Tough times invariably cause businesses to review how productive and efficient their staff and processes are.  But since the mid eighties, many businesses have had rounds of process improvement programmes and efficiency drives, so can the orange really be squeezed to get more out, or is there simply no juice left?

A report launched this week by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) suggests that there’s still plenty of juice left in UK businesses.  It claims that UK productivity could increase by up to a fifth if businesses change their approach to planning and measuring performance

The MCA report, entitled ‘Getting more from the same – Delivering sustainable productivity improvement’, was sponsored by consultants Trinity House and surveyed top leaders across a range of public and private and organisations.  The research identified that the key to productivity improvement was to engage and motivate employees, and that there were six critical success factors in achieving this.

  1. Get sponsorship at a senior level – Leaders need to ensure that the business case for change and the performance objectives are clear and understood.  This provides employees with the essential ‘why we are doing this’.
  2. Involve the front line managers – The people with the most knowledge and understanding about the business are invariably the front and second line managers and therefore need to be consulted on all aspects of the change and performance improvement.
  3. Measure the right things – Rather than having a plethora of performance measures it is more effective to choose a small number of relevant performance measures.
  4. Communicate the business case and metrics – It is vital that all employees understand the reasons for the change and that business measures are translated into meaningful objectives for each part of the business, team and individual. Managers and staff should be made accountable and rewarded for their contribution to productivity improvement.
  5. Give managers the tools and skills they need to manage performance – Help the front line managers to be active managers, coaching and floor-walking rather than answering emails, doing admin and fire-fighting. Support them with appropriate management training and development.
  6. Give it time and make it part of business as usual – Don’t expect instant results and manage expectations so employees don’t become de-motivated or disheartened.   Performance improvement should be incorporated into job descriptions, business processes and reward mechanisms.  Performance improvement should be viewed as part of day to day business and not as a one off initiative.

These findings add real weight to what many management consultants intuitively know about performance improvement.