The 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity: Chapter 14 – Using the 6 Factors to Make a Difference in Workplace Productivity

So by now you’ve got a good handle on the 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity, why they are important and how you can orientate everything in an organisation to achieve a significant increase in workplace productivity.

Performance management and productivity measurement are key to business success. As they say, what gets measured gets managed, right?! So the first question leaders keep asking us is ‘How can we find out how we stack up against the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity?’

Well the good news is that we have the workplace technology to answer this question. Through the course of our research we gathered together a fully validated question set with which to enable teams to score themselves on the 6 factors that will determine the workplace productivity of your oraganisation. We’ve gone even further now to evolve these to allow each team member to also score the teams they work with on the 6 factors, allowing for a higher depiction of employee performance. Putting the intra team and inter team views together we can build up a pretty good picture of how an organisation works against the 6 factors which is proving to be valuable on a number of levels, giving our workplace consultant a depth of knowledge to work with.

Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) wanted to put our tools to the test, so we approached the Executive team at London & Partners, London’s official promotional company (promoting the best City in the World!). We know London & Partners are a progressive and open minded organisation having worked with them to create an agile workplace and agile working practices at their office at More London.  The business was interested to see how they measured on the factors of workplace productivity, and to use the experience to generate a different language to address relationships within the company.

Gathering workplace data

Before we started gathering workplace data, we spent time with leaders and their teams within the organisation, briefing them on the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity and the research that led to them. AWA then launched an on-line questionnaire to measure each team on the 6 Factors and the relationships between different teams. We wanted to know how strong “within team” relationships were and how good ‘between team’ relationships were too. Knowing this information would allow us to determine the first factor of knowledge worker productivity, social cohesion.

The questionnaire used statements drawn from the original research and asked respondents to agree or disagree with each statement on a 5 point scale. We asked each member of staff to score their own team and the other teams in the organisation. They also indicated the groups they worked with on a regular basis and those they didn’t. In analysing the data at a headline level, we looked to see what percentage of respondents had agreed with each statement.

Results

We were delighted to get a 90% response rate from the 140 London & Partners people, giving an excellent evidence base from which to draw conclusions. As well as providing responses about their own team, people responded about 12 of the 14 other teams, on average. Naturally not every relationship is critical to business outcomes, but the research suggests that even if you don’t work regularly with other teams, it’s still important to know about them, know what they do, what they know and have positive views about them in order for knowledge to flow.

The graphs shown in this blog are not those of London & Partners, as we wanted to preserve confidentiality. They are, however examples of the findings that can be obtained from this data analysis.

 

Figure 1 – An example of the data provided – this is not actual data - workplace productivity - advanced workplace associates - knowledge worker productivity
% age of respondents agreeing with statements (agree / strongly agree). Solid colour = own team view : striped colour = view of other teams

Unlike Figure 1 which is an example, London & Partners results showed that the Trust statements were the most highly endorsed when staff considered their own teams – a significant achievement for a 4 year old organisation which was formed by combining 3 separate organisations with their own cultures, relationships and ways of working. When looking between teams, the highest endorsement overall was for information sharing – exactly what you would want in a knowledge work business of talented people working in centres of excellence.

The areas less well endorsed when looking between teams were external communication (the degree to which teams share their knowledge and expertise) and social cohesion (the degree to which people get on with and socialise with each other). Generally teams get on well with each other (particularly where they are working closely) and are happy to share with those in other teams. They don’t necessarily want to socialise with each other and seemingly don’t always seek the expertise of other teams to the degree that might be expected.

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Team X views of other Teams and vice versa Results for all 6 Factors together

What the data also reveals is that even in a business of this size, it’s impossible to know and work closely with everyone – and indeed that isn’t appropriate to the roles people carry out. Most organisations focus their teams on meeting their own objectives – not necessarily helping others to achieve theirs (particularly if in doing so, they risk missing their own!). But what does that do to overall organisational performance?

For example, Figure 2 shows very low levels of endorsement (in both directions) between Team X and Team Z. If these teams don’t need to work closely together, that may not be a cause for concern…but if they do, then there is certainly work to be done to improve productivity – through understanding the underlying factors that contributed to that result and exploring the nature of the relationship. The 6 Factors results don’t necessarily tell people things they didn’t know already about their relationships, but they do provide a language and a more level playing field to discuss what’s going on. From this base point, we were able to learn how to increase productivity within the organisation.

Sharing the results

Armed with these results, we presented them at an All Staff Conference and used them to generate an immediate brainstorm of ideas that people could put into action relating to social cohesion (there are many ways to generate it other than socialising after work) and ways to continue building and maintaining trust within the business (levels of trust between teams were less strong than within teams, as would be expected). Trust however, takes a long time to build and is easily broken, so a good score now is no guarantee that it will be maintained unless people work to ensure it is protected.

Some of the ideas generated were interesting (although some are deceptively simple) and included

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people
  • Introduce myself to someone I don’t know
  • Partners want to socialise with us too – that’s also a chance to socialise with each other
  • Why not reduce emailing and just walk and meet
  • Deliver on promises – Do what you say you were going to do
  • More celebrating success across teams
  • Don’t try to hide from tough conversations
  • Don’t discourage small failures – its human nature and important to learn from mistakes

These ideas are a small extract from those generated and for sure they aren’t rocket science. However, they come from the individuals within the business – and as change management consultants, we know that people are more likely to commit to ideas they’ve come up with themselves. In our pressured, results driven world, the humanity has somehow been beaten out of us – so the 6 factors focus helps us to recognise that we are all people, trying to do our best – often with competing objectives.

The Executive Team also saw that the 6 factors have a broader reach than simply within London & Partners. As a partnership business, they could see its relevance in examining and evaluating relationships between their business and those they work with closely – with a view to addressing and improving, for example, their information sharing or social cohesion with their partners.

What’s next for London and Partners and their workplace productivity?

AWA have been working with the individual directorates to help them make sense of their own results and how to use these to consider things they might want to do / approach differently. They can see what their team said as a whole, what their team said about other teams, and what other teams said about them – hence giving two way feedback for each of the factors. This provides a basis upon which teams can discuss their results and seek to understand more about what has driven those levels of endorsement from the other teams around the workplace.

The results have led to some interesting discussions about the nature of social cohesion and how it is generated – socialising is but one way to develop strong relationships with other teavms, and although it is a valid measure, it illustrates that there is potential for quite low levels of endorsement when only one or two specific statements are used – and using more would reduce the impact of any one statement within a factor. At its heart, social cohesion is about whether we know each other well enough to feel comfortable knowledge sharing ideas and information around the workplace. Groups have also discussed ways in which they can share their knowledge and expertise with others (generally people are happy to share…but aren’t necessarily called upon to do so by others).

Figures 3 and 4 are examples of the analysis we provided to each team to illustrate the level of detail they’ve been able to work at.

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Team X – views of their own team

Some of the activities being explored by teams are actually things they used to do but fell out of the habit (i.e. holding “lunch and learn” sessions where a team shares what it does in an engaging, entertaining way over lunch). Other things are in place but are perhaps a bit passive – for example “everyone is welcome to come to our team meetings” is replaced by active invitations to attend a team meeting if the team feels there is benefit in inviting specific people to attend their meeting.

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Responses about Team X from all other teams

Another aspect is recognition for a job well done – a key element of perceived supervisory support. It is clear that some managers and directors feel that to keep thanking people is “over the top” and
doesn’t feel genuine after a while… whereas it is clear that when expressed genuinely, people really do value recognition and appreciation.

In working with the Directors and teams on the results, it has become clear that even the best organisations don’t always do all the right things. No surprise there, right?

But having a light shone on the intra team relationships (seeing what others think about you, when you think you’re doing a really good job for them) will highlight challenges around communication, cooperation, conflict or lack of clarity in priorities, and the degree to which teams actually feel in competition with each other. Whether these are intended or unintended consequences of the way things are organised is a matter for discussion.

There is also something rather significant about managing expectations – which in busy, time pressured organisations may feel like a real overhead. However if you don’t manage expectations, take time to explain, to thank people, to appreciate them, to agree  joint objectives – then the risk is that however good the relationships are, they can suffer over time.

 

Are you interested in learning how to increase productivity in your workplace? For more information on workplace productivity or the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity, contact a workplace management consultant on +44 20 7743 7110 or email info@advanced-workplace.com with your inquiry. Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) are based in London, United Kingdom but now work internationally across the United States of America, Asia and Europee