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Trends in “Engaging” Employees to Boost Productivity

A survey of executives reveals the trends in efforts being made by companies to improve on-the-job performance of employees - and the effectiveness of these efforts.

November 2012
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Gain-Sharing as an Effective Program
Imberman and DeForest’s surveys found gain-sharing was the most effective short-term motivator of them all. Gain-sharing is a group pay-for-performance program under which employee performance is quantified and given a dollar value. When it improves, the value of the improvement is split with the workers. So for every dollar paid out to workers in gain-share bonuses earned by specific measures of short-term performance, a company saves a like amount in higher productivity, better quality, and improved safety. Since gain-sharing plans provide payoffs earned on a short-term basis (often monthly), employee notions that gain-sharing is an entitlement are negated.

Sadly, many executives think workers respond automatically to earn a gain-share bonus. This isn’t true; effective gain-sharing plans do require “engage-onomics,” i.e., a vigorous communications program to “engage” workers to cooperate in improving production efficiency and product quality.

Employees welcome opportunities to earn extra money — now more than ever. Although no company singled out communications as a motivational tool, it is at the root of employee satisfaction. With gain-sharing, frequent communications to employees regarding quality, productivity, and customer service “engaged” them to do their best in keeping their company competitive and their jobs secure. Workers respond to the opportunity to contribute. When they see management honestly soliciting ideas to work smarter by identifying and removing impediments to productivity and quality and then responding to them, workers realize their efforts are important — and valued. Call it motivation, involvement, or engagement, whatever! The process is effective.

Adding It Up
The subtleties of persuading employees to make increased efforts are lost on many executives who focus on computer printouts to check costs and production schedules and ignore the importance of good employee communications. Most executives in American industry have little time to debate what is effective — economic or non-economic motivators. They want immediate answers on how to influence worker behavior so their companies’ goals of high productivity and better bottom-line profits can be reached. The accompanying charts show most manufacturing executives use both means — first providing group economic rewards to employees working as a team to help achieve company productivity and profitability goals; and second, using effective “engagement efforts,” i.e., communications programs to reinforce the economic motivators and create a sense of unity.

Injured by the Great Recession of 2008–2009, scarred by the anemic recovery, and fearful of the future, today's employees are oblivious to buzzwords but can best be convinced to boost their productivity when they find their rewards in their paychecks. What is your company’s plan for boosting your workers’ productivity?
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