What Jeremy Clarkson can’t teach us about workforce productivity

In 2011, one of Top Gear’s regular bits of lazy casual racism caused a bit more fuss than the rolling of eyes it typically deserves. The presenters had mocked a Mexican sports car with Richard Hammond – who has never said anything interesting or funny in his life – claiming  that ‘cars reflect national characteristics. A Mexican car’s just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.’ There was a bit more of this kind of stuff with Jeremy Clarkson suggesting that the Mexican ambassador to Britain would be too lazy to make any kind of complaint. He was wrong about that (he did) and they were all wrong about Mexicans anyway because according to a new report into global productivity,  Mexico has the world’s most productive workforce.

According to the research based on 30,000 interviews carried out by the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, Mexican workers spend an average of just under three quarters (73.2 percent) of their time producing outputs that make a tangible contribution to their employers. UK workers make it into a moderately creditable 14th place out of the 37 countries surveyed, spending  57.6 percent of their time productively, just under the global average of 58.8 percent and just behind workers in the US who were rated as 57.7 percent productive.

Other well placed countries included  South Africa and Colombia (both 66.2 percent), Denmark (65.6 percent ) and the Netherlands (65 percent). At the bottom end of the scale were employees in Portugal (43.3 percent), Czech Republic (44.5 percent), Japan (44.7 percent), Argentina (46.3 percent) and – perhaps surprisingly – Germany (46.8 percent).

The study, entitled Happiness at Work – Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success, also concluded that there was a correlation between levels of happiness and individual productivity. It also claims that there are variations across sectors.  Food services, retail, healthcare, education and consulting organisations were found to be the world’s most productive sectors, while the least productive were identified as the pharmaceutical, Internet, utilities, real estate and biotech industries.

by Mark Eltringham