How you can increase your productivity at work

May 20, 2018, 07:41 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan

Productivity is the latest appraisal buzzword. And, it's spawning an entire industry from behavioural change coaches to homeopathy treatment providers

Lohit Bhatia, CEO of IKYA Human Capital Solutions, a division of Quess Corp, says that at the recruitment end of the business, productivity measures will include how many candidates were lined up as potential candidates for a job, how many were interviewed by the client, how many of these were given the letter and then, finally, how many joined the firm
Lohit Bhatia, CEO of IKYA Human Capital Solutions, a division of Quess Corp, says that at the recruitment end of the business, productivity measures will include how many candidates were lined up as potential candidates for a job, how many were interviewed by the client, how many of these were given the letter and then, finally, how many joined the firm

A few weeks ago, an ad appeared on a premium page of a premium pink paper. The ad, by the homeopathy firm Welcome Cure, with the smiling faces of actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza was targeted towards corporates, promising help in reducing absenteeism and increasing employee productivity. Chaitanya Choudhury, vice-president corporate relationship at the three-year-old firm with headquarters in Santacruz, says what they provide is a wellness package to employees. At sign up, when the employee’s health ailments are assessed by a Welcome Cure doctor, medicines are designed as per the ailment and sent to the employee on a regular basis at their doorstep.

"Homeopathy also builds immunity, which means that a person falls ill less often. When we sign up with companies, we also assess the specific ailments that professionals from that industry are susceptible to and align the treatment accordingly. If an employee needs special attention, we red flag it and let the HR know. Our doctors are available every day from 9 am to 9 pm. When stress is taken care of, chronic health issues are too. Productivity will naturally improve," adds Choudhury.

Bengaluru-based executive coach Sridhar Laxman conduct six-month-long training sessions where, among other aspects, he helps improve his clients' productivity. An entire training module with him could cost anywhere between Rs 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3.5 lakhs. Pic/Ajeesh F Rawther
Bengaluru-based executive coach Sridhar Laxman conduct six-month-long training sessions where, among other aspects, he helps improve his clients' productivity. An entire training module with him could cost anywhere between Rs 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3.5 lakhs. Pic/Ajeesh F Rawther

The VFM race
In a piece in the Financial Express this April, Neelesh Hundekari, Partner and Head of Leadership, Change & Organisation Practice India, AT Kearney, stated that a study conducted by his firm had found that though Indian businesses have access to one of the largest young and educated workforces in the world, they have not able to make their people as productive as their counterparts across the world. "The revenue per employee in the Indian consumer packaged goods industry — on a PPP-adjusted basis—stood at $64,000, compared to China’s $87,000, South Korea’s $188,000 and the UK’s $287,000. In other words, a UK CPG firm is five times more productive than its Indian counterpart."

Yet, what is productivity? Mohit Gundecha, Co-founder and CEO of the Pune-based data analytics firm Jombay, says: "Many companies confuse productivity with efficiency. Efficiency is ‘getting the same output with less input’, while productivity is ‘getting more output with the same input’." That enhancing employee productivity is a prime objective for companies is easily understood when one sees the reams of research on this. A listicle on bookauthority.com mentions 11 books on the subject, all published only in the last nine months. And this is possibly just the tip of the iceberg. Last week, it was reported that a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, had found that drinking coffee during meetings can lead to a more focussed group discussion, boost involvement and leave members feeling better about everyone’s participation.

Does your company spends too much time on meetings, or do your employees not collaborate well? Call in behavioural scientists Mayur Tekchandaney and Anand Damani who will study your office environment and suggest changes for the desired results. Pic/Ashish Raje
Does your company spends too much time on meetings, or do your employees not collaborate well? Call in behavioural scientists Mayur Tekchandaney and Anand Damani who will study your office environment and suggest changes for the desired results. Pic/Ashish Raje

Lohit Bhatia, CEO of IKYA Human Capital Solutions, a division of Quess Corp, puts it down to a simple value-for-money equation. "With every passing year, capital is becoming scarce. And getting higher returns is paramount. Earlier, startups would be flooded with money, but in 2016-17, the money started evaporating. So, every rupee needs to count. After all, someone’s personal wealth is being invested, so it’s important for an outcome to be delivered."

A measure of your work
Where there are deliverables, there are measures to keep count. And, this count has, today, become an important part of the appraisal system that decides your annual increment. An employee at a top multi-national bank says her bonus is partially linked to this performance rating. The sales team, for instance, will be measured against the revenue they bring in, the number of new clients they crack and how many new products are sold. And, an internal software has been built to keep track.

WelcomeCure is a over three-year-old homoeopathy firm that employs over 200 doctors, all available for an online chat or video call between 9 am and 9 pm.
WelcomeCure is a over three-year-old homoeopathy firm that employs over 200 doctors, all available for an online chat or video call between 9 am and 9 pm.

"Each customer has a relationship manager and so, any transaction by them is automatically credited into that manager’s account. At the end of the month, the performance management team will run the reports, check and pass on the information to payroll," says the employee. For those in the wealth management sector, targets include not just getting in more clients but keeping the assets you already have under management and taking care of their wealth.

While transactions are definitely measurable, what about all the work that goes on to make the transaction? The innumerable calls? Bhatia says that at Ikya, where productivity forms close to fifty per cent of the appraisal weightage, every part of the process is measurable. Take for instance, the sales and business development team. "What are the number of sales meetings they have on a daily basis and what is the conversion ratio? If it’s less than five per cent, it’s not constructive for business," he adds. For those involved in the firm’s recruitment end of the business, the numbers that need to add up are: how many candidates were lined up as potential candidates for a job? How many of these were interviewed by customers? What was the success rate i.e. how many of these were given the letter and then, finally, how many joined the firm?

This year, its CEO Punit Desai, started corporate packages which allow firms to extend its service to its employees. An annual package could cost around Rs 12,000 per employee and, says the firm, if the employee leaves the office in the middle of the year, the service still continue till the end of the package. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
This year, its CEO Punit Desai, started corporate packages which allow firms to extend its service to its employees. An annual package could cost around Rs 12,000 per employee and, says the firm, if the employee leaves the office in the middle of the year, the service still continue till the end of the package. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Numbers don’t reveal all secrets
Not all jobs can be crunched down in numbers. Karan Khetarpal, director at The Chocolate Spoon Company Pvt. Ltd., which runs the Sassy Spoon chain of restaurants, says that while regular audits can help estimate productivity in different areas of the kitchen, the scope remains limited. "At our central kitchen for instance, we have multiple pastry chefs and here we can calculate their individual outputs. At the restaurant kitchen level, you can monitor wastage and yield of chefs based on inputs such as dairy, poultry and sea food, as well as ordering patterns. There’s an immediate economic impact of what they are doing. For instance, one day we realised that the burgers weren’t available at an outlet because the buns were out of stock. This happened because the kitchen had under ordered the previous day, so it was assessable," says Khetarpal, an investment banker by profession. But, while the sales team may have its targets, it’s not easy to count how many dishes a chef cooked or how many cocktails a particular bartender served. "This is not a factory where you can assess an individual’s productivity. Plus, the turnaround is so high, that the head chef will weed out those not being productive, anyway," he adds.

 In January this year, Amazon opened its new office in Seattle with giant glass-and-metal domes filled with tropical and rare plants as a tool to "attract, retain and enhance the productivity and well-being of its fast-growing workforce". The dome took six years of planning and construction.
In January this year, Amazon opened its new office in Seattle with giant glass-and-metal domes filled with tropical and rare plants as a tool to "attract, retain and enhance the productivity and well-being of its fast-growing workforce". The dome took six years of planning and construction.

What the target measure has done, says Bhatia, is bring objectivity into the picture when annual appraisals are done. "There was a time when it was said that in India you got a hike depending on whether your manager liked your face or not. This is becoming a thing of the past because of target measures. Also, there used to be a gap between the organisation’s expectation, what’s being delivered and what the employee thought he was achieving for you. Now there’s an analytical, non-emotional conversation," he adds.

Where does quality fit in? T Muralidharan, founder and chairman of TMI Group, pan India talent and productivity consulting firm, says that output productivity has two key parts — Quantity and Quality. "While quantity is easily measurable, quality is not and hence the supervisor’s judgement comes into the play. In addition quality Vs quality determined by the relative weightage in the goal sheet requires a lot of careful review. Companies have to think a lot more on this. There’s no one-fits-all answer."

Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezoz. Pics/PTI
Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezoz. Pics/PTI

The productivity docs
How then does a company improve its productivity? Adopting the latest technology, Gundecha says, is usually the first method. "More intuitive technology tools that work faster and provide analytical support for decision making are a constant demand. Allowing employees flexibility in working schedules is being recognised as a way to boost morale, build loyalty and encourage them to do more for the company." Better health will also mean a better employee.

"An office where every second person has a health issue makes for a depressing environment. However, imagine that your co-workers are all running marathons or climbing mountains. It will keep the environment motivated," says Vishal Gondal, the CEO and founder of GoQii, the fitness tracking firm that also ties up with corporates. Interestingly, for GoQii’s own employees, being fit (or atleast trying to get there) is part of the appraisal process. If you don’t walk an average of 10,000 steps a day or its equivalent, you might immediately be disqualified for assessment.

T Muralidharan, ChairmanTMI Group
T Muralidharan, ChairmanTMI Group

Changing the environment
Briefcase is a Khar-based firm run by behavioural scientists Anand Damani and Mayur Tekchandaney. They say they use findings from experiments conducted on real people over the last 50 years to understand how a change in the environment can improve productivity, increase collaboration and motivation. How we sit in offices, says Damani, can impact team collaboration pointing out to the cubicle and workstation system most offices have. "However, when a team sits together on a round table there’s more eye contact and the whole direction is towards each other, employees tend to collaborate more." Are your meetings too long? Damani says replace the chair and tables with a long bar table with everyone standing. "Meetings will end faster since no one wants to stand for long," he says.

And when do they get called in? Damani says it typically begins with issues and problems being faced in the company, such as pace of work being slow or lack of ownership. "It’s the CEO who approaches us. Not the HR. At least not yet. We then find out what is at the heart of the problem." Not just relationship with the management, recognition patterns in the company can also affect productivity. He recalls an employee who’d won the company revenue worth lakhs, being rewarded with a dinner voucher of Rs 5000.

Lohit Bhatia, CEO, IKYA Human Capital Solutions
Lohit Bhatia, CEO, IKYA Human Capital Solutions

"The person should also have been made into a hero within the company. His achievement should have been made a case study and showcased to the company’s clients. The process should have been entered into differed awards." While Damani won’t reveal how much they charge the companies for their services, he says it usually takes them a year’s work with the firms. Sometimes, it’s individual training that’s required. This is where Bengaluru-based executive coach Sridhar Laxman steps in. For the last seven years, Laxman has been coaching individuals in what might be simply put as leadership training. Productivity is one component of this. Yet, he argues, when someone learns how to manage stress, not hesitate to take risks, and handle conflict resolution, they will take decisions on the fly easier and show up at work with greater levels of courage. "And when this happens, their productivity will improve."

Signing up with Laxman will cost you between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh. The course is conducted over six to eight months with one hour long sessions every three weeks. Largely, up until now, he says, it’s been firms who have hired him to work with individual employees. It’s only in the last financial year, says Laxman, that 40 per cent of his clientele has been individuals seeking him out on their own. And what could you learn to do under his guidance? Firstly the ability to say no. "Many people struggle around it. They hesitate, fearing that if they say no, they will not be seen as effective contributors. However, saying no conveys that you understand that you have certain priorities now. And there’s no point taking on task six when those on priority one and and two need your immediate attention."

Download these
Any.do: It keeps your schedule on track with to-do lists, calendars and notes. There is also a voice integration feature that allows you to add to your lists through voice command.
Spark: An award-winning app for your email, it pops up important emails on the top of the list. Emails are divided into Personal, Newsletters and Notifications.
Time: Enter the task you need to focus on and set how much time you need to finish it. You get a green background first but as time runs out, it turns to yellow, then to red. In case you haven't finished the task on time, the app turns to Overtime Mode and records how much extra time you've spent more on the task.
Pomodoro Timer: Allows you to focus on doing one task for 25 minutes and lets you take short breaks in-between, mostly of five minutes.



Laxman's tips on getting things done

  • Create a daily master list of ALL tasks (personal, professional)
  • Categorise them for easy identification
  • Code them by priority
  • Get started first on top priority tasks
  • Set reminders, alerts well in advance using a calendar or reminder app, do not commit things to memory. Forgetting them will cause you stress
  • Leverage technology. Use productivity apps to manage your tasks
  • Review your achievements every evening and fine tune the next day's approach

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