How Can We Measure Productivity?

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Have you ever really thought about measuring efficiency? I hadn’t either. Until I discovered that the word productivity comes from the field of agriculture. My curiosity thus piqued, I began to investigate.

Let’s answer the question.  

There are many different ways to gauge productivity. Some organisations take a quantitative or number-based , approach, others a qualitative or behaviour-based one. The approaches chosen by different companies — or rather, the approach that is given prevalence — is dependant on the job role and the requirements that particular job entails. When the best qualitative approach is coupled with a solid quantitative approach, we may have a better overall measure of productivity. Thereby, we may be more able to access the true value of what each person — both individually and as part of a whole — brings to their work.

We all know that measuring productivity can be tricky, but there are ways to simplify performance management for both employees and bosses.

Let’s find out more.

5 tips for better work performance and productivity measurement  

  1. Using the 360° Feedback approach
  • The assessment of someone’s work performance is typically assessed — save in the Fortune 500 — based on the opinion of the manager and employee alone.
  • The scope can be widened to include others who see — or have experienced in some other way — the employee at their work. This group could include colleagues and customers. 
  • This approach can give you a useful overview of an individual worker’s performance. By broadening your view of someone’s performance, you can get a fuller idea of their attitude to work, the behaviour they display and their colleagues’ reactions to it. It may serve as a useful counterpoint to a number-based measure of somebody’s technical competence in a job.
  • This can be time-consuming work, but can be extremely worthwhile because it can give employees fresh insights into their own performance and how it influences the work of their colleagues.
  • It’s worth noting that the main drawback to this way of reviewing performance is that employees can feel exposed to criticism, particularly if their pay is linked to their performance. If they feel they have been unfairly treated, it may end up damaging relations within the company and start to undermine effective and productive teamwork.
  • A more positive outcome would be if the individual employee took the feedback — of managers, colleagues and customers alike — on board and acted on it in a way that seemed fitting for them, their co-workers and the organisation.
  • This positive outcome is much more likely if the process is managed sensitively and well.
  • This approach deserves closer attention, so we’ll come back to it later.

2. Pay attention to behavioural competencies

  • A behavioural competency is a behaviour that a worker needs to demonstrate to enable them to do their job properly, in much the same way as there are skills they need to display in order to perform their role well. They are formed around what is required and expected of them within the boundaries of their job.
  • When this framework has been designed and put in place, you can use it to help assess work performance and identify what’s working well, and where further development is desirable.

3. Goals and targets

  • It’s common practice for managers to set employee targets for them to achieve. These can be daily, weekly or monthly and are typically aligned with requirements described in the job description. The basic idea is that employees will either achieve or exceed their goals and, by doing so, perform well. It’s crucial that managers or employers make sure goals are reasonable and achievable so that employees will be more likely to feel motivated to meet them.
  • As I’ve written before, being highly motivated is likely to boost your productivity. Moreover, it’s a good measure of work performance because targets give people easily identifiable things to strive for and are often quantifiable. Also, if someone is not able to meet their targets you’ll know that it’s time to have a conversation about what might be holding them back.
  • If someone continually fails to meet the standard expected of them, employers and managers will know it’s time to kick start more formal management processes.

4. Pay attention to the quality of the work

  • It’s crucial to consider the quality of the work produced. After all, if someone is a fast worker, but their work does not meet the required standard then the value of that work is diminished.
  • This can ultimately lead to wasting time, losing money or incurring additional costs which eats into potential profits.
  • If there are persistent concerns about the quality of someone’s work, discussions need to be held with that person about how their work could be improved, possibly as part of a formal managerial process.
  • After an agreement on what is to be done is reached, a timeframe in which improvement should be seen need to be set. Once the timeline is agreed upon it should be understood that no further sanctions be put in place until that time has elapsed.

5. Remember that having clear, easily measurable criteria baked into job requirements can make it simpler to assess someone’s efficiency

  • Just as failing to keep tabs on quality can be bad news for productivity and the growth of your business, so to can ignoring the speed and efficiency with which that work is completed.
  • It’s easier to effectively track this when you’re able to quantify speed. For instance, if you’re overseeing employees as they work on the floor of a warehouse, they may be expected to pack a given number of items within a certain timeframe.
  • In other job roles, in which efficiency is not directly quantifiable, effective management of deadlines may perform the same function.

Now it’s time to give more attention to the 360° approach.

360° Feedback: A deeper dive

Its purpose is to help people under review to better understand their strengths and weaknesses so that they can share their resulting insights with their colleagues.  This way of gaining new insights can help resolve debates. In relation to the feedback process itself,  this may include discussion around:

  • Reviewing the feedback.
  • Using  the feedback.
  • Incorporating the 360° process into a larger performance management framework.
  • Choosing the people who will come up with the ratings.


  • Givespeople feedback from a wide variety of sources.
  • Furthers and strengthens accountability and teamwork.
  • Exposes problems within your organisation that can impair growth.
  • Pinpoints areas for improvement.
  • Diminishes the effect of bias from those who’ve set the ratings, thereby guarding against undue discrimination.
  • Employees gain constructive criticism which they can use to advantage, ideally their own and the company’s.
  • Generates new ideas about training.


  • Serves as just a part of a bigger, overarching performance measurement system.
  • Can cause friction and organisational problems if it’s too hastily implemented, or hasn’t been well thought out.
  • Colleagues can end up in a form of competition over the process. It can become akin to a game of one-upmanship, which may reduce team productivity.
  • Can prove of little value if it’s not well interwoven with your existing framework.
  • The anonymity the process promises can prevent people from getting information they may need or want.   
  • Doesn’t fully account for the strengths of employees and instead concentrates on people’s shortcomings.
  • You sometimes need to collect lots of data, which in itself can be time consuming and ultimately unproductive.  

The 360° approach and measuring efficiency

For all the weaknesses that are highlighted above, it remains the best qualitative approach to measuring behavioural aspects of productivity that has yet been invented. When working in concert with a solid quantitative method of measuring efficiency, we might have a much better way to gauge the true value — not only of the people working within a business — but also of productivity itself.


The way we view and measure productivity and work performance is continually evolving. Now you’re armed with a little knowledge about different ways to do this effectively and well. So, go ahead.  Experiment with them to find the best productivity measuring solution for yourself, your fellow workers and your company today!    

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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