September 03, 2015

Productivity Isn’t What You Think: Rethinking the Role of HR

Dr. Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRGlobal Vice President of Workplace Vitality™Mars Drinks

Published on September 3, 2015 by Human Resource Executive


Productivity isn’t what you think it is.

While it’s one of the most critical business outcomes for executives, and while the internet is rife with recommendations for how to ‘get productive quick’, there are unfortunately no secrets, magic wands, or easy formulas for driving productivity. However, HR is perfectly positioned to shift the dialogue about productivity to a new, more strategic place.

Productivity is all about people. Collaboration, engagement, well-being, and productivity combine to create a positive total experience of work, and in turn, positive business outcomes. Recognition of this inter-relationship provides the opportunity for HR to play a more intentional role. Here’s how:

It’s not just about the value-add. Frequently, productivity is connected with the reduction of non-value-added time, and the pursuit of increased efficiencies. But this isn’t the whole story. But rather than extracting all that we can from people, businesses will achieve greater productivity by considering how to add value for people.

HR can uniquely contribute by providing a holistic view.

  • Create the kind of workplace that is focused on the balance of all these elements: engagement, collaboration, well-being, and productivity – not just productivity. Provide amenities that send a message that employees are valued. Great coffee, access to services onsite, and healthy lunch options all send cues about the business’ investment in people.

It isn’t about doing the job right. Instead, it’s about doing the right job[i], which is the ‘why’ in what we do. People are motivated by feeling engaged and connected to a greater whole and feeling like their work matters.

HR can guide the business in ensuring that its vision is inspiring, that job expectations are clear, and that employees feel connected to shared goals.

  • Provide venues within the work environment where associates can connect with colleagues informally and see how their work intersects with that of others toward the company’s overall goals. Work cafes, connection zones with comfortable seating, and outdoor lunch areas all provide this kind of opportunity for linking with others.

It isn’t about activity. Many times, productivity gurus advocate for counting, analyzingand monitoring tasks in order to ensure productivity. But, an over-reliance on measurement can be counterproductive since just being busy doesn’t necessarily produce desired outcomes.

Again, HR has a critical role to play in helping to focus on accomplishment over more activity:

  • Create a culture and a workplace where leaders and associates are rewarded for results and performance to objectives.
  • Establish an atmosphere where there is plenty of feedback shared. Ensure that venuse are available where people can connect informally over coffee or lunch as well as collaborate more formally in conference rooms or zones with more privacy.
  • Ensure that associates have the opportunity to take breaks throughout the day. Giving the brain appropriate downtime throughout the work day enhances well-being and helps ensure that focus stays on the most important aspects of tasks.



Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCR is the Global VP of Workplace Vitality for Mars Drinks and the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations which focuses on work-life fulfillment. Mars Drinks creates great-tasting moments at work and is a 100% workplace dedicated segment of Mars, Incorporated. Mars Drinks supports businesses who want to provide great working environments for their people by creating Workplace Vitality™ at the intersection of workplace engagement, collaboration, productivity and well-being.



[i] Peter Drucker said, “It’s more important to do the right job than to do the job right.”

Tags:Workplace Vitality