Innovation and productivity are needed for prosperity. What do we mean when we talk about productivity? Business executives, government leaders, economists are always in discussions to determine the key enablers of productivity. People often think that enabling productivity is the work of the private sector. Why will they invest to improve their productivity and competitiveness? Some say, they invest for producing and getting smarter, faster, cheaper and better quality products and services. Others say, improving productivity is about giving the workers the tools to do their jobs more efficiently and investing in technology to make them more efficient.
A fuller understanding of productivity is critical to making decisions and taking actions. It is also key to harnessing people's support and contributions to productivity initiatives that add to our competitiveness. Women empowerment contributes towards economic prosperity. Higher incomes for women lead to higher household spending- a key pre-requisite for faster long term growth. Employment of women provides opportunity of increasing creativity, innovation and productivity.
How increased productivity leads to prosperity? First of all, increase in production leads to increase in flow of goods and services in the economy. As a result, consumption rises in the society. Therefore, the size of market expands with inducement to invest more, which eventually leads to further economic growth and development.
People, production process and technology are the main factors of productivity. We need leaders with clear vision who can inspire others to get behind the vision and to develop and support high performing teams of skilled employees. Our processes must be streamlined and standardised. We must use the latest technology to improve clientele access and service delivery. Strategic leadership of people, proper production process and proper system are needed for higher productivity.
Today in the context of globalisation, it is the drive to be more efficient, more innovative, more imaginative that matters more than the urge to be truly creative. So, increased productivity is not necessarily the key to real prosperity. People struggle with their minds and bodies at work in the quest for better productivity but they suffer in the form of psychological stress and social isolation. Increased productivity can lead to lasting prosperity only if it is ruled by a genuine national ideology that would respect the economic basis of the good life and the psychological and social cost of increased production.
Healthy workplace culture supports performance, productivity and innovation. Organisations must be clear as to the desired delivery they want, and provide enabling environment to use the manpower with their creativity. Higher productivity largely depends on the relationship between management and the workers. Employees are more forthcoming when their ideas are heard and when they participate in making decisions and get recognised for their contributions. Hyundai and Toyota are good examples of productive relationship between management and workers. They focus on creating an environment for success and meeting customers' needs. High performing leaders make the entire workforce feel as part of their team culture, involve them in planning, decision-making and listen to their ideas. In terms of building capability for higher knowledge, most organisations follow mentoring, on the job training and higher education as ways for further development.
Healthy workplace, good wage, job satisfaction, higher profitability create opportunities for higher productivity. Healthy workplace helps recruitment of quality workforce and retention of talent. On the other hand, insufficient investment in promoting human resource, lack of research, ineffective management, lack of leadership are main obstacles for better productivity. Poor management, out-dated system, multitasking, employees' dissatisfaction, long working hours, lost sleep lead to low productivity.
Increase in productivity is not necessarily good news, just as slow rate of productivity is not bad news. High productivity does not guarantee prosperity all the time. High price of scientific products and commodities sometimes allow higher incomes despite poor productivity. If prices are falling, then higher rates of productivity may not be enough for making profit. Making more of something, which people do not want to buy at a reasonable price, does not guarantee prosperity.
The future of the country depends on skills, innovation and productivity. Therefore, we need to address long term financial challenges and modernise the education system to develop human resource befitting the needs of the hour as well as our future demand.
The writer is director general, Bangladesh Accreditation Board.