Talent Management

When it comes to improving productivity, improving workplace experiences is key. But that doesn’t mean office ping-pong tables.

By Paul Burrin

Could the office Ping-Pong table be put to better use? New research from Sage People has found that employees at Canadian firms find many fringe benefits a distraction. In fact, almost half surveyed think that having Ping-Pong or pool tables in the office actually decreases productivity.

Instead, they would prefer that their employers offer more flexible working structures and the opportunity to have their voices heard by management.

The productivity issue

Spending money on benefits that aren’t adding value to the employee experience is just one example of companies failing to understand their workforce. But why is it important to know the people working for you? Aside from building trust, having a better relationship and making for a more enjoyable work experience, the impact on productivity can be huge. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that productivity growth has slowed so much since 2008 that GDP in advanced economies should be five per cent higher today, which represents a big opportunity for companies to get ahead of the competition by assessing the productivity in their own working environments. The issue is extensive. “Why your workforce isn’t working” found that only 37 per cent of respondents think they’re highly productive in their role, with respondents admitting that they are productive for less than 30 hours per week – that’s only 3.75 days out of a five-day workweek.

What employees value

What employees really need is to be heard. The research also found that for 64 per cent of Canadian workers, feeling valued and recognized is the most important part of their day-to-day work experience. Unfortunately, 43 per cent of workers have never been asked by their employer about their workplace experiences and only 10 per cent are asked on a regular basis what can be done to improve their experiences in order to improve productivity.

The issue around finding out what your employees really want is long debated. We hear endless stories about HR trying to get employee feedback through tools such as annual engagement surveys, but this alone isn’t enough and is far from effective. Only 24 per cent of respondents see annual employee satisfaction surveys as very important to their experience at work. In fact, 19 per cent actually see employee satisfaction surveys as a distraction, and put off completing them, making them another contributing factor to decreasing productivity in the workplace.

Developing and managing workforce experiences has the power to drastically improve recruitment, staff retention and productivity, but it’s clear that many companies are stuck in outdated management practices.

How companies can address the problem

Companies need to realize that personalization and listening is key to improving workforce experiences. Almost half of the Canadian respondents feel that the HR team could increase the value it provides to employees by improving communications and feedback between employees and organization leadership. By regularly talking to employees, they would find out that almost half would like the HR team to focus on ways to improve health and wellness in the workplace.

Examples like these show where companies can use modern HR and people technology to gather immediate feedback around key events in an employee’s journey. Then, for those businesses willing to take feedback from their employees and embrace new ideas, new technology can provide businesses with the means and flexibility to design, implement and measure workforce experiences that make a tangible difference to employee acquisition, retention and productivity. The more employers can make each day a more engaging experience, the better overall effect it will have on the business and people themselves.

Attracting and retaining talent is not a new challenge given the global skills crisis, but there are unfortunately few signs of companies solving the issue. The apparent disconnect between the employee and employer in what constitutes a valued and productive workforce experience is alarming. Organizations must seize the opportunity to make it a priority to know what motivates and drives their people, and work with them to create positive workplace experiences, where people are happy and doing their best work – improving productivity and a company’s bottom line in the meantime. 


Paul Burrin is an expert in how the intersection of technology, HR and marketing is changing work trends. He is vice president of Sage People.