Productivity vs Engagement

We all know that there are many buzz words in the world of business and the two listed above are probably more widely used than most at the moment. Both have been given emphasis by these uncertain times as we either career either towards the Brexit Armageddon or hallowed land depending on your point of view. Productivity is likely to be mentioned if you have an FD, whereas Engagement is possibly more HR driven. Now there are two polarised camps for you.


This blog is going to focus on how they relate to the people within organisations. Essentially productivity is about getting the most out of the people employed there (like getting them to write blogs every other month) and engagement is about making people within them feel like they are stakeholders within an organisation (without actually giving them a stake).


So how should you approach these words and what could be their potential impacts on your business?


Well, we can look to the past for some pointers. As, in the same way, that fashion rolls round with the possible exception of togas, so do working concepts and neither of these are particularly new.



The Victorians for instance, understood all about productivity. They employed small children to keep the machines clean so that adults could produce more goods, which led to higher profits. Admittedly they also used to jab them with pins to make them work faster and one company put their clocks forward by half an hour and promptly fined the workforce for being late but they certainly understood productivity. A very stick rather than carrot led understanding but an understanding none the less.



The Vikings were great at engagement. The whole village or town were involved before, during and after they went raiding. Everyone knew their role within the enterprise from building the boats, mending the sales, slaughtering monks, burning buildings and then flogging the spoils afterwards. The proceeds were then distributed and everyone was rewarded with the profits (that word again). The carrots were very much in evidence. Clearly not if you happen to be a monk or slave or indeed both but then again, all systems have their flaws.

So, child labour laws and society’s frowning upon swinging axes about the place not withstanding do these points really have any relevance to the world in which we live and work?



The answer is obviously yes. Otherwise what was the point of me writing this and you reading it?


The efficiency of an organisation has a direct effect on its’ performance. There is no question that the companies that increase productivity see a commensurate increase in performance. That’s productivity.


Equally when employees feel intrinsically valued and understand the importance of their role, this also leads to an increase in performance. That’s engagement.


The key point that businesses should look at is how and what will work best for them in their circumstances. Despite the title of this blog they are not mutually exclusive and I would always advocate that companies adopt whatever is relevant to them from both areas and to do so in a way that reflects them and the people that work for there.


Just to back this point up I’ll give you another historical example of where a company struggled to increase its’ productivity and failed massively where employee engagement was concerned. It was founded in 1908, traded until it went bankrupt in 2009 and was called General Motors.


So feel free to turn your test papers over, the history exam will begin….now!