A healthy economy is a productive one — a very simple and direct to the point statement that everyone can easily understand. However, to achieve this “productivity” many measures are taken. One of those measures is boosting employees’ productivity or work force productivity.
At a time when the country is planning a lot of changes and moving in a new direction to diversify its income and looking for new avenues, work force productivity is something we need to look into seriously.
Work place environment is changing globally. It is no longer dependent on a hardworking individual standing on a production line for hours to make sure a certain piece is plugged in its right place, it is much more complicated than that. We are living in an era in which job assignments and responsibilities are tied together. They need collaboration, communication, shared platforms and innovative approaches to get them done. It is a workplace that is filled with technological innovations and connectivity tools that beg attention and quick actions most of the time.
This image of a vibrant and productive workplace can hardly match the reality we are accustomed to see in the public or private sectors in our country. Published studies that reflect on an average Saudi worker’s productivity are usually grim, alarming.
In a report published in April of 2014 on the online news website Sabq, the Ministry of Labor announced that the Saudi workers’ productivity in the private sector is alarming. Employees’ productivity rates in India and China are more than double the rate of their Saudi counterparts.
In another article published by Al-Arabiya in June, 2014, according to a report by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Saudi workers’ productivity can hardly touch an hour per day! And in another report published by the Arabian Business in 2009, the Saudi workers’ productivity is between 20 percent to 34 percent a year; that means out of the time allocated to work throughout the year, about 70 percent of it is lost!
Apparently, it is a problem, a big one, and we need to address it urgently. Now, when you read about productivity and how to increase it, you would find that a lot of its practices are in a way or another immersed in cultural attributes. Ability to manage time, understanding consequences, owning the job, focusing, working hard, modifying habits and planning, are all bits and pieces of what makes work force productivity a whole.
In other words, increasing productivity should be preceded by awareness and motivation or it won’t work. Only a work force that is well trained, work in an environment where the tools to attain the expected outcome are available, and clear policies of rewards, career paths, and evaluations are present, can make a difference. Set the environment for productivity first, then ask for it. Elizabeth Grace Saunders in her book “How to Invest Your Time Like Money” calls it “get your own house in order” before demanding results. “If you’re stretched and overloaded, you can’t think strategically about your own time let alone anyone else’s,” she says.
Once the environment is set and ready, think about the goals; what do you exactly want and how the work force can do it, and how to measure their performance in achieving them. Goals without measurement are dreams at best! “The last thing you want is for someone to begin his day thinking, ‘I have seven projects to work on, where do I start?’” says Saunders.
A productive work force, and in sequence a productive economy, is a system that consist of practices and a culture to drive actions and justify them. It needs strategic plans and tactical measures to achieve them. That is why the initiative taken in the form of “King Salman Program to Develop Human Resources” comes at the right time to address this productivity issues. It is a hint that the government is aware of the issue and is trying to solve it. Initially the program will be started in seven ministries. I do not think the private sector needs an invitation to do the same; this should be already a part of its strategies.