How HR tech tools can unlock ‘productivity abundance’

Global analysts warn there will be fewer working-age people in the coming years. For many HR leaders, this news stings with a do-more-with-less call for productivity. But this might not be bad news, with CHROs in a position to influence the situation positively. According to a January report, McKinsey & Co. describes two possible scenarios with fewer folks in the workforce (one much more attractive than the other): economic stagnation or productivity-driven abundance.

Productivity plus creativity

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Josh Bersin, in a 2024 predictions piece, presented a similar outlook, saying that C-suite leaders are being pressured to “hoard talent, invest in productivity, and redevelop and redeploy people for growth.” The strategy for success in this environment, as dubbed by Bersin, is The Productivity Advantage: “If you can help your company move faster, you can reinvent faster than your competition.” Like many leaders in the business world, Bersin also predicts that artificial intelligence will be key to achieving productivity.

In an era dominated by technological advancements, adaptability and forward-thinking strategies are in demand. According to McKinsey, companies that are agile in this aspect are “redefining” operational excellence, maximizing returns from both talent and software investments while fostering innovation to drive growth.

McKinsey researchers point out that digital and AI transformations can more closely unite business operations while also enhancing workforce skills and empowering teams to innovate. This indicates that output might not come at the cost of personal creativity and fulfillment. Technology can facilitate positive results for both the business bottom line and the wellbeing of the workforce, say the report’s authors, leading to collective prosperity for the totality of the organization.

Deloitte business and human outcomes, productivity
Business and human outcomes indicators. Source: Deloitte analysis

From productivity to human performance

According to Deloitte, the once-straightforward correlation between individual tasks and tangible outcomes has become blurred in today’s complex, collaborative environment. Traditional metrics—like hours worked or widgets produced—are no longer sufficient in measuring success, especially with the rise of technology and AI automating routine tasks.

Forward-thinking orgs won’t only calculate success by conventional measures like revenues and profits, according to Deloitte’s findings, but also consider the job satisfaction of individuals and teams. Deloitte identifies this shift as embracing a new paradigm centered around human performance, one that emphasizes the value of factors like employee happiness, wellbeing, psychological safety, and growth and development.

“New approaches can and should consider the worker as a human being, with a more nuanced perspective on how they contribute to the organization,” according to Deloitte. Even in fields like logistics and manufacturing, where productivity indicators seem most relevant, automation can free up the workforce for other objectives, such as developing “creativity, critical thinking and collaboration” skills, say the researchers.

The analysts point to the following signals that reframing productivity with a focus on human performance might be right for your organization:

  • There’s a narrow focus on output rather than broader organizational outcomes
  • Leaders feel inundated by data and seek to measure what truly drives success
  • Despite technological investments, traditional productivity remains stagnant
  • Workers engage in “productivity theater” to appear busy, but they feel burnt out

If this sounds like your team or workplace, you aren’t alone. When Deloitte surveyed 14,000 business and HR leaders across many sectors in dozens of countries, only 8% said their organization is leading in the use of human performance metrics.

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As tools for capturing workforce data expand beyond traditional metrics like hours clocked or widgets made, HR teams are discovering solutions that measure collaboration, satisfaction, engagement and more. For example, network analysis platforms give insight into how people are connecting with co-workers, helping leaders discover areas of risk and potential in the organization.

Deloitte suggests that leveraging these new data sources empowers leaders to transition from merely assessing employee productivity to evaluating overall human performance. Thanks to a rush of innovation driven by AI, a new class of HR tech tools offers exponential capacity for businesses to collect, measure and analyze data. Supported by machine learning and human judgment, Deloitte’s researchers say HR teams are in a unique position to convert the data into actionable suggestions.

Jill Barth
Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist with bylines in Forbes, USA Today and other international publications. With a background in communications, media, B2B ecommerce and the workplace, she also served as a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services for nearly a decade. Reach out at [email protected].