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improve workplace productivity

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Improve Workplace Productivity

Looking to improve your workplace productivity? Tried investing in technology and getting minimal return on your investment?

Tim Ringo offers a unique perspective on how engaged employees harness smart technology and transform the workplace and how you can use those strategies to improve workplace productivity in your business.

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What You’ll Discover About How to Improve Workplace Productivity (highlights & transcript):

Solving the Productivity Puzzle* What workplace productivity problems need improving [01:21]

* Conquering technology overwhelm to improve workplace productivity [02:48]

* Improving workplace productivity with human-centric technology [04:44]

* What makes technology human-centric [05:23]

* How to get employee buy-in to improve workplace productivity [07:43]

* How Main Street businesses can improve workplace productivity [10:01]

* The leadership mindset shift necessary to improve workplace productivity [11:59]

* Better hiring practices that improve workplace productivity [14:18]

* How to handle the dilemma of waning employee enthusiasm [18:45]

* And much MORE.

Hanna Hasl-Kelchner:            [00:00:00] Looking to improve your workplace productivity, tried investing in technology and got minimal return on your investment? When we come back, today’s special guest, Tim Ringo, offers a unique perspective on how engaged employees harness smart technology and transform the workplace.


Announcer:           [00:00:19] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.


Hanna:                  [00:00:31] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s special guest is Mr. Tim Ringo, a speaker, executive board advisor, and author of Solving the Productivity Puzzle: How to Engage, Motivate and Develop Employees to Improve Individual and Business Performance.


Hanna:                  [00:00:51] Tim has over 30 years’ experience as a senior executive in the HR consulting and HR software industry. He’s architected and led some of the largest and most successful human resources change programs in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He’s gotten around. It’s a privilege to have him join us today and give us his insights on how to improve workplace productivity so welcome to Business Confidential Now, Tim.


Tim Ringo:            [00:01:18] Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Hanna.




Hanna:                  [00:01:21] Now, the title of your book is intriguing, solving the productivity problem. Now, what problem related to productivity are you solving here?


Tim:                       [00:01:31] Well, it’s interesting, that. I’m not going to take credit for that title because actually, I called the book 21st Century People initially and my publisher changed it, and I’m glad they did because Solving the Productivity Puzzle as it’s called is – it turned out to be really timely because that’s exactly where we are at the moment.


Tim:                       [00:01:50] In fact, the puzzle got more complicated because essentially before the pandemic, we’d already been in a 10-year dip in people productivity which has mainly been caused by overwhelming people with technology that doesn’t work for them. And then of course then we have the pandemic which has taken a major hit on people’s productivity. But the good news is it looks like, because we’re looking at this, we’re really focused on it at the moment, we’re starting to see data that’s showing that maybe we might get back to where we were before the pandemic and even better in the near-term future.


Tim:                       [00:02:21] So, essentially as I was mentioning, the technology has overwhelmed us. I don’t think organizations have invested in people as they used to back in the early 2000s, and these things just caught up with us in the end. And I think what’s happened is the pandemic and maybe one good thing that comes out of it is it kind of shook things up and we kind of relooked at things, and I think we’re going to – I feel quite positive about the future and solving the productivity puzzle hopefully once and for all.




Hanna:                  [00:02:48] Well, that would be lovely if it could be done once and for all. It’s interesting that you refer to the technology having overwhelmed people. What is it about having so much technology at our fingertips? We had it before we were forced to use it more during the pandemic.


Hanna:                  [00:03:08] So, how do you think that’s changing going forward? Because you said you think that we’re not only going to go back to the pre-pandemic productivity but increase it? So how does that work?


Tim:                       [00:03:21] Well, I think that what organizations did in the past 10 years is they got sort of technology-happy and just implemented system after system after system of technology that was really IT-centric, meaning it was built for those building technology. It wasn’t for improving people’s productivity, it was around compliance, it was around process and those sorts of things. And that’s not good for people’s productivity, right?


Tim:                       [00:03:51] When it – so it’s not easy to use, it’s not easy to understand, and therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve seen productivity go down. Now, the good news is that we have started to use technology during the pandemic that’s a bit more consumer grade, meaning that it’s something you might expect to see at home on your tablet, your phone. It’s almost like apps that you would use for fun.


Tim:                       [00:04:16] Well, that’s where things are heading, that people are finally realizing that the technology can’t be technology-centric anymore, it needs to be human-centric and be about building people’s productivity; it has to make you better at your job.




Tim:                       [00:04:28] And so there was already the beginning of a change in mindset before the pandemic and then the pandemic hit and it forced a like immediate rethink on how are we going to do this, and we started to use things that were potentially more consumer-oriented.


Tim:                       [00:04:44] So Zoom and Skype and those sorts of things, really, I mean they were done at work but you used them more for teleconference and less the video bit, and now we use the video and everybody’s really comfortable with that. You’ve also seen people start using their Google Homes and their Alexa as part of their jobs. It’s on their desk. They ask Alexa to find some information for them or those sorts of things.


Tim:                       [00:05:06] So, it’s kind of put us in a different position where we’re starting to expect the technology we use at home to be what we have at work, and I think these things are coming together really quickly to help us start to solve that kind of overwhelming with IT-centric technology.




Hanna:                  [00:05:23] All right. So some of these puzzle pieces are coming together, but what makes technology human-centric? It’s still going to be designed and created by tech people.


Tim:                       [00:05:33] It is, that’s right. But I think what tech people are realizing that for their technology – because it’s like their baby, right? They spend a lot of time designing and building these things and they want them to be used. And I think what a lot of software companies and software technicians are realizing is that they’re users of technology as well, and they want technology that’s going to be used easily, frictionless, right? So, it’s not something that gets in your way.


Tim:                       [00:06:01] And so I think people are starting to understand that when they’re at home, the type of technology that they use is pretty frictionless, it’s pretty easy to use and then that’s where things are kind of migrating to. So, there’ll always be humans at the center of that. Sure, robots might build technology in the future as well, but there’d always be humans at the center of that.


Tim:                       [00:06:19] But I think what’s happening on the other side of the equation is the demand from businesses saying, “Look, we don’t have time or money to train people to use systems. These systems should be something that are intuitive. They should be systems that actually do a lot of the work in the background that we don’t even see so they’re automated,” and the flip side of this equation, as I’ve said a moment ago, is what organizations are demanding now, which is that they want technology to make people better at their jobs, more engaged at their jobs.


Tim:                       [00:06:49] And in order to do that, they’re asking for technology that uses intelligence – some people call it AI and machine learning – to understand the user and to anticipate their needs and do some of the kind of grunt work in the background such that they don’t have to.


Tim:                       [00:07:04] So let me give you an example. Some of the HR systems that are out these days, when you write a job spec, the system will actually go through it for you and take out any biases, take out anything that might put the community you’re trying to reach – put them off, and do that for you without you really having to think about it and will fix these things for you. And that makes somebody who’s doing hiring, for instance, better at their job.


Tim:                       [00:07:28] And so that’s the kind of things that people are demanding, which are tools that do that, kind of anticipate the human needs, take care of them. And I think at some point soon, we won’t even notice that they’re doing this and we can focus more on the job and less on the system in front of us.




Hanna:                  [00:07:43] But you still have to get people to use these systems. One thing that intrigues me about your book title is the subtitle, How to Engage, Motivate and Develop Employees to Improve Individual and Business Performance. So, it’s one thing to say, “Okay, we have this user-friendly technology. It’s, for lack of a better phrase, idiot-proof, even you can use it,” but how do you get people to actually use it and use it at the right times and be engaged and motivated? Tell me about some strategies for that.


Tim:                       [00:08:18] So there’s two things. So, the first one is what I call the what’s in it for me rule, which when somebody gets a new system or asks this new system, the first question is, “What’s in it for me?” And if the answer is this is going to make your job easier, “Oh, and by the way, it’s going to make you better at your job,” you’ve got their attention, right? So that’s kind of the first piece.


Tim:                       [00:08:39] The other piece is the part I talk about in the book which is also enabled by technology, which is I call it people engagement, innovation and performance, and how that happens, PEIP, how that happens is getting right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time with the right motivation, right?


Tim:                       [00:08:58] So having that as a mindset in your organization, then having that as a set of processes and then having technology that’s intelligent to underpin that to help get people into those positions, that helps create an organization where people flourish, and that then answers the question “What’s in it for me?”


Tim:                       [00:09:16] “Oh, so this organization is actually trying to get me to the kind of work that I like to do, that I’m good at.” Is it 100 percent of the time? No, but a lot of the time, the organization and its processes and its technology are helping me do that. And when it answers the what’s in it for me question, that’s when people really start to engage, and so it’s kind of the technology needs to be the enabler but you have to have a new mindset in the organization…


Tim:                       [00:09:42] …new sort of processes that says you’re going to get right people, right skills, right place, right time, right motivation. And the companies that I’ve worked with for many years that do that, they are extremely engaging places to work. People flourish and guess what? The businesses are innovative and they’re high-performing.




Hanna:                  [00:10:01] That sounds like a great formula. I’m just wondering, is it only applied to large organizations, or what about the small business on Main Street?


Tim:                       [00:10:12] Yeah. That’s a great question. I get asked that all the time. And of course, when it’s bigger organizations, you’re dealing with 5000, 50,000, even up to 500,000 people, that equation is really important to have in balance all the time, and I say equation with air quotes. But that’s how I describe it in the book, as an equation.


Tim:                       [00:10:34] But I think it’s the same for, say, you have – you own a drugstore with 25 people in it and you have different things that people in that drugstore on Main Street have to do. You’ve got the pharmacist, you’ve got the person who acquires the drugs, you’ve got the person on the front desk, you’ve got – and you’ve got different people doing these roles in different shifts.


Tim:                       [00:10:58] And if you’re an employer that takes into account each one of those people’s motivations, takes into account their skills, takes into account when they’re available, what type of work they like to do, even if it’s 25 people, that is still a very powerful equation because people want to stay and work for you. And if you’re a small organization, it costs a lot of money…


Tim:                       [00:11:20] …when you lose five people and have to go get five more. Bigger organizations absorb that as a cost of business. A smaller business, you want to keep those people around. In fact, you hear smaller businesses say you’re part of the family, and that’s – when you’re doing – when you’re balancing that equation in a smaller organization, you’re creating that kind of almost family atmosphere, but you also have to give people the opportunity to grow.


Tim:                       [00:11:42] There may be somebody who’s on the front desk, who’s at the cash register, who might want to be a pharmacist. So maybe you want to invest in that person to go to pharmacy school or something like that. So, these are all the sorts of things that a big organization do but I think are equally as important for a small organization too.




Hanna:                  [00:11:59] What does that mean for the leadership though? What advice do you have for business leaders whether it’s large or small organizations in terms of mindset?


Tim:                       [00:12:07] Yeah. The mindset that has to change is the one that comes from business schools and I can say that because I went to one, the Ohio State University, which is a fantastic business school by the way. I’m not running it down in any way. In fact, they’ve transformed the curriculum and it covers a lot of the things that I learned in the business school.


Tim:                       [00:12:25] But unfortunately, I’m old and there’s a lot of us who are old, and we learned in business school that people are costs and people are transactions, and that is absolutely the thing – I’m trying to break down that mindset with the book. That’s really where it started, which is people are not cost, they are not transactional.


Tim:                       [00:12:43] So you have to change that mindset away from, “Well, business isn’t so good so I need to get rid of five people or 50 people or 500 people,” “Oh, business is really good so no, no, I need to hire five people or 50 or 500.” That kind of hire-fire binge, that’s transactional. That’s people as cost.


Tim:                       [00:13:00] And guess what? You will destroy value in your big or small organization every time you do that. What you should be doing is looking to constantly, again, balance that equation, PEIP, but also look into the future as far as you can and plan for as best you can see what the business conditions are, and even now how you do your supply and demand of workers, and don’t treat them as a kind of transaction.


Tim:                       [00:13:25] Treat them as, again, part of the family, and you wouldn’t want to get rid of a family member, right? And that isn’t just being nice. That’s good business, right? That is smart business. So, what I say to leaders is it’s time to change the mindset to creating a workplace where you invest and you help people flourish, and not to be – to get an award for best employer but because you’re going to be a better performing business, you’re going to make more money. That’s the fact.


Tim:                       [00:13:53] And the book goes through multiple case studies of where that’s happened, both small and large organizations. So, that’s why I said the mindset needs to change away from that kind of cost to transactional to family, “How can I help you be a better person, a better worker? And then that’s how you can help me.” As a business owner, you make more money and all boats float. So that’s kind of the philosophy.




Hanna:                  [00:14:18] I understand the philosophies and those are certainly not just good philosophies but strategies to strive for and to put into place. But it also seems to me to assume that you’re hiring the right people in the first place that are worthy of the investment, and I’ll put worthy in air quotes, about the right fit. In your experience, what advice do you have about making the right hires?


Tim:                       [00:14:46] Yeah. Well, that’s where it all starts, right? And again, it starts with the leadership being really clear about understanding who they need in their organization. And to be fair, I think most organizations are really good at that. I think they do know – whether you’re a small organization or a big one, I think they have a really good idea of who succeeds in the organization, but I think what they do is they tend to hire from too narrow a pool of people. And what I talk about in the book is expanding that pool that you hire from and what you – and what I’m talking about is diversity.


Tim:                       [00:15:21] Diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation. Neurodiversity, I think neurodiversity is a really important part of a workforce. Getting people in who are on the autistic spectrum, they bring specific types of skills. So I say – I would never insult any business by saying, “You don’t know who to hire.” I think they do know who to hire. I just don’t think they hire from a broad enough pool and create that kind of diverse workforce that they really need that’s going to be successful.


Tim:                       [00:15:50] And that’s, I think, really, really key. The other thing I would say is that because you’re going to expand that pool, meaning there’s a lot more people you’re going to pull from, you do need to have analytics and analytic technology to be able to make sense of all these different possibilities and to use analytics tools to do that.




Tim:                       [00:16:08] Which goes to my first book which is Calculating Success, which I co-wrote with a couple of colleagues, which is around HR analytics. It’s so important to be able to not just use your gut to make people decisions; you have to use data. And that’s really, really important. And as you expand that pool with more options, you have to be able to get your arm around that with real data.


Hanna:                  [00:16:29] Those are some great points. Of course, some of the smaller businesses don’t have the access or the resources to do a lot of analytics. They may be relying on their gut and hopefully a good list of questions that they’ve actually thought about as to how to identify the right skill set.


Tim:                       [00:16:47] Well, I want to just challenge that a little bit because I think that these tools do exist now for small businesses. They’re out there, they’re – you can subscribe to some of these services, to some of these technologies for $20.00, $30.00 a month, these technologies that can help you tap into these pools and get data and help you refine your ability.


Tim:                       [00:17:12] It is absolutely true, Hanna, that until five years ago, it was really expensive for businesses to buy the type of technology that I’ve been talking about and implement it. The price points have come down dramatically and you can literally buy some of these tools with a credit card and they’ll do the analytics for you or services that use tools that do it for you. So, this is now becoming in reach for smaller businesses to be able to do the types of things I’m talking about. Absolutely five years ago, it was out of reach, but now it’s getting much, much cheaper.


Hanna:                  [00:17:42] Well, thank you. I stand corrected. That’s good to know that smaller businesses can have access to this type of powerful technology. Do you have any links you could send me that I can add to the show notes, because that – you may not have them at your fingertips right now but I think it would be helpful for some of our listeners.


Tim:                       [00:18:00] I will do. I’ll send you some around the key parts that we’ve been talking about which are talent acquisition types of tools that, again, will do a lot of the analytics for you and they’re reasonably cheap sort of services. I’ll send some of that through to you because the question was, and it’s a super question, which is, well, how do you get the right people, and everything starts there, right? So yeah, I’ll be happy to send some links through for that to you.


Hanna:                  [00:18:27] Okay. Well, wonderful. Because besides information about how to contact you and links to your book, we will add links to these tools as part of the show notes for your episode. So if you’re listening, hang in there, come on over to the show notes. We’ll have you covered.




Hanna:                  [00:18:45] Now, of course, hiring and getting the right people in is absolutely crucial, definitely an important input to have productivity. But in my experience in the corporate world, a lot of people start with really great intentions in a new job and then somewhere along the line, that enthusiasm gets blunted, it gets dulled, and it’s not because they don’t have a good skill set.


Hanna:                  [00:19:11] They have been successful in their careers. They still are, but something changes because of what they’ve discovered about the organization, things that don’t get revealed in the interviews. During the interviews, everybody’s, “Wonderful, fabulous. We’re just going places and we have room for you.” You’re laughing because you get it, right?


Hanna:                  [00:19:33] I do, yeah.


Hanna:                  [00:19:34] And I’m sure we got listeners who are smiling, going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I mean, someone told me a story just recently about how they accepted a new job and in the process of accepting the job offer, the response they got from their future boss made them think at that moment to themselves, “I shouldn’t have taken this job.”


Hanna:                  [00:19:53] So, what is it that leadership needs to be aware of or put on their radar screen besides just hiring the good people but to keep them engaged and to keep them motivated? I know somebody can’t motivate somebody else but things are happening somewhere in the organization with the culture or messaging or something…


Hanna:                  [00:20:16] …somehow that makes people go, “Oh, well.” Maybe not as severe a reaction as the person I just told you about who was like, “Oh God, what did I get myself into?” but over time, they start to question, “Is this the right place for me?” They’re comfortable, but so on – anyhow, what advice do you have for leaders on that front?


Tim:                       [00:20:40] I think the key is to – and I learned this the hard way, which is anybody that I hired or worked in my team, later in my career I took time to understand what motivated them personally as well as professionally so that I could kind of have an early warning system of, okay, maybe I’m asking this person to do something that wasn’t in the original plan and I know it isn’t really very exciting for them, and create that kind of ability for them to say, “Hey, Tim, I’m not sure this is going to work.”


Tim:                       [00:21:10] And then the key to fixing that, and this is what I think a lot of organizations are doing or starting to do really well is to then say, “Right. Let’s open up the organization for other things for you to do. I’m quite happy for you to now move out of this team and into that team. Let me help you find that place that is going to really work for you,” because it doesn’t do anybody any good…


Tim:                       [00:21:29] …if you get somebody who comes in and then they get into a rut, they’re disappointed, and, “That is what I don’t want to be in.” Ideally, if that’s a good person, you want to keep them but you want to find in the organization where you could maybe invest in putting them in a different part of the organization, and it doesn’t have to be a big company to do that, right?


Tim:                       [00:21:45] Medium-sized, even small-sized companies can do this and give people new opportunities. And I think the key is to spotting that because I don’t think a lot of us are very good at going to our boss and saying, “Look, this isn’t working. Could I do something else?”


Tim:                       [00:22:00] But I think more and more leaders are recognizing that they need to create that open discussion to say, “Hey, let’s potentially have room for debate.” And quite often I would indicate that to people when they came into my team. I’d say, “Well, you’re going to join this team.”


Tim:                       [00:22:12] “But I think there’s other things that you could potentially do,” and I always just left that door open, that, “When it’s time, let me know, and let’s see if we can work something out,” rather than back to that transaction, you come in, you work for me, I give you your assignments and you go and do it and come back and tell me when you’re done and that goes on forever. I think you have to look at it as more of a journey with employees. I learned that the hard way by not recognizing when somebody was getting into a bit of a rut and then trying to help them.


Hanna:                  [00:22:39] Well, Tim, this has been really enlightening and I appreciate your sharing your insights about these various pieces of the productivity puzzle and some tips and strategies for how we can make these pieces fit together a little bit better to achieve what we all want for our employees: a satisfying work experience where we’re valued, where we’re making a difference, and for the employers, getting stuff done. I mean, it’s wonderful…


Tim:                       [00:23:08] That’s right.


Hanna:                  [00:23:08] …when you move the organization forward instead of sideways or, God forbid, backwards. So, if you’d like to contact Tim, learn more about his work on employee engagement and how to improve workplace productivity or his book Solving the Productivity Puzzle, and of course some of these tools that he just talked about, we’re going to have that information in the show notes at the episode page for his episode on


Hanna:                  [00:23:37] And if you know someone who could benefit from Tim’s advice, please tell him about today’s show. Share the link, leave a positive review on your podcast app or at Business Confidential so others can learn about this episode and discover what you did too.


Hanna:                  [00:23:54] You’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Have a great day and an even better tomorrow.

Best Moments

Conquering Technology Overwhelm to Improve Workplace Productivity

The Leadership Mindset Necessary to Improve Workplace Productivity

How to Improve Workplace Productivity Amid Waning Employee Enthusiasm

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Guest: Tim Ringo

Tim RingoTim Ringo, Chartered FCIPD, is an author, speaker and executive board advisor on topics related to HR and Human Capital. His latest book is Solving the Productivity Puzzle. Tim is a former senior executive at Accenture, IBM and SAP.

He has over 30 years’ experience as a senior executive in the HR Consulting and HR Software industry. He has architected and led some of the largest and most successful HR change programs in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

His background and deep expertise give him a unique perspective on how engaged people harnessing smart technology is transforming the world of work.

He began his career in Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in 1990 where he was Managing Director, in Accenture’s Talent and Organization, Service Line. In 2006, he was recruited to IBM Global Business Services where he led IBM’s global Human Capital Management (HCM) consulting practice.

He was most recently Vice President, SAP SuccessFactors for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He led SuccessFactors’ HR Advisory teams across the region.

In January 2021, Tim was named “Most Outstanding HR Consultant & Conference Speaker 2021 – UK” by Corporate Vision Magazine

Tim has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Max M. Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University. He is also a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD.

Related Resources:

Contact Tim and connect with him on LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Below are links to some platforms for the SMB market Tim promised to share that are powerful HCM/Analytics platforms and are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

Uzio (just a few dollars a month for each employee)
Bob (by HiBob)

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