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06/18 2014

Are Only 10% of Employees Actually Being Productive?

Are most organizations beehives of activity — or is it more common for companies to have pockets of active employees, amidst oceans of inactivity?  Do most companies have a small number of employees who are doing all of the work — and are only a small percentage of employees actually being productive?

Unfortunately, the answer appears to be “yes”, according to researchers Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshia. Their findings, published in a 2004 Business Strategy article titled “Management is the Art of Doing and Getting Done”, are seen as still being applicable today.  Among their research findings:

  • Only 10% of the managers studied were found to take “decisive purposeful action” at work on a regular basis
  • 40% of managers were found to be energetic, but unfocused
  • 30% of managers had low energy, were unfocused, and had a tendency to procrastinate
  • 10% of managers were focused, but had little energy

With findings like this, it is little wonder that many organizations are unproductive.   While the fundamental challenge of all leaders is to marshal resources and get individuals to work towards a common goal, these research findings suggest that most leaders will find themselves surrounded by people who are either unfocused (they don’t know how to use their energy), are uninspired (have lost their energy), or are distant (they would rather think than do).

So what is a leader to do?  One strategy might be to concentrate on the 40% of employees who are energetic but unfocused.  By definition, these employees are up for a challenge and wish to do useful work, but they do not know where to begin, and may be unable to prioritize.   Obviously, these employees could benefit from having a leader define objectives, translate strategies into action, and set appropriate goals.

The 30% of employees with low energy and little focus may also be an area of attention for leaders.   Did these individuals start out in the high energy cohort, but become disillusioned by their inability to have an impact?   Are they in the right jobs?   Have they not been given proper developmental opportunities?   Leaders may still be able to transform these employees into high performers.

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