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Productivity Wars: How Managers Can Re-Inspire Their Teams

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Business leaders have faced challenges and difficulties unknown to their peers in years gone by. Almost every aspect of our working lives has been altered or shifted by the pandemic and we have been introduced to new ways of working and collaborating at scale.

With most, if not all, of their teams working from home during lockdowns and beyond, managers were challenged to implement new processes – and, often, technology – to monitor the quality of experiences that their customers were receiving.

Now, two years into the pandemic, concerns regarding productivity are front of mind for these leaders who are largely moving from survival mode to growth mindsets. There are, of course, discrepancies between sectors but the broader challenge for all remains the same: fostering a positive working culture with efficient – and happy – teams. How this process is approached will likely determine the extent to which the hearts and minds of employees can be won, reducing the likelihood of losing out on talent to the ‘great resignation’.

 Retail, catering and leisure wary of a productivity slide  

A recent survey commissioned by Agility in Mind in partnership with research house, Censuswide, indicated that 51% of decision makers across all large UK industries are worried about the productivity of their teams. Of all those surveyed, customer-facing retail, catering and leisure were the sectors most worried.

Encouragingly, the data indicated that 86% of bosses in these sectors have an active desire to improve employee productivity, engagement, and motivation. Such sectors are united by the importance of customer experience for their success – something challenged immensely by the changeable conditions of the pandemic. However, the desire to address these issues was hampered by uncertainty in how to build and implement effective measures.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of retail, catering and leisure bosses also report worries about engaging the hearts and minds of their employees – second only to the sales and marketing (79%) sector – and half (48%) report being unsure of how to approach this issue.

The picture this data paints for these customer-centric sectors is a concerning one. It is also noteworthy that the cross-sector average of 51% of decision makers who feel worried about productivity remains alarmingly high. Even at its lowest in the culture and arts sector, a level of concern is still noted among a third (32%) of leaders.

Pandemic-induced burnout and constantly shifting regulations, which have been present for nearing two years now, have affected thousands. Other challenges have also been present, such as uncertainty regarding reopening, supply chain issues and the increasing shift to online consumption of services.

Embracing change to empower the workforce

Business leaders across all industries will not be comforted by those who simply point to data elucidating their fears. It is one thing to raise the alarm on these issues but something entirely different to propose solutions to these ongoing and, in some cases, global problems.

As we move to what many of us hope is the final stage of the pandemic, strategic objectives for those within retail, catering and leisure especially have largely moved from survival to growth. This comes with its own set of challenges, including maximising the productivity of teams.

More than ever before, managers are being challenged to think differently, to value each employee’s potential and build teams which have both diversity of thought and complementary skillsets. Those who do are likely to pull ahead of their competition and respond to productivity concerns by providing a supportive and pleasant work environment.

The data makes clear that many bosses are aware that they have an important part to play in the productivity of their teams but may not know how to engage with this effectively or efficiently. Especially as new ways of working take hold, the path to productivity may appear to be winding – or at least a little different for each employee.

But a universal truth across all sectors is that employees who feel good about their jobs are more productive at work and better for the company, helping to drive it forward. Important ways for leaders to inspire this are involving employees in the wider company mission, helping them to align with the vision and encouraging teams to work towards clear shared goals to achieve it.

Three key questions for managers exploring employee productivity to consider are:

  1. Do you have a culture of continuous improvement where people are prepared to do things differently?
  2. Do you cherish the skills you have in place and invest in new skills for the future?
  3. Do you celebrate diversity in its many forms and welcome thinking beyond the norm?

Only through a culture of recognition and improvement can fears of disengagement and reduced productivity be responded to. As ‘the Great Resignation’ takes hold and numbers of employees leaving their positions soar, fostering a cooperative atmosphere where achievements are celebrated is key to bring teams together and inspire loyalty and productivity.

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