Companies that will win in 2012 will be the ones that create an agile, lean working environment where employees are trained, equipped with the tools to succeed and fully engaged to seize growth opportunities. On the other hand, those hampered by productivity challenges will at best stagnate, and may find the year is one they would rather forget.
So it is promising that our recent Randstad World of Work Report 2011/12 found that training and development, job re-alignment and succession planning are currently prominent in the minds of business leaders.
Fifty-five percent of employees will up-skill current employees and almost half (46%) will realign job roles as a way to improve workplace productivity in the year ahead.
The good news for business leaders is that employees show great readiness to help meet the productivity challenge, as their own top interests include leadership and career development (26%), and a strong understanding of how their role contributes to achieving organisational goals (21%).
Nevertheless, anticipated increases in employee mobility will present a significant challenge. Three-quarters of employers surveyed say filling critical vacancies created by increased employee turnover or business expansion is the biggest productivity challenge for the next 12 months, followed by developing leadership skills for the next phase of growth (59%).
Approximately a third of employers (30%) are also concerned about a lack of specialist skills to drive innovation, as well as downtime and knowledge loss created by employee turnover (32%). Business leaders know innovation will be the key to unlocking competitive advantage and it will take genuine product and service innovation to fuel demand and drive expansion again.
Innovation lies at the heart of addressing barriers to productivity. What’s required goes beyond the technology, infrastructure and micro-economic reforms that created productivity highs in developed economies in the 20th century. A great deal has changed about the way we live and work since then. In a globally connected world, the next wave of productivity will be created by people and communities.
Fifty-six percent of employers surveyed say they have ideas that could improve productivity, but more than half (53%) believe their organisation doesn’t have effective processes for capturing ideas for business improvement or innovation. This reinforces the importance of collaborating with functional leaders, human resources teams and frontline staff to design and implement successful productivity strategies.
Communication is at the centre of this process. With ongoing adoption of external communication tools for internal purposes, leaders now have the opportunity to capture knowledge and ideas through the likes of internal social media, forums and blogs — however, the importance of face-to-face communication should never be overlooked, especially at the leadership level. Now more than ever, it’s important to walk alongside your teams and the key is to never stay too far away from the ‘front line’.
With productivity challenges expected to affect all industries, it is clear business leaders will need to keep employees happy, skilled and focused to meet goals and reduce potential bottle-necks or distractions. Ensuring employees are ready to hit the ground running, with a full understanding of the market, their organisation and their stakeholders, will be critical. The winners in the year ahead will be those with the right people in the right jobs, motivated and ready to grow the business.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Karin Clarke is the Randstad Regional Director for Singapore & Malaysia.