While the world anticipated the future of work against the backdrop of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the changes brought by Covid-19 pandemic were hardly expected.
It defined the new norm in the work environment where people could work at home. Many individuals also left employment and either founded start-ups or joined the gig economy.
Across the globe, we have seen how public, private, for-profit, or not-for-profit organisations shift rapidly to online channels and automated production tasks.
This has led to increased operational efficiency where data and artificial intelligence (AI) are now being used not to mention the adaptation of real-time decision-making and innovative operating models.
But irrespective of these shifts and the investments that have been made, productivity remains a challenge, especially in the African context.
Business leaders want to ensure their workforce are productive, regardless of where they are located and whether what they do is profitable. This calls for a rethink on how to make productivity become a common buzzword for every staff member.
Productivity is a key to economic growth and competitiveness. It measures how efficiently production inputs, such as labour and capital are used to produce a given output. Traditional productivity measurements rely on a simple output/ input equation which can be misleading in today’s workplace.
Before the productivity was measured between in-out and output. But in today’s workforce, when calculating productivity one must consider the type of work employees perform and the expected outcomes.
This difference is why traditional productivity measurement equations are unreliable. In essence, productivity depends on individuals, organisations, and industry practices
Many experts now argue that productivity measurement should focus on overall capabilities and not on one set of costs.
Measuring productivity for today's workforce requires a more nuanced approach, given the complexities around work being done. It is also becoming clearer that central to productivity is a happy and motivated employee.
Overall, leaders in every organisation need to adjust their approaches and implement new practices in response to today's challenges.
Some of the mechanisms that can be adopted include improving productivity by updating the way they measure it, separating busy work from valuable work using emerging metrics of productivity, and taking regular and consistent measurements to track improvements
The benefits of defining productivity and rethinking performance management will likely pay dividends beyond the current crisis.
Dr Joseph Onyango is a senior lecturer and Associate Dean of Research and Innovation at Strathmore University