Asian organisations need to focus on raising employee productivity to improve competitiveness

  • Singapore, South Korea show largest drops in productivity per person with 3.12% and 2.34%
  • India had the highest gain at 2.71%, followed by Indonesia at 0.68%


Asian organisations need to focus on raising employee productivity to improve competitiveness


A NEW report from the Workforce Analytics Institute (WAI), a partnership between The Conference Board and Mercer, titled Employing Analytics to Enhance Workplace Productivity, states that raising employee productivity remains one of the key levers organisations can use to improve their competitiveness.

With regards to Asia Pacific, the catch-up phase in which productivity gains were easy to achieve with the introduction of technology, is gone. The report highlights the importance of prioritising three key approaches and outlines strategies that organisations can use to enhance productivity: developing more effective leaders; leveraging on technology; and enhancing employee engagement.

Siddarth Mehta, leader, Workforce Planning & Analytics, Mercer, commented on the report, “Across Asia we are riddled with economies showing weak or slowing growth. Against this backdrop, productivity combined with rising wage pressure poses a serious threat to organisations’ profitability.

“Additionally, in Asia, where the demand for skilled labour far exceeds supply, companies in the region are encountering substantial difficulties: they are realising that the link between productivity and business performance is one of an organisation’s key resources and if effectively managed can lead to significant payoffs. Gone are the days when productivity could spike simply with the introduction of technology. Going forward, companies need to be more innovative.”

 The Conference Board’s research shows that the global decline in productivity growth is a serious threat to competiveness and profitability – from 2007 to 2014 productivity growth dropped about a quarter of what it was from 1999 to 2006 and is expected to make little recovery before 2025.

In Asia, most markets have seen a slump in labour productivity with nearly all markets, with the exception of India, Indonesia and Philippines, showing decreasing productivity between 2008-2016 when compared to 1999-2007 (Exhibit 1).


Asian organisations need to focus on raising employee productivity to improve competitiveness


Raising productivity is fast becoming a priority and especially crucial in an uncertain business climate. The Conference Board’s research illustrates that higher productivity growth can be associated with larger real net operation surplus growth (Exhibit 2).


Asian organisations need to focus on raising employee productivity to improve competitiveness


With insights from interviews and surveys with over 50 HR professionals in Asia, three main themes emerged:

  1. Developing leadership to drive productivity: where significant changes to the work environment are planned, as is the case for most productivity interventions, communication, preparation and transparency are key.
  2. Enhancing employee engagement: designing incentive schemes to motivate employees, or creating physical and virtual workplaces that promote teamwork, collaboration and engagement are ways to provide a healthy environment for high performance.
  3. Leveraging on technology to raise productivity: technology is best utilised for communications, equipment upgrades, self-service systems and training.

According to Caitlin Pan, PhD, senior researcher, Asia Region of The Conference Board and an author of the report, “To foster a culture in which consistent productivity growth is possible, organisations need to develop a systematic approach toward tracking and analysing the quality of their productivity interventions.

“We often see companies start a number of initiatives and continue to pursue them without a clear understanding of which, if any, has a positive impact on organisational outcomes including profitability. Feedback is useful, but measuring and qualifying the quality of the interventions will lead to enhanced productivity. Before designing and implementing an intervention, it is imperative to determine the current productivity levels so as to effectively evaluate the changes in productivity.”  

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