What exactly is 'productivity'?

Workers disagree on definition, while few employers measure it, finds report

What exactly is 'productivity'?

Productivity. We often hear it referenced in talking about the workplace and human resources metrics, but what exactly does it mean?

That’s a good question, judging by a recent survey that found there is no consensus on the definition of productivity.

About six in 10 (56 per cent) of U.S. respondents say it is "the feeling of accomplishment”, while 37 per cent say it's "moving tasks forward efficiently without roadblocks" and 28 per cent say it’s "working very hard for results,” according to survey by ClickUp, a productivity platform.

However, only 25 per cent of workers say companies measure productivity, finds the survey of 1,000 U.S. knowledge workers.

Coming up with a clear definition of productivity is important for company success, says Jim Bartolomea, senior vice president of people, ClickUp.

"In this macro economy, leaders need to go back to basics. Productivity is more than a buzzword; it's a tangible measure of success,” he says.

"Leaders who want to increase productivity within their organizations must first define productivity for their teams and then clarify how they plan to measure it, providing the right tools to enable it. Once this framework is established, it's critical to establish an incentivization system to maintain motivation. If leaders follow these steps, not only will business improve, but morale should, too.”

While there’s been plenty of conjecture about the power of generative AI when it comes to workplace productivity, a recent study provides proof. In carrying out a test in an actual workplace, researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that customer service workers given access to generative AI became 14 per cent more productive, on average, than those who were not.

Knowledge workers rate productivity

Nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) knowledge workers rate themselves as either very or extremely productive, but 64 per cent said the same of their peers.

When asked how they measure their own productivity, knowledge workers say it is based on their ability to complete all of their tasks (58 per cent), when they feel accomplished (51 per cent) or when they get through more of their to-do list than they expected (43 per cent).

However, 46 per cent of companies are not doing anything to acknowledge their most productive employees.

And while 64 per cent of employers recognize productivity with praise, 71 per cent of workers would like bonuses and 60 per cent would prefer a raise.

Happy employees are more productive, innovative, and receptive, says one Canadian researcher.

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