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  • Mark Shaw

Can HR Help Increase Productivity by 30%?

Based on most anecdotal feedback I receive, the current answer is emphatically “NO”.

But in my experience HR can help increase productivity by up to 30% if they change their approach.

You may already be aware of “The 2% Effect”, i.e. when we create rules for the minority who don’t follow them and the rules only get in the way of people who don’t need them (see  In my experience this is the key to HR helping to achieve productivity improvements.

You see to increase productivity, HR needs to stop perpetuating the 2% effect.  We need to shift from focusing on compliance to focusing on solving problems.

My experience suggests a good model to make this transition is the following:

1. Get Clarity. 

Make sure your company’s vision, values and roles are clear.  I recommend the “truck driver and receptionist” test.  I.e. if these employees can articulate the vison and display the values every day, you are on the right track.

2. One Shoe Does Not Fit All. 

You can treat people differently.  Remember it is only the 2%-ers who complain so treat them consistently using a problem solving approach.  I have had Fair Work Commissioners agree with this approach.  You can then treat the rest of your workforce with flexibility.

3. It’s all about managing risk, not compliance.

The biggest myth is that paperwork will cover your ar**.  It actually does not guarantee due diligence or protect you in court if something happens.  I have seen Fair Work Commissioners prove this.  HR should not be measuring compliance but that rather culture and the social psychology of risk.

Build High Performance Teams.  Only when you have the above humming can you start to focus on continuous improvement, cultural uptake and creating an environment of learning.

The model works.  When implementing it the key mantra I follow at every decision point is “can we make this process even simpler without increasing the risk?” 

It is actually amazing how often you can.

I encourage you not to accept the status quo or complacency.  Instead seek a goal of 30% increase in productivity.  Who knows, you might just achieve a 10 or 15% improvement and that’s a great outcome.

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