With decreased productivity seen across Asia, organizations need to focus on raising employee productivity to improve competitiveness, says a new report a new report from the Workforce Analytics Institute (WAI), a partnership between The Conference Board and Mercer, titled Employing Analytics to Enhance Workplace Productivity.
Singapore and South Korea showed the largest drops in productivity per person with 3.12% and 2.34% respectively, compared to India, which had the highest gain at 2.71%, followed by Indonesia at 0.68%.
Raising employee productivity remains one of the key levers organizations can use to improve their competitiveness. With regards to Asia Pacific, the catch-up phase in which productivity gains were easy to achieve with the introduction of technology, is gone.
The report highlights the importance of prioritizing three key approaches and outlines strategies that organizations can use to enhance productivity: developing more effective leaders; leveraging technology; and enhancing employee engagement.
India's growth commendable
“It is great to note that India is amongst one of only three countries in Asia where per person productivity has gone up in the last eight years,” says Shanthi Naresh, India Business Leader – Talent and Information Solutions, Mercer.
“The growth is commendable and is likely driven by a combination of adoption of technology and people initiatives. Over the years, we have seen several of our clients focus on a total rewards proposition to enhance employee engagement and retention.
“The total rewards proposition goes beyond traditional compensation and benefits to include training, career advancement, flexible work options, and innovation in benefits.
“However, organizations can be far from complacent if they want to maintain and further enhance productivity, as real wage costs in India are increasing at a higher rate than before.
“Investing in skilling talent, effective management and leadership of resources, and creative solutions to enhance engagement and reduce retention will continue to be organizational initiatives towards this end.
“Using workforce analytics can help organizations to determine the impact of these initiatives and drive investment decisions to focus on the ones that matter most.”
“Across Asia we are riddled with economies showing weak or slowing growth,” says Siddarth Mehta, Leader, Workforce Planning & Analytics, Mercer.
“Against this backdrop, productivity combined with rising wage pressure poses a serious threat to organizations’ profitability.”
Additionally, in Asia, where the demand for skilled labor far exceeds supply, companies in the region are encountering substantial difficulties: they are realizing that the link between productivity and business performance is one of an organization’s key resources and if effectively managed can lead to significant payoffs.
“Gone are the days when productivity could spike simply with the introduction of technology. Going forward, companies need to be more innovative,” adds Mehta.
The Conference Board’s research shows that the global decline in productivity growth is a serious threat to competitiveness and profitability – from 2007 to 2014 productivity growth dropped about a quarter of what it was from 1999 to 2006 and is expected to make little recovery before 2025.
In Asia, most markets have seen a slump in labor productivity with nearly all markets, with the exception of India, Indonesia and Philippines, showing decreasing productivity between 2008-2016 when compared to 1999-2007.
Raising productivity is fast becoming a priority and especially crucial in an uncertain business climate. The Conference Board’s research illustrates that higher productivity growth can be associated with larger real net operation surplus growth.
Three main themes
With insights from interviews and surveys with over 50 HR professionals in Asia, three main themes emerged:
Developing leadership to drive productivity: where significant changes to the work environment are planned, as is the case for most productivity interventions, communication, preparation and transparency are key.
Enhancing employee engagement: designing incentive schemes to motivate employees, or creating physical and virtual workplaces that promote teamwork, collaboration and engagement are ways to provide a healthy environment for high performance.
Leveraging technology to raise productivity: technology is best utilized for communications, equipment upgrades, self-service systems and training.
Systematic approach needed
According to Caitlin Pan, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Asia Region of The Conference Board and an author of the report, “To foster a culture in which consistent productivity growth is possible, organizations need to develop a systematic approach toward tracking and analyzing the quality of their productivity interventions.
“We often see companies start a number of initiatives and continue to pursue them without a clear understanding of which, if any, has a positive impact on organizational outcomes including profitability.
“Feedback is useful, but measuring and qualifying the quality of the interventions will lead to enhanced productivity. Before designing and implementing an intervention, it is imperative to determine the current productivity levels so as to effectively evaluate the changes in productivity.”