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What is Worker Productivity?

Dana Hinders
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Employers, regardless of what type of business they manage, know that worker productivity is the key to an organization’s success. Workers who are not using their time and resources effectively are costing the company money. Unfortunately, measuring productivity can prove to be quite difficult — especially in industries where work is primarily knowledge based.

Traditionally, worker productivity was figured by dividing company revenue by the number of employees. However, this measurement fails to take into account the varying skill levels and job responsibilities of workers within a business. It is simply not logical to expect that a new intern at your company has the same level of worker productivity as a mid-level employee with 10 years of experience. Counting billable hours in a manner similar to what is standard at law firms is also a bad idea. As most workers can attest, productivity starts to decline when people are working long hours with no time for needed rest and relaxation. The goal of assessing productivity should be to encourage people to use their time and resources more effectively instead of simply putting in longer hours at their jobs.

Most experts now believe that assessing worker productivity requires a careful balance between objective and subjective measurements. Objective performance data is relatively easy to find. For example, the number of sales calls made, reports written, products sold, or conferences attended can provide input into how an employee is utilizing his/her time. To find subjective performance data, however, you’ll need to ask the employees within a particular organizational department to assist in creating a system to measure worker productivity. Since managers are not generally involved in the day-to-day operation of a company, workers can provide valuable insight into what tasks are required on a regular basis.

In situations where workers must perform as part of a team, measuring productivity presents additional challenges. Clashing personality types within a team may limit worker productivity. There are also situations in which one member of the team may not stand out because he/she is busy making the others look good. Therefore, it is best to assess productivity on both an individual and team basis for all employees.

Although it may seem like a good idea to include monitoring of e-mail and computer usage as a measurement of worker productivity, this strategy may inadvertently backfire. The perceived invasion of privacy may contribute to a lower morale among employees, thus decreasing efficiency.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WiseGeek team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By anon325128 — On Mar 14, 2013

Usually, employees work better when they are given the opportunity to work on their own with some level of trust from their employers.

By jaeger — On May 09, 2012

Monitoring the activities of employees are somewhat invasive. Like, for example, if you are working remotely and at night, it is good to monitor how your employees are doing but to have screen shots of their work as proof that they are working is terribly invasive of their privacy.

The employee will lack efficiency in his/her work. Who would want to work in a surrounding where you are always stared at, right? I think trust still pays off in any kind of work.

In any kind of work, much needed breaks are important to relieve the stress and strains of too much inclination at work. One still needs to rest and divert their attention to other things outside of work.

By sunshine31 — On Jul 14, 2010

Subway11- I agree that talk time is a great measure of productivity in call centers. Most call center employees usually fall within those numbers, but it does highlight the employees that were not able to reach the goal and possibly may receive additional coaching to help them be successful.

By subway11 — On Jul 14, 2010

Amcknig2- That’s a great question, but I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that employers usually offer employees benchmark productivity goals in order to achieve revenue growth.

For example, a typical call-center employee is given a talk time range in which the average call should take place. This can be anything from three to seven minutes depending on the complexity of the product or service.

This talk time factor allows the firm to estimate how many customers can be served in a given amount of time. In addition, call centers track the dropped calls and time the employee is not serving a customer.

Additional goals are often imposed to make the employee even more productive. For example, the employee may be asked to solicit customers to open new credit card applications in addition to their current script.

By amcknig2 — On Jul 21, 2008

Just how much less productive is a new software developer than an experienced one (say 1 year experience vs 5)?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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