Companies are generally optimistic that they can further increase productivity. Two thirds (67%) of companies polled expect to see productivity increases in the next 12 months, either in terms of greater output or more or improved products and services. Executives see two functional areas—operations (58%) and sales (33%)—as likely to see the greatest productivity increases in the next year.
Managing human capital is seen as by far the most important means of improving productivity. Some 85% of companies believe this is either crucial or important to their business effectiveness. But managing human capital presents challenges. Respondents, especially those in Europe, cite a lack of engagement and motivation as the biggest obstacle to human-capital productivity, followed by poor performance management. North American companies feel more over-stretched and lacking in investment in staffing, making this one of their top obstacles to improved productivity from employees.
Functional training is seen as a key tool for improving productivity. Training ranks highly as an efficient tool for improving productivity, particularly training for specific functions. While 67% of those that have introduced management training programs see these as effective tools, this rises to 79% when respondents are asked about functional training. Functional training also rises to the top of the list of human-capital initiatives that executives will introduce in the next 12 months that are expected to have the biggest impact on productivity.
Companies have yet to fully capitalize on the productivity potential of technology. Using the best available technology is only the third-most important factor in productivity, after human capital and good strategic decisions, with 69% ranking this as either crucial or important. Meanwhile, nearly half (49%) of respondents believe they are not getting the most out of technology. Companies also appear to be missing the productivity potential of social networking technologies, especially in terms of connecting with clients. More than half (54%) of those using social media for clients say it has improved business effectiveness, but relatively few companies have yet deployed social media in this way.
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