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The cost of getting the selection wrong is at least three, if not seven times salary

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What skills do your people need to make the greatest sustainable improvement?

A Hidden Preventer of Productivity

A Hidden Preventer of Productivity

When we think about how to be more productive, we usually do so by looking for ways to correct things such as bottlenecks, inefficient processes, or even low morale. We might buy new computers or other equipment, too, in the hope that this will make things happen a lot faster. All of these are legitimate. Individually or collectively, if they are out of kilter, then they can reduce productivity.

There is one thing, however, which is rarely discussed and which will do more to prevent productivity in your organization than perhaps any other; and in this article we’re going to explore it. You’ll learn what it is, how it interferes with your organization, and what you can do about it.


Rewards, expectations and effort;

Rather than use the technical terms that are associated with it, let’s use some words that are easier to understand. We’ll call them rewards, expectations, and effort.

In a nutshell, here’s how they work together. In anything that you want accomplished in your organization, whether it’s an objective, goal, or strategy, part or all of a change programme, the creation of a new product or service – anything at all – the effort that your employees put in to do what is necessary to accomplish it will depend upon whether or not they believe they can do it and if the reward for doing so makes it worthwhile to them.



Now that may sound like they hold all the cards. You may be thinking that people won’t be motivated to do any work if it lacks meaning for them. Well; there’s truth to that. That may be why your morale is so low. Your employees are faced with doing a job everyday that’s boring beyond belief and carries no personal rewards. The only challenge is getting from Monday morning to Friday evening without falling asleep in the meantime. Have you ever thought about it like that?

We’ve said it before: People are bored at work. Most of them are overqualified for what they have to do. Why is that? It’s because you’ve raised the standards for entry. But now that they’re in, their little grey cells don’t have much to keep them stimulated.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

The situation in this post, believe it or not, is considerable. It could be the toughest thing your employees ever faced in their jobs; and the problem is that the amount of effort that will be required to succeed in this project will demand that everyone digs deep into their reserves of energy, talent, creativity, and zeal. It won’t happen accidentally.

What will make people dig that deep? What will make them put in that kind of effort?


Two things have to be true.

One is that they have to believe that they can accomplish the end result that is set before them. The second thing is that the reward for doing so has to make it worth that effort. If either of these is not true, then only a “token” effort will be given. A token effort is one which is just enough so that those who have done it can say, hand on heart, “we tried”.


Is this beginning to sound familiar?

On the face of it, “We tried” can look like a lot of effort, and it may well be; but it won’t be the “whatever it took” effort that would have been put in if both things were true; and that’s the difference. You see people who really want to do something find a way.

So there has to be personal confidence of success as well as knowing that that success is worth having.


Let’s think about change programmes for a moment.

Why do so many of them fail. Among other things it’s because the people who are being asked to exert a lot of effort know from past experience that it won’t matter if they do. They know that the organization will go back to doing what they were doing before, that managers will blame them when it fails, and so as a defensive measure they’re only going to put in enough effort so that they can say they tried. But they aren’t going to invest their souls in something they’re sure won’t change.

To look at it another way, people will undertake tasks they think they can do if what they get for doing it makes it worthwhile to them. In other words, the reward has to be high enough to compensate for what they know they’ll have to do in order to obtain it. Quite often what happens instead is that they’re blamed when things don’t go according to plan. It’s unlikely that you know many people who would do that deliberately. Would you?

Everyone wants to make a meaningful difference in their lives and those of others. If they think they can, then they will put forth the effort to do so; otherwise, they’ll take steps to protect themselves emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and even physically. You can hardly expect them to do anything else.


So what can you do about it?

How can you make sure that the rewards are commensurate with the effort required to accomplish whatever it is that you want to do?

We’ve talked about it already. It’s that people have to know – and that means be convinced deep down – that what they’re doing is important; that it matters. Not that it matters to the company’s bottom line, or that it rewards shareholders, or that they get more donations as in the case of a non-profit. It means that they must know that if they had not been there, that the outcome would have suffered. They have to believe that their contribution was so important that no one else could have made it.

They don’t get that kind of conviction by you telling them how important the job is. However, they will begin to tell themselves if they know how much you value them beforehand. And so if you want people to put in a superior effort, then you have to have laid the groundwork long before.


If you haven’t started to do this, then there’s no time like the present.

Your people must never be made to feel that you hired them because you couldn’t find anyone else who was more qualified at the time.

All of us are insecure to a certain extent. Some are better at hiding it than others. But all of us perform better – are more productive – if we believe that what we are doing counts for something; and that’s what you want to instil in your workforce.



If you want to improve productivity across a team or organisation – contact us here

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