One way that economists measure innovation in an economy is productivity growth. It surged for decades in the United States, but has been slowing down since 2004. Rachel Martin, NPR.com host, sat down with Sally Helm from NPR’s Planet Money team and Martin Bailey, an economist with the Brookings Institution, to discuss workplace productivity.
“When Baily and other economists talk about productivity, they’re talking about how much value an average worker in the economy is creating in an hour of work,” says Helm. “Productivity growth is really important as it’s the way everyone in a society can get better off. Here’s an example – the main way that productivity goes up is through technological change, so when horses got replaced by tractors, farmers could do more in the same amount of time and food got more abundant.”
However, although technology is moving quite rapidly and we read articles about robots and artificial intelligence, the numbers say that recent inventions have not led to much productivity growth. “Economists call this the productivity paradox,” says Bailey. “Economist Robert Gordon wrote a book called The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Gordon’s basic argument is that technology isn’t transforming our work lives all that much – we don’t see a pickup in productivity growth.” Helm adds that electricity and the internal combustion engine really changed the way we work, but changes now are incremental by comparison.
What is one change that leaders could implement to increase productivity, which isn’t dependent upon technology? Building a great culture. Employees in great cultures tend to be more engaged, and we know there’s a direct correlation between engagement and productivity. Engaged workers don’t simply do what they have to do to get by; they give you a lot of discretionary effort, meaning their output per hour is higher.
BE AWESOME! There’s no need to spend your evening shopping on Amazon.com for the latest and greatest robot. Create a strategy to re-engage your employees and as your culture improves, your productivity will too. Need help? Engage me in your journey and before you know it we’ll be slashing your productivity paradox, and catapulting your growth.
Jill Christensen is an employee engagement expert, best-selling author, and international keynote speaker. She was recently named a Top 100 Global Employee Engagement Influencer, authored the best-selling book, If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement, and works with the best and brightest global leaders to improve productivity and retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth. Jill can be reached at +1.303.999.9224 or email@example.com.