Redefining Productivity in your Organization

November 5, 2020 | Contact Center Industry | Blog


It’s Time to Redefine What Productivity Means at Your Organization

How do you measure your team’s productivity?

Do you track their hours? Or do you focus on their results?

Both? Neither?

However you’ve been keeping track of your team’s input and output, take a moment to pause and reflect on your approach. Consider what you don’t know—and what you think you know—about how, when, and why your team does their work.

The Limitations of Measuring Productivity

The conventional approach to performance measurement is time tracking. People clock in when they start work and clock out when they’re done. Organizations tend to like this system because it’s simple, clean, and seemingly objective. People who work long hours are probably working harder, right? Not quite.

Measuring productivity by hours doesn’t tell you…

  • whether people are truly engaged or just showing up to log their time
  • what people are really doing at work
  • who’s doing their best work, and when
  • what hours and days of the week people are most and least productive

Many managers and decision-makers are well aware of this and choose instead to measure productivity by work product and results—customer satisfaction, revenue, the quality of the work, whether projects are turned in on time, and so forth. However, this approach has its own shortcomings.

Measuring by results doesn’t tell you…

  • if people are overworking—or underutilized
  • when and how people are working
  • who’s most and least consistent among your workforce

There are other fundamental questions neither of these systems answer. Is workforce productivity as high as it could be? Are there opportunities to save money or generate better results by staffing up and down at certain times?

Most importantly, do people feel happy and motivated at work?

The truth is that there’s no single perfect way to quantify how long, diligently, or efficiently someone is working. You’re never getting the full story.

A recent study from IZA, an independent global labor economics institute, highlights how little we know about productivity and how to measure it properly:

“There is no universal definition of worker productivity; measures of worker productivity typically depend on the setting in which they are collected.

Worker productivity is usually multidimensional, but it is generally not possible to measure all dimensions.

If the wrong performance measures are chosen to evaluate workers, distortions can create negative effects on worker productivity.

For settings in which performance is only observable at the team level, it is not always possible to estimate individual contributions to team productivity.”

In other words, there’s no consensus on how to measure productivity, let alone what productivity even is. And if we were able to agree on a single definition, it would be practically impossible to develop a system that provides complete, quantifiable insight into what people are doing and whether they’re doing their best.

But there’s another reason to question our long-held assumptions about productivity.

What Message Are You Sending?

Consider the message the members of your workforce receive when you ask them to log their hours.

They may feel like you don’t trust them to show up and do their jobs. Or that what matters is how long they work, and not how well they perform or contribute. Or that they’ll face the consequences for deviating from the established schedule.

This kind of thinking can lock people into schedules and habits that negatively affect their lives—and the organization’s bottom line. It’s a recipe for the 9–5, working-for-the-weekend drudgery that saps a workforce of emotional investment and creative potential.

Again, however, there are risks to the results-based approach as well. Without schedules or boundaries on time, people may assume they need to be constantly working. Or they might put things off until the last minute. Or they may start to believe that certain people are getting rewarded unfairly. If only the boss knew how little Dan actually did…

Instead, Focus on Intrinsic Motivation

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you throw away all measures of productivity entirely.

The point is that these systems shouldn’t come first. How you motivate your people to do their work matters much more than how you attempt to track their work. If people are motivated to show up, perform, collaborate, and serve your customers at their best, you don’t need to worry so much about how long they’re working or whether they’re working well. The results will speak for themselves.

At Liveops, we know this from experience. From our staff to our community of agents, every member of our team is motivated by one purpose: to improve people’s lives. That shared goal is the reason we work. It allows us to trust ourselves and one another to do the job.

For our team, it doesn’t really matter when or how long people work. And while external recognition and rewards are nice, they aren’t what drive us. What ultimately counts is what we believe in.

When one of our agents works back-to-back weekend shifts, when someone on our IT team spends 12 hours straight optimizing invoice processing, when we all come together to support a disaster relief effort, we’re doing it because we believe in it.

Helping customers, finding efficiencies, making sure the phone gets answered by a real person during a crisis—it all comes back to improving people’s lives.

So, instead of wondering how you should measure your productivity, ask yourself what you can do to make work truly meaningful for your team. Find your purpose, embed it in everything you do, and you just might find your numbers go up—and stay up.

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Matt Lurie

Matt Lurie is a freelance writer, editor, and designer. He has worked in industries such as retail, marketing, accounting, real estate, legal services, and technology, with a focus on helping pioneering and transformative brands tell their stories.

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