Workplace culture: the true test of productivity

This was the question in the March issue of FMJ. The Tenon FM argument is that as a service provider, an FM’s objective is to provide the critical support services that our clients can’t or should not be concerned with. What we do frees them to focus on core business, their end users, their own vision and values.

What we do must also help make them and their people more effective. How you define that is the problem. Is effectiveness about efficiency? If it is, how do you define that? Is it about saving money or about doing things right, aligned to an organisations vision, values and long term objectives. Or is it about productivity?

The ‘p’ word (as Simon Heath, one of the other pundits responding in FMJ, points out) is almost impossible to pin down. The OECD argues: Productivity is commonly defined as a ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input use i.e. doing more for less. What does this mean in practice?

The common-sense approach – Simon Heath refers to Neil Usher at Sky – is about providing the kind of environment so that people, individually and collectively, can get their work done in the best possible manner for the type of work they need to do. The idea is to allow them some choice in the set up – planting, arrangement of desks, access to natural light, healthy food etc. and making use of the technology that works and is appropriate to the specific job.

This is the kind of place in which we could rightly expect people to be productive. Data from single line surveys might reinforce the gut feeling we have about this type of workplace. After all, people will ‘feel’ more productive. But feeling productive doesn’t necessarily mean you are productive.

Organisational culture is the best way of achieving culture and the best measure is the instincts and skills of good senior managers, the leaders of the team. You need to talk to your staff. Ask them how they feel. But do it in a manner that doesn’t force the answer or pressure them to give the response they think you want.

A positive, vibrant, open team culture will generate a transparent, collaborative manner of working where people help each other and share ideas. One that is focussed on outcomes, not obsessed with costs. An organisation that gets stuff done. One that is successful. There is a buzz and energy about a successful team – whether they are on a sports pitch, in a high-street retail environment, in a car mechanics workshop or a corporate office environment.

Good management can sense this is happening in any form of an organisation.

An organisations culture is the real test for its productivity. You can’t measure an atmosphere in a workspace, but you can feel if that place is functional, happy and productive. The truest test is if an individual reaching the end of their planned job schedule at 3.30pm on a Friday volunteers to take on another job.

That willingness is the best measure of productivity and that is derived from an excellent culture. There’s no data available to explain that gut loyalty to colleagues and an organisation.