How to Increase Productivity Without Increasing Headcount

© Vitaly Usov -
© Vitaly Usov -

Companies are looking to grow again – but not grow their workforces. A recent article pointed out research showing:

Companies that are targeting high levels of growth need to spur worker productivity. The question is how can they do that when many companies are operating with an already lean workforce?

A new study, Strategic Performance Management, suggests that if U.S. companies are to reach their ambitious growth targets of 4.9 percent for 2011, which is well above the U.S. economic growth forecast of 2.8 percent released by the International Monetary Fund, they need to find new ways to increase and better manage employee performance. …

To meet their growth targets, the U.S. executives involved in the study estimate that their workforce productivity must increase by an average of 6 percent, with 69 percent of these leaders aiming for even higher productivity gains. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of these executives admit that these targets represent a challenge, particularly since 54 percent of these executives admit that their employees may already be too stretched to deliver current business objectives.”

The emphasis on that last sentence is my own. A consistent story throughout the media is employees stretched to the breaking point. Those remaining after multiple rounds of layoffs labor on under the strain of survivor’s guilt, an increased workload for colleagues who have been laid off, and growing expectations.

What managers need to do

If managers are now tasked with increasing productivity from these already stretched employees, they better:

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  1. Communicate – clearly tell employees what senior leadership expects as the business is likely changing to keep up with rapidly changing market requirements.
  2. Reprioritize – help employees jettison tasks that are no longer critical to achieving new expectations for growth
  3. Recognize – reinforce these new priorities by recognizing and rewarding employees for progress and achievements in these areas.

Is your organization looking to increase production without increasing headcount? What’s the plan to achieve that goal?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.