In the past, organisations used to depend much on their physical assets to improve productivity. However, over the past few years, the goal posts have shifted. We now talk of intangible assets in the form of brand image, knowledge assets, patents etc creating value and driving up business performance.

In today’s competitive environment, businesses are always competing for skilled and talented workers. Having intelligent and self-motivated workers on board is key to improving organisational productivity. One of the advantages of having knowledge workers within your workforce is that, they possess information and knowledge capabilities that are not easily copied by others.

Having access to key information and knowledge is what drives operational and financial performance these days. However, having a skilled workforce is not a means to an end to boosting productivity. It’s not a matter of having a skilled workforce and then you take a seat and relax hoping that performance will automatically improve. In their quest to boost productivity, managers should do the following:

• Define the task to be performed: By clarifying what the employee is expected to do and contribute, this improves productivity as the employee focuses on those tasks that are essential. Also, defining the task helps managers and employees identify those activities that hamper productivity and should thus be eliminated.

• Give workers autonomy: By giving workers responsibility for their own contribution, this self-motivates the workers to achieve greater performance, at the same time ensuring that they are held accountable in terms of quality, quantity, time, cost etc.

• Promote a culture of continuous learning and innovation: Employee skills acquired in the past might no longer be enough to perform today’s tasks. Thus, managers should ensure that their employees are often acquiring new skills, knowledge and information. For example, through sponsorship to attend short courses, in-house training seminars or industry/sector conferences. It is during these sessions that employees gain new skills that are the engine for steering business performance in the right direction.

• Treat the workers as an asset rather than a cost: To be productive, workers need to be considered a capital asset. When you treat your workers as a “cost” that needs to be controlled and reduced, this might lead to excessive labour turnover. Instead, employees should be seen as assets that need growing. Employees need to be assured that they are sitting on the organisation’s driving seat and without them the organisation cannot achieve its goals and objectives.

Having the right mix of knowledgeable workers will no doubt increase an organisation’s productivity resulting in improved competitive position and enterprise performance.

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