Human Resources Practices & the Productivity Paradox

In a small business, the human resources staff works closely with management to determine how to help employees become more productive. Management could believe that getting a bigger bang for each labor buck would increase the company’s profit margin. However, if you purchase technology to raise employee productivity, your business could experience the productivity paradox.

Setting the Stage

The productivity paradox occurs when a business owner invests more in automation designed to increase employee productivity, such as computer software programs, but actually sees a decline in productivity as a result. The initial investment in new technology comes with a caveat — it will take time for employees to learn how to use the new technology, and productivity can fall as that process takes place. Another wave of higher productivity may follow the initial slump.

Planning Ahead

One of the ways to counter-balance the effects of the productivity paradox is to plan ahead. Research the time it has taken other companies using the same technology to get their return on investment. If you’re expecting something faster from your staff than the norm, or planning to spend less on a cheaper alternative to the technology you know will work, you’re bound to get frustrated. With realistic expectations for long-term productivity gains, you can also plan how to tweak operations in the meantime. Don’t allow a technology adoption to have too much of a negative impact on your bottom line.

Considering Employees’ Expectations

Knowledge workers in today’s digital workforce must adapt rapidly to the introduction of new technologies in the workplace. From year to year, this could mean changing how they stay productive while performing the same tasks. It could also mean employees must learn numerous new tasks per year as their employer’s technology requirements adapt to the market. Employees may not get enough time or training to become adept at using workplace software before it’s time to learn the next phase of technology updates.

Planning for Usability and Process Mapping

Enlist the assistance of human resources in assessing employee training needs. HR experts can work with management to keep a pulse on how employees feel supported in their use of new technologies. They can help develop training and coaching initiatives to assist in employees meet their job expectations. This might include ensuring new technologies adopted have appropriate user interfaces, making it easy for employees to know where to go to find information and perform tasks in a workplace system. Consider making maps of all the processes in your business. These maps should include most or all tasks employees do and how tasks relate to each other, and require ongoing updates. Make a plan for how you’ll adapt process maps for each new technology adoption.

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