Young workers are wasting more time

Failure to maximise employee efficiency, especially among young workers, is costing Australian companies billions. But small fixes could unleash real share prices gains.

Australian corporations and government organisations are failing to manage younger workers.

This is a remarkable conclusion from this week’s Ernst & Young ‘Productivity Plus’ study. Part of the problem is that corporate and government organisations are slashing staff levels and creating job insecurity which, over the last six months, has boosted time wasting by one third among about a quarter of young employed people.

This remarkable research comes as central banks are engaging in unprecedented stimulation of global economies from Europe to Japan to the US and now Australia.

The co-ordinated stimulatory action is boosting share prices, which will require new management techniques, including management of young people.

Companies find themselves under twin pressures – high share prices that require long-term profit growth to justify but at the same time shareholders want income. This will demand a different style of management.

Ernst & Young Oceania Advisory Leader, Neil Plumridge, believes Australian companies have enormous potential to lift profits.

The Ernst & Young ‘Productivity Plus’ study surveys 2,100 Australian employees spanning seven industries and from all levels within organisations, it includes workers from both the private and public sectors.

The findings are mind blowing.

Employees from all levels in organisations, and across all sectors, are saying that they could be working 20 per cent smarter - not to be confused with 20 per cent harder.

But it is not happening. Workers’ productivity levels have plateaued in past 6 months and the mindless cost reductions and corporate/public service restructurings are starting to take their toll on workplace culture and sentiment.

Worse still, there is a growing split between productive and unproductive workers, led by disengaged younger workers.

Ernst and Young say this is partly caused by growing job insecurity, which has created a growing divide between productive and unproductive. The unproductive workers are usually younger people who are becoming even more disengaged and wasting more time at work.

These ‘lost souls’ are wasting more than a quarter (28 per cent) of their working day which equals two hours and five minutes every day. The super achievers at the other end of the scale waste 30 minutes a day.

“Unproductive workers now waste 1.5 hours more than productive workers every day – up from one hour just six months ago,” Plumridge says.

Overall Australian workers say they could be 21 per cent more productive at work every day if they could change just one or two things – representing more than $305 billion in productivity or $26,300 per worker. 

Plumridge says that if just 5 per cent of this potential was unleashed, the ASX200 could again approach and perhaps exceed the magical 6000 level last seen in 2007.

The survey showed that the top areas that would most benefit productivity are:

– Having a culture that values staff and wellbeing (30 per cent of employees).

– Ensuring people’s skills are matched to their job and are paid appropriately (28 per cent).

– Standard and simple systems that ensure an efficient workplace (26 per cent).

– Ensuring the best people for the job are attracted to the organisation and kept (26 per cent).

– Improving process efficiency (25 per cent) – ‘having the right culture, the right people in the right jobs, and the right systems’.

Plumridge concludes that Australia needs to drive higher employee engagement and participation, greater efficiencies around technology deployment and innovation, and we need to understand the demand for quality jobs in the Asian century.