Working with many of Australia's leading employers has given
us strong insights into the planning and habits of the leaders of
high performing organisations.
It is virtually an absolute that these organisations have a
clear view of what business success looks like for them –
they have a clear but flexible strategy and are relentless about
Importantly in managing their workforce and its culture –
they know what high productivity looks like for their business and
It sounds like a statement of the obvious: on the docks crane
lifts per hour are a standard productivity measure. Performance can
be measured against competitors domestically and globally. Best
practices are transparent and something to be aimed for.
But in other businesses the notion of productivity is a murkier
one. The productivity of a senior banking professional or a
teacher can be harder to measure, particularly if their role is not
clearly defined or their performance not linked to an overall
business strategy. There may be no universal or even widely
applicable standards of high performance for benchmarking
This is where we see leading employers stand out. These are
organisations that know what high performance means for their
business. They have their own understanding of what productivity
means to them and how to improve it. They can then make decisions
about how their labour arrangements will facilitate higher
productivity. They are conscious of hand brakes on productivity and
work to remove them. We have the privilege of working on projects
– sometimes brief, sometimes with work streams that run for
years – to constantly move organisations to their desired
frontier of high performance.
Whilst the productivity of Australia's workforce overall has
steadily increased (climbing approximately 10 index points to 104
index points since 2011 – good but not great) the picture
looks different when we look through a magnifying glass at
particular sectors or organisations. There the performance is more
mixed – with factors such as legacy labour restrictions and
underinvestment in capital resulting in some organisations being
well behind the eight ball.
The positive story here is that productivity can always be
improved – and the lower the starting base the more room for
But the first and most fundamental step is to know what it means
for your organisation and to have a system to measure it. From
there, the metaphorical sky is the limit.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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