive as you want them to be because they lack certain competencies. If your team is composed of specialists who are experts in their roles, that means they probably aren’t well-equipped to cover for each other when needed – for instance, when someone is out sick or on vacation. Cross-training can help your employees to learn each other’s roles, so they can step in and perform each other’s work as needed.

When cross-training your team, you’ll want to ensure you’re optimizing the division of labour and knowledge management – make sure you understand who needs to know what and who needs to take on which tasks. 
You can also use dataanalytics tools to track worker productivity and identify patterns. For instance, if productivity seems to slump immediately after lunch, you can ask your employees to prioritize important work in the morning and focus on non-critical tasks in the first hour or so after their lunch break.

Ask your team why they think productivity isn’t where it should be. Ask your team what challenges they’re facing and how you can give them the tools they need to perform. Then give them the personalized training they need to solve those challenges.

Emerging Technologies Can Boost Worker Productivity

Investing in new technology can be an effective method of increasing your team’s productivity. Emerging tools and strategies like artificial intelligence and gamification are making it easier to help teams boost output. 

For example, you might consider switching to a corporate LMS that uses content personalization and a gamified progress tracker to motivate your employees to finish their training.  An LMS can also help with knowledge management, so you can ensure all of your employees have the knowledge and training needed to get the job done. Or, you could use any number of AI-enabled corporate tools that can help your employees file paperwork faster or better organize their workdays.

It’s also important to use technology that can monitor goal progress. When you have instant insight into your team’s progress, it’s easier to spot problems and remind employees of incomplete tasks. Your team can also manage their time better when they have a clear view of their goals.

Worker productivity has started falling for the first time in 40 years. In contrast to the previous productivity slump, today, managers have access to a wide array of tech tools. These tools can help them to keep a closer eye on productivity and better manage and motivate their teams. 

The employee productivity slump is at least partially tied to high inflation and real wage loss. However, doling out raises is only one of many solutions that team managers can use to boost productivity. New technology, better employee engagement, and investments in corporate training initiatives can all increase productivity. These initiatives can help to justify cost-of-living raises and further motivate your team.

What are you doing to boost your company’s productivity? How are you keeping your team engaged and motivated?

Employee Retention How to Keep Your Top Performers and Fend Off the Great Resignation

Employee Retention: How to Keep Your Top Performers and Fend Off the Great Resignation

The hiring crunch has been going on for quite some time. Across all industries, at every level, there are more open jobs than there are qualified candidates to fill them. In parallel, people are leaving their jobs in record numbers. In November 2021, the United States’ resignation rate reached a 20-year high. One Pew Research survey examined the top reasons that employees resign. The survey found that most employees leave due to low pay, feeling disrespected, and/or no opportunities for advancement. Other reasons for leaving included: a lack of childcare, no scheduling flexibility, and poor (or no) job benefits. The Great Resignation is primarily being driven by young people, particularly those under age 30. With more employees than ever deciding that it’s time to move on, focusing on employee retention has never mattered more.

Employee Retention Challenges: What’s Driving the Great Resignation?

Economists say the leading cause of the Great Resignation is the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employees to rethink their life priorities. The things employees previously sought (and/or tolerated) in a workplace are no longer the same things they seek out today. But this priority shift isn’t just employees’ concern. Managers have much at stake in the Great Resignation as well. Research has repeatedly found that it can cost at least ⅓ of an employee’s salary to replace that employee. For high-level positions, replacing a lost staff member can easily cost 4 times their annual salary.

If your organization is having trouble hanging onto your employees, you’re looking at lost time and money. Furthermore, your understaffed crew is likely experiencing low morale as they try to pick up the slack. That’s why improving employee retention is one of the best things you can do for employee morale and your bottom line. Here are some things you can do to boost your retention rate and cut down on turnover costs.

Give Your Managers Ongoing Training to Increase Employee Retention

It’s often said that people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. While a good manager can win employees’ respect and loyalty, a bad manager can drive away even dedicated staff. That’s why training your managers is one of the best things you can do to ensure your staff stay with you long-term.

Managing people is its own skill-set with its own learning curve. While some people are naturally gifted at team management, others are not. Even if managers have degrees in management or business, their post-secondary education won’t necessarily transfer over to your workplace. Investing in managerial training with focus on motivational tactics and leadership styles can help you to cultivate leaders within your organization that your team likes and respects. That means training your managers will go a long way toward keeping your whole team for the long-term.

Provide Opportunities for Career Advancement & Watch Your Employee Retention Rate Soar

Employees don’t just want opportunities for career advancement – they want to see the path to advancement and understand what it entails. Show your top performers that good work is rewarded, and they’ll feel more invested in your organization.

Hiring from within is also faster and far more affordable than external hiring. When hiring externally, you’ll likely need to pay for a recruiter and training time. You’ll also need to give your new hire time to become acclimated to their new environment. But when you can hire internally, you save the time and money involved in recruitment and training.

It’s also much easier to cultivate and reward your up-and-coming intrapreneurs if you have a training tool that tracks their progress. Your organization likely has intrapreneurs – employees with entrepreneur-like motivation and creativity – working on innovative ideas for your company. If your managers aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to miss these high-performers – and under-utilize them.

But when you can track your employees’ training, you can easily spot the top performers. You can identify the ultra-motivated people who are succeeding at their training and even taking the initiative to train themselves in areas outside their job requirements. With a tool like Cogcentric, for instance, you can instantly identify who’s taking on extra training — so you know who your high-performers are.

Cultivate a Retention-Oriented Workplace Culture

One of the top reasons why employees leave is toxic workplace culture. In January 2022, a team of researchers from Revelio Labs, CultureX, the New York University School of Business, and the MIT Sloan School of Management performed an in-depth analysis of over 34 million online employee profiles, aiming to uncover the top reasons why employees leave their employers. The researchers also created an index called the Culture 500, a list of 500 large private-sector employers across the United States that collectively employ 25% of the American workforce. This study examined the resignation rates across companies and industries, assessing which industries and organizations were most likely to see employees quit.

The findings were complex, but they tell a story about workplace culture. While some industries, like fashion retailers and management consultancies, were most likely to lose employees, there was also significant variation within industries. Within the airline industry, for instance, employees were nearly twice as likely to leave JetBlue as to resign from Southwest Airlines.

Next, the researchers analyzed 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews of the 500 employers, identifying which topics mentioned in reviews were most predictive of a high resignation rate. Surprisingly, pay rate ranked #16 on the list of most-mentioned topics. In other words: Pay rate wasn’t top-of-mind for employees who resigned.

In contrast, the study found that toxic workplace culture is the #1 most common reason for and strongest predictor of employee resignation. Toxic workplace culture is the driving force behind 10 times more resignations than pay; that means no amount of compensation can convince employees to stay in a toxic work environment.

In a follow-up article, the researchers describe the 5 attributes of workplace culture that are the most toxic to an organization. Notably, all of these attributes are things that are within a manager’s control.

Workplace Culture is a Choice

Workplace culture isn’t something that happens by accident; it’s a byproduct of your organization’s leadership. Every manager in your company plays a role in setting your organizational culture. By training your managers and senior staff to counteract these toxic attributes and instead cultivate a positive workplace culture, your organization can improve its retention rate – thereby cutting your hiring costs.

The Great Resignation has employees at all levels questioning their priorities and leaving positions that no longer appeal to them. As employees quit, employers are facing higher recruitment costs driven by high inflation and high staff turnover. With employee recruitment costs easily eclipsing the cost of retention, it’s never been more important to hold onto your staff. You can boost your retention efforts with a mix of managerial training, opportunities for advancement, and a positive workplace culture.

What is your company doing to boost employee retention? How are you equipping your employees to succeed in their roles and enticing them to stay with you?