Organisations in Australia and New Zealand must take a dramatic leap forward to catch up to high performing organisations globally.

Productivity in the workplace is largely driven by enabling employees to be optimally effective. It’s a leap that’s achievable and isn’t necessarily about additional resources because it’s about creating a workforce that is supported for success.

So, what constitutes an effective workforce? It’s about combining the key concept of employee engagement with the catalytic ingredient of enablement. An effective workforce means having staff that are both motivated to go the extra mile and are committed longer term to the organisation. They are also enabled to spend their time productively, rather than having to invest time and energy breaking down internal roadblocks.

As Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple reportedly said in 2010: “The people who are doing the work are the moving force… my job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organisation and keep it at bay.”

Why is this so important for productivity? research shows that organisations that have fully enabled and engaged staff achieve revenue growth of up to 4.5 times greater than their peers.

Many companies are struggling to be optimally productive and data shows that many companies in the Pacific lag behind the world’s leading organisations on key elements of employee effectiveness.

"An effective workforce means having staff that are both motivated to go the extra mile and are committed longer term to the organisation"

’s global database of employee opinion incorporating over 400 companies shows the largest gaps between Pacific organisations and the best performing global organisations can be found in three key areas:

    • Effective leadership
    • Embracing innovation
    • Rewarding great performance

These gaps are both good and bad news. The good news is there is an opportunity for companies locally to increase their productivity by making improvements in these key areas. However, the bad news is that they’re already starting behind on the grid compared to many of their global competitors.

Effective leadership

When it comes to effective leadership, there is a 21 per cent gap between how employees in Pacific organisations rate the effectiveness of the leadership in their organisations when compared to the world’s best.

Connecting staff with the big picture and ensuring smooth and effective workflows are critical to ensuring an effective workforce. Leaders play an important part in ensuring that work is well structured, staff are clear about where the organisation is heading and how their contribution fits in, providing a crucial ‘line of sight’.

Embracing innovation

In terms of innovation, there is an 18 per cent gap between Pacific organisations and the global high performing organisations.

While investment in research and development will go some way to embedding innovation within organisations, creating a culture of innovation means actively and regularly reaching out to employees for ideas, as well as responding appropriately to ensure employees know they are being heard. Involving employees when considering issues, such as, how to improve efficiency will help create an environment of continuous improvement.

Additionally, encouraging employees to take reasonable risk is essential. However, it is important to note that with this must come a capacity to tolerate acceptable failure.

Rewarding great performance

When it comes to remuneration expectations, the gap between Pacific organisations and their high performing global peers is 17 per cent.

Organisations know that pay should help drive individual and overall performance, but they struggle to consistently connect pay with performance. The result sends mixed messages to employees, demotivating some and reinforcing an unacceptable status quo with others. In productive organisations people understand they will be rewarded for great performance. They also need to understand that there are consequences of not meeting expectations.

High performers deserve to get the highest rewards, and organisations need to have the courage to differentiate their incentives. This is essential. Similarly, lower performers should receive lower incentive pay – if anything at all. If managers settle for mediocrity simply to avoid the difficult performance conversations, the result is a message that isn’t strong enough to ensure the highest levels of productivity.

The time to act is now

Most companies in Australia and New Zealand are still doing a lot better than their American or European counterparts in the broader economic environment. However, there is clear blue water between many organisations in the local environment and high performing companies globally.

The differences between local organisations and the world’s best are clear and tangible. Local organisations need to take advantage of the breathing space created by the current economic conditions and act now. Like Steve Jobs they need to unleash the potential of their employees by enabling them for optimal productivity – before it’s too late.


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About the contributor

Chris Mayler is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. For the last 15 years, Chris helped organisations maximise the potential of their workforce to drive business performance.

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