HR pins blame for poor productivity on bad management

Bad management is the most widely experienced drag on company productivity, according to HR practitioners surveyed by Personnel Today’s sister title IRS Employment Review.

The research also shows that employee attitudes can make or break a company, with HR practitioners citing this one factor more often than any other as the cause of upward pressure on productivity, and almost as widely as a possible cause of downward pressure.

Other significant boosts to productivity can come from having the right company structure in place and from employee skills. Statutory employment regulations and trade union attitudes were seen as less significant.

The standard of management exerts a significant downward pressure on productivity in more companies than recruitment and retention difficulties or employee attitudes. More than half cited quality of management as a cause for concern.

The survey covers 41 organisations, which together employ 37,000 workers. Of these, more than half have formal measures of employee productivity, while an eighth use informal measures.

Other key findings:

  • Employers measuring employee productivity use an average of three measures taken at several organisational layers, but just half measure productivity across the organisation

  • Output per employee, labour cost per unit of output and time taken per task are the most frequently used definitions and measures of productivity

  • The preferred measure is labour cost per unit of output, which focuses on production costs. The government, however, prefers to compare UK productivity with that of our international competitors using a measure of output per hour worked. Here, the UK lags behind countries such as France, Germany and the US

  • Just half of employers that recognise trade unions involve them in productivity-raising initiatives

  • Only a third of respondents mention using consultants or membership of Investors in People to help improve productivity.

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: “Although most organisations believe their productivity has improved or remained stable in recent years, many are concerned about the impact of poor management. This, together with the government’s determination to boost UK productivity levels generally, suggests that it is an area ripe for change.”

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