Corporate Productivity Predicted to Rise in Down Economy

Study: Companies expect their workforces to be more productive

SEATTLE, WA (March 2, 2009) – At least there is one bright byproduct of a gloomy economy: many managers are upbeat about the short-term productivity prospects in their organizations, according to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). The study found that the majority of respondents forecast that productivity will increase in their firms over the next six months. Only 15% foresee a productivity dip, while 32% believe it will stay the same in the near future.

The predictions reflect a renewed interest out of necessity by companies, as most reported that they are focusing hard on raising their productivity in these tough times. A whopping 86% of respondents said that “there will be an increased emphasis on productivity” over the next six months. This strong productivity focus may already be paying off, suggests data recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the BLS preliminary report showed that productivity in the nonfarm business sector rose 3.2%. For the full year of 2008, productivity rose 2.8%, the highest growth rate since 2004.

What factors will boost productivity? First and foremost, firms plan to work smarter. Among those that think productivity will rise, two-thirds cited improvements in work processes. Half (49%) also cited greater effort and engagement on employees’ part, and about the same percentage pointed to more effective workforce management. A little over a quarter (29%) think that “fewer workers but no reductions in overall production” will improve productivity numbers.

“At some point in a downturn, productivity usually starts to climb in the face of layoffs. Companies are forced to meet their production targets using fewer staff members,” notes Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s senior VP of research. “But our research indicates that there are plenty of factors at play as well. Organizations strive to make work processes more efficient even as they try to engage employees better.”

The i4cp study also showed that top bosses tend to be more optimistic about their company’s productivity than lower-level managers and supervisors. Whereas 83% of CEOs think their organizational productivity will rise in the first six months of 2009, just half of vice presidents polled think productivity will spike in the next half-year, and less than half of managers (47%) foresee a rise. Among supervisors, almost a quarter (22%) believe productivity will actually decrease to at least a moderate extent.

The 2009 Productivity Pulse Survey was conducted in conjunction with in January 2009. The total number of respondents was 339. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

i4cp is the world's largest vendor-free network of corporations focused on improving workforce productivity. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members - among the largest and most respected organizations in the world - access to:

  1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent "reinventing the wheel,"
  2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,
  3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,
  4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.
With more than 40 years of experience and the industry's largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity. For more information, visit