While many employers are concerned about the skills gap, a separate performance gap is also growing. In fact, workplace performance has gone down 6 percent since 2008, due largely to a decline in employee focus. Some employers have chosen to take unconventional measures to increase workplace productivity and re-engage their teams — but are these measure sustainable? Here are some of the more extreme workplace productivity trends that have emerged over the last few years:
1. Eliminating Job Titles: Are job titles holding companies back? Organizations with this mindset have gotten rid of job titles and managers with a so-called “holacratic” workforce model. The point is to create a flatter hierarchy with a more even distribution of power.
2. More Intensive Hiring Process: This involves a company assigning a group of employees to work extensively to vet potential employees and evaluate them for cultural fit. Involving more people in the hiring process is a definite means for eliminating hiring mistakes, but is such a long and arduous process sustainable?
3. Brutal Transparency: At some companies, there are no secrets — even when it comes to money. The idea is that, without the distraction of wondering how their salaries compare to those of their colleagues, workers will be more focused and more driven to work harder, because they better understand what they must do to earn more money.
4. Revamping Floor Plans: An estimated 70 percent of all offices have open floor plans. The open office is meant to promote the sort of collaboration that cubicles and other closed office spaces (supposedly) inhibit. However, open office plans may do more harm than good, thanks to increased distractions.
5. Vacation Free-for-All: Operating under the belief that giving employees more freedom to take time off whenever they want will actually make them more productive, many employers have started adopting unlimited vacation policies. Critics of such policies argue that giving employees too many options could be stressful and confusing and may actually decrease the amount of time taken off by most employees.
6. No More Email: Believing that internal email impedes collaboration and workflow, some companies allow employees to use email only when speaking with clients. As far as internal communications go, employees share information on internal blogs, in chat rooms, or on Skype.
7. Letting Employees Take Sabbatical: Some firms are embracing the idea that getting more productivity out of employees involves telling them to leave work behind for a few weeks. For example, a company may adopt a policy where employees who have been employed for at least five years become eligible for a four-week sabbatical. The idea is to let employees explore an outside passion or goal that weekends or typical vacations don’t allow, then come back re-energized and ready to engage with work.
Are such unconventional and creative trends sustainable in the long term? The data is still out, but hundreds of companies now swear by these new practices. Employers seeking new ways to boost productivity and engagement have a growing list of non-traditional options to choose from.