Sri Lanka needs productivity at all levels | Daily News

Sri Lanka needs productivity at all levels

Productivity is an essential yardstick to measure the level of success of any commercial, social or governmental organization. Productivity linked with quality will ensure the overall success and financial standing of any organization.

Generally, the productivity standards of the private sector is much higher in comparison to other organisations as there are responsibility centres in the private sector with rigid benchmarks. In some private sector organisations, productivity is measured on a hourly basis, whereas in other organisations productivity is measured when requested or at irregular intervals or hardly measured.

Higher productivity is also associated with pre-determined achievable targets at desired quality levels. In the private sector, productivity is the key to corporate success, long term stability and going concern status. Every rupee spent in running a successful business need be linked to productivity measurement among other yardsticks to ensure “value for money spent”

In Sri Lanka, the productivity of the governmental organisations is required to reach the levels in the private sector soon, if we are to reach continuous growth in our gross domestic product. Tie ups with the private sector would be beneficial to the state sector at every level of management. The setting up of joint productivity promotion groups will no doubt be beneficial to the country and the general public.

An awareness campaign among the public sector staff and the trade unions belonging to different political parties on regular productivity measurement exercises will also unearth overlapping of functions, excess staff, problems in span of control and conflict situations. This is vital in prime economic centres such as seaports,airports,power stations,inland revenue,customs and banks.

At present the Treasury is compelled to borrow in order to meet the public sector recurrent expenditure. With the substantial increment of Rs.10,000 given to public sector employees last year, the onus of enhancing the productivity levels in the public sector falls on them. In the absence of higher productivity levels the country will inherit huge debt burdens for the future generations.

Overstaffing of state instituitions will only add to the level of recurrent public expenditure with no benefit to the country or a contribution to the national economy. Drop in productivity will set the stage for undesired privatisations.

Productivity also increases the levels of national income and savings levels.This will create additional demand for goods and services and will ensure gainful employment avenues for the unemployed and pave the way for additional taxes.

In the absence of meaningful productivity standards, organisations will inherit debt and will ultimately end up with retrenchments and or possible sale/hand over to another organization. As a measure of progressive thinking, the trade union representatives within the company be drafted into productivity committees.

This will also put an end to political or biased recruitments. What we need is the best person for each vacancy to be filled. Work and time studies need be preceded prior to setting up of productivity measurement committees to ensure a smooth implementation.

The current number of state employees exceed 1.6 million which has resulted in a heavy fixed overhead for the state treasury. The figure has been rising every year with no productivity enhancement schemes.

If the productivity enhancement schemes are delayed any further at nerve economic centres of the country, the public will be required to pay higher prices for essential infra structure facilities provided to them by the state. At the same time local industries and the entire business community will be affected.

Most people from the rural areas opt to join the public sector in the absence of essential criteria to join the private sector such as knowledge in English both spoken and written, computer proficiency and perhaps the family background. It is the duty of the state to prepare the youth to take up employment in the private sector from the age of 10 years. As a result, the backward attitudes of the rural youth will subside to join the private sector.

They can even find gainful employment abroad or pursue higher education either in Sri Lanka or abroad. Youth unrest and the crime levels will also come down rapidly and the rural children will not be a burden to their parents.

The state sector employees now enjoy a large number of holidays, guaranteed pensions, travel warrants, duty free vehicle permits, state sponsored scholarships abroad and many other facilities which the private sector employees do not enjoy. Still the productivity levels of the private sector is higher than the public sector due to rigid corporate governance measures and higher productivity standards at all levels. Their motto is “time wasted is failure tasted”. Mass media could play an active role in the raising of productivity levels of the country as a measure of corporate social responsibility. Time management is the first step in raising productivity. Time management should start in schools, universities and in residential houses itself. This practice will create a moral responsibility on the working population to employ time management techniques to enhance productivity. To measure productivity, simple and easy to understand methods be used to avoid confusion among workers. Reward systems and incentives be also linked to productivity enhancement. Initially, private sector monitoring committees could be utilized to raise the productivity levels of the public sector organisations, universities, social organisations and schools.

The state should provide a financial allocation in the annual budget to raise productivity in the public sector including the vital areas beneficial to the general public such as transport, health, banking, judiciary, police and schools initially. Once these areas are streamlined it would be much easier to implement productivity standards all over the country. Good examples are the countries like Singapore and Japan, our Asian friends.

The trade chambers should request all political parties not to recruit additional staff members in future sans a time and a work study of the existing work loads and additional work loads planned. New employment avenue creation in the private sector is of national importance. The blue chip business conglomerates need to get involved with productivity enhancement programmes in the state sector on a regular basis. The motto for the state sector be termed as “ restructure or perish”. Ignorance of productivity in the public sector will lead to losses and ultimate closure or sale to the private sector. Excess staff will be retrenched through a voluntary retirement scheme to make the organization into a manageable level. Productivity in the state sector could be improved by strict adherence to meal/tea times, time limitations on meetings with visitors and known parties, punctuality at work in the morning, setting span of controls for each divisional heads, maintenance of upto date mail registers for both incoming and out going mail and setting work targets on a daily basis. These are simple measures which could be practiced on a daily basis. We have seen press reports of computers going missing at some public sector organisations. To counter this a manual system also be maintained parallel to the computerised system. Micro filming was extensively used in the past for safe record keeping.

This is vital in instances where the files are misplaced or even stolen. Weekly departmental meetings will lead the way for target oriented productivity standards. To stimulate loyalty to work, a pledge be read out jointly by all workers in every unit at the beginning of the day for around 30 seconds after the national anthem is played every morning to instill a feeling of belongingness to the organization and its progress and to achieve set goals. There may also be obstacles to the progress of productivity enhancement programmes from various corners and from interested parties who do not wish to carry out changes to existing work procedures. They may be interested in their personal finances, personal work loads, political ambitions, external instigations, etc. As a matter of priority, the labour laws of the country be amended to serve higher productivity and profitability levels. This could be carried out with the participation of trade union representatives of the public and private sectors, trade chambers, professional organisations, board of investment and ministry officials.

Another productive mode of raising productivity levels is the showing of video presentations depicting the success stories of both local and overseas establishments both in the private and state sector. This will result in the staff members at every level attempting to emulate the feats of overseas workers for higher productivity and good employer-employee relations. Group visits to places of high productivity establishments is also desirable. The most adverse side of productivity take place when the entire departmental staff members visit a fellow member's residence at the same time to attend various functions during working hours totally forgetting the work station duties. This situation is common in the state sector.

Yet another case of productivity negligence is where the staff members taking a vacation of over 10 days during the april new year holidays. This is relevant to both the private & public sectors. Some go abroad with their families. Banks also remain closed causing inconvenience to the public. Kudos should go out to the very very few bank branches which remain opened on 365 days a year. Our Cheque clearing system also be geared to work during the entire 365 days of the year to assist the business community who are running on bank overdrafts to mitigate their monthly overdraft interest charges. During the april seasonal holiday period, the entire country go to sleep and the expatriates who are resident here visit foreign countries and transact business with overseas parties. During the festive seasons in april and December every member of staff expect bonuses and other perks. They must first ask themselves whether their respective organisations have made profits and also whether they deserve to get bonus and other perks. So they must think in terms of their own productivity and profitability standards.

The productivity levels of the export sector should be in the top bracket to meet the order deadlines and quality standards. The developed countries have reached higher levels in corporate and state sector stability by enhancing productivity levels and following strict good governance measures for many decades. They have also reached the “industrial giant” status also by maintaining high standards of productivity. Export sector generates much needed foreign exchange for the country. It is the duty of the state to ensure uninterrupted facilities and a stable business environment for them to engage in continued productive activities.

A table of key points for productivity enhancement in an organisation is produced below for the benefit of all concerned.

1.Set realistic goals

2.Identify priorities

3.Prepare total task lists

4.Delegate tasks to responsibility and cost centres

5.Avoid unproductive meetings

6.Root out distractions at all work levels

7.Have intervals

8.Refresh yourself with snacks, tea/coffee and sweetners

9.Evaluate delegated tasks and monitor progress at suitable intervals

10.Employ work/time study feed back systems

11.Carry unfinished work to next day

12.Motivate your staff with measures such as appreciation talks, special meals, monetary

incentives, improving of work environments, good medical care and sanitation, etc.

13.Rank all your employees by employing a system of stack ranking which involves ranking of

employees from best to worst

14.Install further quality control measures

15.Measure productivity achieved on a daily/weekly/monthly basis

One must remember that most organisations have many layers of management. It would be useful to analyse and determine the level and extent of automation required to simplify tasks. After the staff evaluation, low performers should be given a time period for improvement. If they have not improved, it is advisable to get them removed from the organization sooner than later.

Motivation through Gamification

This involves the use of badges, medals, rewards, leader boards or ranking, points systems, challenges and other game elements to make repetitive & quantifiable tasks more productive. The objective would be to create value addition within your organisation at a lower cost.

Productivity enhancement of individual processes be linked to a total productivity measurement periodically.

There are three stages in a conventional productivity measurement scheme. In the first stage the input(men, materials, capital, information)comes into light. In the second stage the conversion process and the methodology takes precedence. In the final phase the output(products and services)is evaluated.

A comparison of USA and Japan manufacturing processes is highlighted briefly below.

Japan has moved to the top of the ladder in production of high quality autos, cameras, consumer electric items and a wide range of high volume and repetitively produced goods. Repetitive manufacturing is the industrial setting in which Japanese just-in-time production and quality control thrive.US industry has become highly proficient in job-lot manufacturing management during the last few decades. While repetitive manufacturing is high volume production of a narrow product line, job-lot manufacturing is medium-to low-volume production of a wide range of products and models.

A computer based manufacturing management system known as materials requirement planning(MRP)was developed in USA, in the early sixtees and spread throughout US industry in the seventees.

The USA is most proficient in job-lot manufacturing management because MRP was invented and nurtured there. Japan is most proficient in repetitive manufacturing management because the just-in-time system was developed there.

Japanese industrial giants used to be job-lot producers too. They became giants not by catering to consumer whims but by producing a few models very well, often in market segments that were being ignored by other companies. Low cost and high quality production leads to growth in market share. If the desired levels of productivity cannot be achieved internally, the outsourcing options should be considered. However, the outsourcing will place the organisation in a dependent status and there could be delays and varying quality standards also.

Further, the outsourced party may well acquaint themselves with the technology and markets of the principal organisation and may well launch either a take over bid or could pass on vital information to competitors for higher payments later.

It is ideal to develop productivity standards and achieve the desired productivity levels internally.

As we all know Sri Lanka is a low productivity level country in most spheres and we must create an awareness to improve the levels with meaningful practical measures.

(The writer is a senior finance professional and could be reached via [email protected]

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