Office ping pong tables a waste of money as solution to low productivity

Over half (55 percent) of UK employees are productive for less than 30 hours per week yet UK employers plough money into quirky benefits that a majority of employees see as a distraction a new report claims. New research from Sage. ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ found that while many companies invest in quirky benefits to keep staff happy, their employees aren’t impressed. Only 9 percent believe company outings are a valuable benefit, and even fewer were favourable on office games such as ping-pong – with only 6 percent saying they value it as part of the work experience. In fact, in some cases people felt these were doing more harm than good: with over half (55 percent) saying that they are distracting and decrease productivity. Commissioned by Sage People, the study spoke to 3,500 global workers to uncover what people really want from their employers. The UK findings show the disconnect between the benefits employers provide and what employees want.

Productivity is a major issue for businesses – the IMF estimates that productivity growth has slowed so much since 2008 that GDP in advanced economies should be five per cent higher today. ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ showed that more than half (55 percent) of respondents say they’re productive in their role for less than 30 hours per week. Distractions like ping pong tables and company outings could therefore be adding to the productivity issue businesses are facing rather than solving it.

Crucially, those surveyed stated they wanted their opinions on workforce experiences heard in the workplace, yet many organisations don’t proactively consult their employees on how to improve their everyday experiences. Almost half of UK workers (46 percent) have never been asked by their employer what will improve their experiences and impact their productivity and only 13 percent are asked on a regular basis.

A productive workforce experience is key to retaining talent

Developing and managing workforce experiences has the power to drastically improve recruitment, staff retention and productivity, but many companies are floundering in outdated HR management practices. Frequently, HR tries to get employee feedback through tools such as annual engagement surveys, but this alone isn’t enough and is far from effective, with only 22 percent of UK respondents seeing annual employee satisfaction surveys as very important to their workplace experiences. 27 percent also see filling out employee satisfaction surveys as a distraction, decreasing productivity in the workplace. And this is crucial, given it’s currently an employee’s market – of those surveyed, 60 percent of Senior Managers and above claim to be regularly approached by recruiters.

“Attracting and retaining talent is not a new challenge given the global skills crisis, but there are few signs of companies solving the issue. There is a clear disconnect between the employee and the employer in what constitutes a valued and productive workforce experience,” says Paul Burrin, VP at Sage People.

“Employers must listen, understand what their workforce wants, and crucially, act on this feedback. It’s never been easier to find new job opportunities and if organisations don’t provide positive workforce experiences, their staff will go elsewhere.”

Personalising workforce experiences

When looking to discover how to improve and personalise employee experiences, companies should take their cue from their people. Almost half of UK workers feel that the HR/People team could increase the value it provides to employees by improving wellness at work (42 percent). A third  (33 percent) also felt that an organisation could increase its value by using data and have access to actionable insights to inform people decisions, rather than relying on gut instinct.

HR and People technology can be used to gather immediate feedback around key events in the employee journey. And for those businesses willing to take feedback from their people and embrace new ideas, new technology can provide businesses with the means and flexibility to design, implement and measure workforce experiences that make a tangible difference to employee acquisition, retention, and productivity.

Burrin concluded: “Organisations need to make it a priority to know what motivates and drives their people, and work with them to create positive experiences so that their people are doing their best work. This is essential if we are to avoid productivity and GDP stagnating.”