What Are the Factors That Affect Productivity?

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Your company's well being hinges on its productivity. The more you're able to produce per hour, the lower your production costs and the higher your bottom line. Many changes that affect the efficiency of labor don't cost a cent, so these are great starting places if you're ready to tighten up operations.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Employee morale, workplace layout and effective scheduling are factors that affect work flow and productivity.

Human Factors Affecting Productivity

Your people keep your business running, so their well being and ongoing training are essential for optimum productivity and profitability.

  • Employee health: Healthy employees show up to work physically able to do their jobs with focus and stamina. If your staff is feeling well, they'll be better able to be engaged and follow through on tasks. Investing in health insurance and employee wellness adds costs in the short term, but your company will likely reap the benefits of these expenditures with increased productivity and improved quality of work.

  • Employee attitudes: Workers who enjoy their jobs are likely to work well and efficiently and even collaborate to find better ways to perform basic tasks. If you treat your workers fairly, they're likely to stay with your business longer, allowing you to increase productivity by building skills and a shared knowledge base.

  • Employee education and training: Unless your employees are performing rote, entry-level jobs, their work and productivity will improve over time. You can leverage this growth through ongoing onsite training, such as familiarizing staff with the nuances of your systems as their proficiency grows. You can also invest in their education by funding learning programs geared toward factors that affect efficiency of labor.

Equipment Factors Affecting Productivity

Your business infrastructure can also affect productivity. Equipment upgrades can be costly, but slowdowns because of substandard equipment can be even costlier.

  • The right tools: It takes a fraction of the time to slice a bale of onions by hand than to process them with a food processor. Whatever your industry, there are probably standard tools such as electric drills or sewing machines that can improve workflow and also custom equipment tailored to your specific processes and products.

  • The right layout: Once you've acquired equipment that can speed up your processes, you should also arrange it in ways that save time and space. Equipment performing different steps in a sequence should be laid out so work can gracefully move from one step to another. Reduce clutter in equipment areas to avoid unnecessary slowdowns.

Systems Factors Affecting Productivity

Even if your workers are happy, and your equipment is in good shape, there may be systems factors that affect work and sabotage your efforts at improvement.

  • Supply chain issues: If you're missing an ingredient or part that's essential to completion of your product, productivity can grind to a halt. Even if you divert employees to other tasks, you'll probably lose the efficiency that comes from performing tasks in the proper sequence. Develop strong inventory tracking systems to avoid running out at inopportune times, and cultivate multiple sources for the same items in case of shortages.

  • Chain of command: If your employees are knowledgeable and empowered to make spur of the moment decisions, they'll be able to make judgement calls and keep work flowing rather than having to stop and seek guidance. Similarly, if essential management staff members are available when needed to make upper-level decisions, employees can get the information they need to continue.

  • Work flow protocols: Some work flow protocols are part of basic employee training, such as letting cooked food items cool before packing them. Other protocols evolve over time if your staff is engaged enough to continue finding new ways to work well. Reward staff for successful innovations and encourage them to share information that can improve productivity for the workplace as a whole.

References

About the Author

Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.

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