Perilous Productivity

productivity chart sign on blackboard
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In our strategic HR planning discussions, we focus heavily on the cost-benefit relationships of Human Resources operations to the organization. Using the human capital approach, the value that employees as a commodity bring into any organization is linked directly to the output that is produced for the organization. We assess employee value by ensuring that human productivity is constantly measured, evaluated and monitored as part of a best practice approach to human resources management.

It all makes sense from a pure HR planning perspective. When we move from theoretical planning to actual implementation, however, the human element of the human resources equation pops up again to remind us that we are always dealing with people, not just products.

In a recent research article the authors explore the negative impact of the incessant need modern organizations have to monitor employee productivity.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in this article, it seems that the Human Resources function has been trapped into measuring and promoting policies that contribute to increased employee anxiety. Increased employee anxiety leads to lower productivity and more employee dis-engagement. Are we, as HR professionals, responsible for contributing to the ‘mirage’ of successful productivity by avoiding the real implications of constant workplace pressure on our fellow human beings? In an effort to measure what people do, are we also contributing to the mechanism of who gets blamed when the results of what is measured go wrong?

Human Resources champions have fought long and hard for a seat at the corporate table. We argue that Human Resources has the strategic edge to brings the business numbers and the people numbers together so that decision-making produces organizational benefit. While our Human Resources champions do not want to give up that seat or that fight, we must be reminded of why we wanted to contribute to organizational success in the first place.

We represent the Humans in any organization. Human Resources must champion human achievement and organizational success, but not at the cost of worsening the human condition in the workplace.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What types of employee productivity measures do you think contribute to increased employee anxiety?
  2. Why would organizations (like the example of Volkswagen mentioned in the article) knowingly engage in the ‘misrepresentation’ of productivity data?
  3. In your opinion, does an ‘accountability culture’ breed a trust environment in the workplace? Why or why not?

Expert Advice

The past experience of others teaches us how to move forward in different ways.

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Buzz Hargrove is one the most powerful and influential leaders in Canada’s labour movement.  His history and legacy of passion for the rights of Canadian workers is legendary, resulting in significant gains impacting all Canadians.  He is known for being challenging, forthright, and a dedicated union activist.  He lives his belief of challenging the status quo and for taking up the difficult stance to do what he believes is in the best interest of the union and the collective voice it represents.  He is seen by many as a controversial figure, but one who is respected for his incredible history of labour relations leadership in Canada.

Mr. Hargrove retired from active leadership of the Canadian Auto Workers union in 2008.

Click Here to Read the Article

Since that time, Mr. Hargrove has shared his extensive labour knowledge and leadership expertise as Professor of Distinction at the Ted Rogers School of Management with Ryerson University and co-director of its Centre for Labour Management Relations.

Mr. Hargrove provides us with some of his insight into the critical role that the Human Resources professional plays in today’s labour relations environment in this recent interview.

Click Here to View the Interview

As we see from this interview, Mr. Hargrove validates the importance of managing positive workplace labour and employee relationships by the Human Resources professional.  Our Human Resources role is to build organizational trust, credibility, and confidence.  If historical leaders like Mr. Hargrove are able to teach Human Resources professionals anything, it is that we should not be entrenching ourselves in hostility and negatively aggressive tactics when working with (not against) union representatives, no matter how challenging that may be from time to time.

As Mr. Hargrove says, with integrity, trust and a bit of a sense of humour, the Human Resources professional can make all the difference in the world!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the key elements that Mr. Hargrove promotes for the HR professional in managing relationships?
  2. How have Canadian workers benefited from the labour movement?
  3. Using internet sources, provide three examples of Mr. Hargrove challenging the status quo or positions that resulted in labour relations controversy.
  4. As an HR professional, which skill identified by Mr. Hargrove (from the interview) is one that you may find the most challenging to develop and sustain?

Why Wouldn’t Anybody Love HR?

Oh, let us count the ways!  Some common negative HR mantras include; “HR is only about the people”, “HR is afraid of the numbers”, “HR doesn’t understand the numbers”.

Man holding small heart in hands
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If these negative mantras prevail, HR Professionals will not be perceived as credible business leaders.

This brief article re-iterates the critical importance of why HR Professionals must fully understand the businesses in which they are engaged. By living and understanding the businesses needs and goals, the HR Professional is able to bring the human element into the numbers equation – that’s right, HR needs to bring the human element into the business numbers, not the other way around.

It is HR’s role to provide the link between organizational profits and its people.

Click Here to Read the Article.

The more we are able to live and speak in the language of the business, the more imperative the role of HR becomes to the leaders influencing the business.

Why is it HR’s job to influence those who influence the organization? Because, when the mantel of HR Professional is assumed, also, is the responsibility for all of the humans in the organization.

Let’s not be tentative about HR’s role in running the business.   HR is not just a business partner, they are business leaders.  Rather than keeping up the myth that HR has to find a seat at the numbers driven corporate business table, it will be time for the organizational units to start earning a place at the HR driven corporate business table.

As HR Professionals, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Am I speaking the language of the business so that I am understood?
  • How am I presenting my knowledge of the business in my everyday practice?
  • Do I understand who my organizational Human Resources customers are?
  • Where is the evidence that what we do in Human Resources shows a clear path to the appropriate business function?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the perception that, Human Resources is just about the people, still prevalent?
  2. What will I bring to the business table to enhance the quality of work-life for all employees?
  3. What is my understanding of organizational business units?
  4. What was the perception of the HR department in places where I have worked previously?
  5. How do I, as an HR professional, want to be perceived by employees and organizational business leaders?