Rekindling business operations through enhanced labour productivity post COVID- 19 lockdown

By Patience Mabika

Boosting the productivity of labour is key in reviving Zimbabwean businesses that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. Most businesses except those that fall under essential services have not been operating to their full capacity in a bid to fulfil the requirements of SI 100 of 2020.This has had ripple effects on both the employer and employees given the volatile and creaking economic environment currently prevailing in the country. Some companies have embarked on retrenchment of employees which has seen organisations losing funds in retrenchment packages and employees losing jobs. Worldwide employees have lost jobs and in America 20.5 million jobs were lost in April which has never happened before in their history. Now that companies have scaled up their operations it is pertinent that they enhance the productivity of the employees so as to rekindle their operations. Although this is not an easy avenue to exploit, harnessing labour efficiency can see organisations being rejuvenated from the effects of COVID-19.

Enhanced labour productivity can be explained as the amount of labour output generated from input of labour or workforce or the value that each employee creates per unit of his or her input (Preenen, Vergeez, Kraan&Whondt, 2010). Essentially it is a measure of labour efficiency. This implies that organisations should craft and implement distinct strategies, policies and practices to manage their human resource so that they revive and rekindle their business through enhanced labour productivity. This is in line with the human capital theory of HRM which stipulates that an organisation depends on its human resource for competitive advantage and growth particularly if it matches the VROI model that is valuable, rare, organised and inimitable (Armstrong, 2011). There are a number of practical strategies that organisations can put in place to manage their human resource so as to revive their business through enhanced labour productivity. These include introducing strategic human resource development programs, performance based pay, employee wellness programs, providing strict time lines for assigned tasks, effective communication and improving business processes among others.

· Strategic HRD- it important for organisations to move away from ‘ritual’ training programs where organisations just train employees for the sake of it. It is high time that organisations view training as a strategic investment where they can get a return on investment at the end of the day. Gone are the days when organisations would just allocate a training budget without following up on how that training has contributed to the attainment of the overall bottom line. It is imperative for organisations to concentrate on training programs that enhance the critical skills that are linked to the attainment of the overall business strategy.

· Performance based pay- It is critical for organisations to recognise those employees that contribute significantly towards attainment of organisational goals. This has motivational effect to both performers and non performers in the organisation and this goes a long way in enhancing labour productivity. PBP creates organisational citizenship behaviours amongst employees which are vital in rekindling and resuscitating organisations that are on the verge of collapsing.

· Employee wellness programs- This is very crucial if organisations are to enhance the productivity of labour. Physical and mental health status of employees should be prioritised because the possibility of enhancing productivity of labour is hinged on that. Due to the COVID -19 induced lockdown some employees have suffered loss of income in the form of salaries and even time and this has triggered stress amongst employees. Organisations need to be considerate when dealing with such traumatised employees. Counselling services should be provided within organisation premises whenever need arises. Testing and screening of employees for COVID-19 should be an ongoing thing because one might test negative today but tomorrow might be positive due to various interactions engaged by employees after and on their way work. Social distancing within offices, factories and worksites should be emphasised as a way to minimise the spread of the pandemic especially now that we are in winter where many people cough and sneeze a lot. Putting on recommended surgical face masks should become a norm in all work places to fight the spread of this covid-19 pandemic

· Strict time lines for assigned tasks- Gone are the days when employees would be assigned tasks and be expected to produce results within ‘reasonable’ time frames. Organisations are in ICU state hence the need for urgency on whatever assigned task. Every assignment should be treated as an emergence and that way the labour productivity of employees will be enhanced.

· Improve business processes- It is pertinent for organisations to revise their business processes as they re-open. It is pointless to stick to old ways of doing things when we are now operating in new ways, the usual is gone and this truth should be embraced by any organisation that is serious to take-off in its operations. Transparency in the introduction of artificial intelligence in business operations systems will go a long way in employees accepting technology and the benefits that it brings to both the employer and the employee. When this is achieved labour productivity will be enhanced which will facilitate the rekindling of ailing businesses.

· Effective communication- It is vital that organisations emphasise on effective communication. Accurate and current information on business progress, its future and even COVID-19 updates should be timeously disseminated to employees to avoid unnecessary panic among employees as this affects labour productivity which can lead to the extinction of some organisations.

Patience Mabika is lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University in the department of Human Resources. She can be contacted on [email protected]

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