How can HR maximise employee productivity?

Rita Trehan has six effective strategies to help HR give productivity a boost

Reading time: 6 minutes

Human Resources, as the name suggests, is all about managing resources, but the ‘human’ element is also vitally important.

People are, as it has been said numerous times, a company’s best asset. However, for this to hold true, companies must be willing and invested in cultures that foster growth, learning and autonomy to create value.

This is where HR’s role becomes critically important. Championing the importance of company culture, of creating and fostering an employee brand where people feel a sense of purpose and that their contribution is valid, all fall under HR’s remit – at least a large part of defining what is needed, certainly does.

Often companies are focused on ways to increase productivity, which tends to translate in many people’s minds as cost reduction, the loss of resources, people and budget.

But it is the companies and HR teams that are able to look at the problem in a different way that are more likely to see increased performance, higher levels of commitment and an employee brand that stands head and shoulders above others. 

Instead of asking how to improve and/or maximise productivity, you should be asking what needs to be done to ensure that your people have the opportunity to thrive in their roles.

Decades of engagement survey results show that people who are more engaged to perform at higher levels are more likely to stay with a company.

There are some great examples of what happens when you think in this way. Take Ford for example – it was one of the first companies to recognise that for employees to thrive, it needed to reduce working hours.

Cutting its employee’s hours to eight hours per day rather than the traditional 10- to 16-hour working days, resulted in an increase in productivity.

The move to a four-day working week has been shown to have a similar impact.

Create a continuous learning culture, starting at the top

Paying attention to what employees’ value and what they look for is a sure-fire way to ensure your ‘people investments’ are in areas that matter and make a difference.

Helping employees thrive can also counteract the loss of pay growth. A report published earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics found that failure to maintain productivity growth was one of the main reasons for a lost decade of pay growth, costing British workers as much as £5,000 in missing income.

It’s important, therefore, to understand that every member of staff – from the most junior to the most senior members of staff – plays a crucial role in performance of a business, and HR must work with senior leadership to ensure employees have the support they need to succeed and achieve their objectives.

Here are some effective strategies for HR practitioners to increase employee productivity:

  1. Encourage a learning culture within your organisation

Create a continuous learning culture, starting at the top. From team meeting’s to feedback sessions, to formal development, leaders can embed a number of techniques and approaches that enhance and build capabilities on an on-going basis.

HR, often a member of the senior leadership team, is in prime position to model, encourage and establish the learning rhythms that can then be applied similarly across the organisation.

It also means that leadership needs to do more than just say learning and development matter. They must demonstrate support through their actions and reinforce training and development, recognising new skills and encouraging people to share their learnings with other. 

  1. Motivate staff to be accountable for their own development

While HR and senior leaders should be at the heart of learning and development, individuals must also be accountable for their own progression.

Individuals who lean on managers for direction, rather than seek out opportunities independently, can unfortunately be a real drain on both time and resources.

Development requires ownership by both employees and the company. As such employees should be encouraged to look for opportunities to learn and progress, whether that’s through peer-to-peer learning, webinars or external courses.

  1. Make sure employees are comfortable

It’s not just the learning and development that staff are able to access that leads to high performing organisations. The environment can also be a large factor.

While office layouts have changed over the years, the importance of employee comfort has not. From the room temperature to the type of chairs we sit on, the smallest things can have a costly impact, but there are simple steps HR teams can take to help ensure that the environment is inducive to people contributing their best. 


It’s important to address desk discomfort; back pain, headaches and a lack of concentration can often be attributed to poor ergonomics

HR should look at ways to implement practical work schedules to allow staff to enjoy a good work-life balanceAdjusting lighting to brighten up a dimly lit office will reduce eye strain, as well as drowsiness and headaches.

Similarly, setting a consistent temperature in your office can work wonders; it’s important to provide methods of both sufficient heating and cooling throughout the year. 

Noise levels can also be a factor – if you work in an open-plan office, ensure that there are quiet spaces for staff to be able to concentrate.

Finally, it’s important to address desk discomfort; back pain, headaches and a lack of concentration can often be attributed to poor ergonomics.

Investing in good chairs, offering standing desks and removing unnecessary clutter can all make a significant difference to office productivity levels.

  1. Offer flexible working options

The four-day week is starting to gain attention, and yet flexible working schedules have been around a lot time. The problem is that many companies fail to consider just how valuable flexible working hours can be.

From boosting employee morale and engagement to enhancing productivity, companies that are abandoning traditional, ridged working hours in favour of flexitime are seeing results, and for good reason.

HR should look at ways to implement practical work schedules to allow staff to enjoy a good work-life balance. 

  1. Encourage healthy eating and exercise

We’re all found guilty of snacking at work from time to time – whether it’s a birthday to celebrate or food left over from a meeting, the 3pm slump has become synonymous with a sweet treat.

However, there is a correlation between what we eat and our energy levels. If you find that your employees are reaching for a sugary snack as a regular afternoon energy booster – followed by the dragging of feet once the sugar rush has worn off – you may want to consider encouraging a healthier office culture. 

Many companies have begun to offer discounted gym memberships as part of their benefits packages, while others organise lunchtime exercise classes to get their workforce up and moving.



In addition, why not swap the sugar and make fresh fruit and other healthy snack options more readily available, so staff aren’t tempted to buy and graze on chocolate, biscuits and crisps?

  1. Reward staff for their hard work

Put simply, employees respond to appreciation at work, especially when they are recognised for their hard work and dedication.

Well-engaged staff who are made to feel truly valued by an organisation are more likely to thrive (aka be more productive), be proactive and deliver beyond what’s needed.

Positive reinforcement sets an example for everyone in the company, motivating every member of the team to do their best work.

Employee recognition doesn’t have to come in the form of an elaborate event – a simple thank you, a hand-written note, financial incentives, certificates of achievement, extra holiday, celebratory meals and gifts and experiences are all great ways to show appreciation for a job well done. 

So, when you are next considering how can you maximise productivity, pause for a moment and reframe the question to: “what can we do to ensure our people thrive?”


About the author

Rita Trehan is CEO of Dare Worldwide and author of Unleashing Capacity: The hidden human resources 


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