Raising Employee Productivity

In L.A., City Management is ineffective. City employees are less productive than they could be. And the City budget keeps growing. Something must be done.

The question is, “Where to begin?” Well, since 60 percent of the annual budget goes for employees, it may be useful to check out how that chunk of the budget is managed. Does the City treat employees the way Peters and Waterman suggest in their book, In Search of Excellence?

— “Treat people as adults. Treat them as partners. Treat them with dignity. Treat them with respect. Treat them … as the primary source of productivity gains. These are the fundamental lessons from the excellent companies’ research. In other words … if you want productivity, you must treat your workers as your most important asset.”

When pressed, City Management does agree that employees are an important asset. But does a grudging acknowledgement of their worth motivate employees? Well, in a recent edition of Workforce Management, David Greenberg wrote:

— “…Empowerment and a compelling mission help fire up the troops…. It can be a real differentiator when companies succeed in communicating and demonstrating to their people that each of them is playing an important role in something significant.”

City employees need to feel that they, and their work, are important. But based on a comment adapted from Dr. Lawler’s book, The Ultimate Advantage: Creating the High-Involvement Organization, employees need more than recognition:

— “People give more to their own work when they have more to say in how the company is run. Organizations can achieve maximum effectiveness through employee involvement. Thus, high-involvement management is not just a good idea — it’s an economic necessity.”

As a first effort in high-involvement management, department managers could invite employees to help set performance standards for their own jobs. Such an effort would turn employees into partners. It would boost employee morale and productivity. And by abandoning their antiquated, trait-based ratings, managers would greatly improve the management of employee performance.

The Mayor’s proposed budget for 2013-14, if approved by the City Council, would authorize the expenditure of $7.6 Billion. More than $4 Billion would go to support an under-achieving workforce. Something must be done — now!

Send your questions and comments to samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.