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How the Productivity Formula Can Motivate Employees to Work Efficiently

How the Productivity Formula Can Motivate Employees to Work Efficiently

In 1911 Frederick Taylor, an American engineer turned management consultant, published a book, The Principles of Scientific Management, which revolutionized practices for workplace efficiency.[1]

In the book, Taylor proposed the idea that employee productivity and motivation could be altered by changing specific variables. By optimizing these variables, companies could maximize workplace efficiencies and profits, whilst minimizing costs and eliminating inefficiencies.

Since Taylor’s ideas were published several decades ago, these important variables have been integrated into a simple equation that managers and leaders use to measure and improve employee motivation and productivity.

The simple equation is called the productivity formula and here’s how it works.

What is the Productivity Formula

The productivity formula is a measure of the productivity of an economy, organization, team or employee. In the context of a company it provides a useful indication of how efficiently a company converts raw materials, machines and groups of employees, into useful goods or services.

And this can be represented in the surprisingly simple productivity formula:

    The productivity formula is a basic relationship between physical input and output variables. The most common inputs are labor hours, capital and materials and the most common output units are sales and amount of goods produced.

    A company that produces more with a given variable of inputs (capital, labor, and materials) or uses fewer inputs to produce the same level of output has greater productivity and a competitive advantage over a company that produces a lower amount.

    The productivity formula illustrates how a company can produce more units of output per employee hour, machine or material used.

    How to Use the Productivity Formula

    As an example, a manager may want to calculate the productivity of the employees of his company or team.

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    In order to do this, employee productivity can be calculated by dividing the goods and services produced or sales revenue generated by the total hours the company’s employees worked in a given period of time.

    For example, if an employee called Tom, made sales worth $2,000 in one week of 50 hours worth of work and another employee called James works 20 hours a week and made $1000 worth of sales, then using the productivity formula:

    Tom’s productivity: $2000/50hrs = $40/hour

    James’ productivity: $1000/20hrs =$50/hour

    In this hypothetical scenario, James is more productive than Tom even though James generated less sales than Tom.

    Here’s another example:

    Imagine a retail company looking to measure its productivity. If the output of last month’s production was 20,000 units and the total employees hours worked was 2,000 hours, then based on the productivity formula:

    Company productivity: 20,000 units/ 2,000 hours= 10 units/hour

    As a final example, consider a heavily automated production line with a small number of staff. If say in a month the production line produces $1 million dollars worth of goods with 1000 total hours worked, then the company productivity is:

    Company productivity: $1,000,000/1000 = $1000/hour

    Even though the labor cost is much smaller than the cost of equipment, a company that invests in the efficient use of technology will gain a competitive advantage and improve company productivity than otherwise.

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    Managers can use this formula to determine which employees are the most and least productive, or the efficiency of a company in using its resources and materials.

    Nevertheless, this version of the productivity formula is limited due to its simplicity and restriction in variables.

    As per the examples above, this productivity formula only uses single units for input and output to calculate productivity and that’s why it’s described as a partial factor productivity.

    For a more accurate measurement, a company will need more inputs and outputs to calculate its overall productivity.

    This is where the multi-factor productivity formula could be useful.

    The Multi-factor Productivity Formula

    As previously noted, the partial or single-factor productivity formula is limited as a wholesome measure of productivity.[2]

    The multi-factor productivity formula helps managers to measure the productivity of various departments across a company.

    With this formula, productivity is measured by comparing output to a various inputs necessary for production. This includes ratios of units produced to materials, labor and capital.

    For example, switching one variable for another i.e. labour for capital, could produce a significantly different productivity figure. A more efficient measure of productivity should take into account the different substitutes for input and output and accurately represent how they affect company productivity.

    Whereas the partial factor productivity formula uses one single input, the multi-factor productivity formula is the ratio of total outputs to a subset of inputs. For example, an equation could measure the ratio of output to labor, materials, and capital. This method is a more comprehensive measure than partial factor productivity, but it’s also harder to calculate.

    For example, imagine a car manufacturing company which purchases advanced machine equipment to increase its production. Assuming this equipment enables the company to reduce the number of employees and costs 40% more than a standard machine cost, output will remain the same.

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    But since the number of employees has reduced, the labor and capital productivity of the company will increase. And there will be a decline by 40% in material productivity since output is constant and purchased material has increased.

    As a further consideration, a ‘Total Factor Productivity’ formula will take into account all inputs used in a production process and provide a more accurate assessment of company productivity and performance.

    How to Improve Employee Productivity with the Formula

    Here are 3 strategies based on the productivity formula to improve employee productivity:

    1. Measure and Improve the Efficient Use of Time

    Time, though not purchased, is often mistakenly ignored as a cost.[3]

    For example, if two companies have identical equipment, staff, products and material, but one business takes two weeks longer than the other to ship order purchases, their productivity is not the same.

    Managers who work with employees to maximize their time spent on tasks that align with their strengths and minimize time spent on everything else, will improve employee productivity.

    2. Promote Employee Autonomy

    In his book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, legendary management expert, Peter Drucker writes that:

    “The demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge Workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.”

    Various studies have shown that human beings derive the greatest levels of motivation and satisfaction from achieving goals that are chosen by themselves or ‘self determined.

    Self-determined goals increase intrinsic motivation–i.e. the desire to do something for its own sake–rather than extrinsic motivation.[4]

    Intrinsically motivated people take more action on a given task, persist in the face of adversity, explore more creative ideas, enjoy their work and perform better.

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    The more autonomy and ownership employees have over their work role, the more productive they will be.

    Managers who include employees in setting goals and give them the autonomy to execute on them can significantly improve their productivity.

    3. Encourage Team Empathy

    In Smarter Faster Better : The Secrets of Productivity in Life and Business, author Charles Duhigg describes the story of how Google improved their team performance through “Project Aristotle,”[5] an extensive research into team productivity.

    At the end of their research period, Google discovered that the best teams weren’t necessarily a collective of individual top performers, rather a collective of individuals who shared empathy with one other.

    Teams that encouraged members to listen to one another and show sensitivity to each others needs performed the best.

    That is why people with high emotional intelligence tend to be the best leaders in a group setting.

    They tap into the emotional component of human motivation to get the most out of the people around them.

    The People’s Productivity Formula

    The productivity formula is a simple, useful tool to quantify, measure and manage employee productivity.

    As a standalone benchmark of productivity, it may not be sufficient as a measure of productivity that takes into account the complexities of a company.

    The best way for managers to use the productivity formula to motivate employees is to incorporate the people element.

    By maximizing time efficiencies, promoting employee autonomy and team empathy, managers can build a workplace culture that encourages long term productivity and satisfaction.

    Featured photo credit: Stanley Dai via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] New York Times. March 22, 1915.: F. W. Taylor, Expert in Efficiency, Dies
    [2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. De partment of Labor. Retrieved 11 March 2017: Multifactor Productivity – Overview
    [3] Paul Krugman, The Age of Diminishing Expectations (1994): “Defining and Measuring Productivity”
    [4] American Psychologist, 55, 68-78. Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.
    [5] New York Times: Project Aristotle

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

    What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

    If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

    So, what to do in free time?

    Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

    Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

    1. Reading Files

    Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

    Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

    2. Clear out Inbox

    Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

    If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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    3. Phone Calls

    Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

    Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

    4. Make Money

    This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

    If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

    5. File

    No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

    But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

    Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

    6. Network

    Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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    7. Clear out Feeds

    If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

    8. Goal Time

    Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

    If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

    Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

    9. Update Finances

    Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

    Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

    10. Brainstorm Ideas

    Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

    11. Clear off Desk

    Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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    Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

    12. Exercise

    Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

    13. Take a Walk

    This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

    It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

    14. Follow up

    Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

    When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

    15. Meditate

    You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

    Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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    16. Research

    This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

    If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

    17. Outline

    Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

    18. Get Prepped

    Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

    You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

    19. Be Early

    Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

    Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

    20. Log

    If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

    Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

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    Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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