Blog: Why NZ is low in productivity

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NZ gets lots of publicity for having low rates of productivity. Why are we so low? Here’s why.

1. We’re all watching the little whirly thing.
Imagine how many hours a week you spend watching that little whirly thing going round and round while you wait for an Internet page to load. Yes it might only happen for a few seconds each time – but add that up each day and multiply it by however many million of us are on line = huge productivity loss. 

2. We’re too good at sport.
We are a tiny, tiny, country. How are we so good at sports where we compete with countries with millions more people? How many thousands of hours do we spend watching our brilliant sports team win at events we frankly shouldn’t be at? Other countries who are bad at sports don’t have this issue. People go to work instead.

3. We’re stuck in traffic.
I’ve lived in Wellington, Christchurch & Auckland. While the first two do occasionally have some traffic issues – Auckland is diabolical, especially for the size of the city. When it takes you 1.5 HOURS to drive 10k’s – something is wrong. And now that it’s illegal to use your phone, we can’t even multi-task. Productivity loss? Priceless.
If we could just find out who came up with putting lights on the on ramp & designing bus routes that don’t cover half the city – I’m sure they’d have other great ideas about how to fix it.

4. Christmas is the wrong time of year.
Another productivity issue is Christmas. Because we have it in summer all it does is put additional cost & stress on a holiday period that should be relaxing. And then there is nothing to break up the many months of winter & we all get sick & tired & unproductive. Now that we can transfer public holidays, let’s move the stat days to the last week of June & have a proper week off in winter. Not only will it boost our energy levels – but I’m sure Santa will be so pleased to cut down on his December workload that he’ll bring us lots more pressies! (plus really, it’s bad job design to have him working so hard for one night. His workload needs to be staggered).

5. Lastly, we do not say what we mean.
It sounds like a Dr Seuss book. We go out for dinner but don’t have a fit. We didn’t like it, not one little bit. But did we complain? No. We say everything’s fine. Then whinge how bad it was – wasting our time!
Listen, I’m originally English so I get how complaining about stuff is fun. My family are almost disappointed if they go somewhere and have a good time. Afterwards there’s nothing to discuss. “That was lovely wasn’t it?” “Yes it was”.
But have a bad experience and there are hours of complaint and fun reminiscing to be had. “That place was awful! What about when she spilt tea on the table!” “Then she dropped that cream bun in your lap. It was terrible” “Oh I know!” etc etc.

In NZ we’re a bit more passive-aggressive about it. A manager or HR comes up with a new idea and consults the team. Everyone says it’s a great idea. Then they undermine it to all who will listen, resist and finally destroy the thing from working because they didn’t think it would work in the first place but wouldn’t come out and say it.  It’s okay though – this way no-one actually had to be direct, thus avoiding conflict & only wasting hundreds of hours of time.

Having worked in Australia, here’s how the same process works over there:
HR/manager to team: Here’s this new idea we’d like to try. What do you think?
Team: Nah, that’s a bl**dy stupid idea. It won’t work because of xxx.
HR/manager: Struth, you’re right cobber (or similar expression) – let’s come up with something else that will work then.

Raising productivity:
All we need is a NZ where the internet is fast, traffic issues don’t exist, we stop being so good at sport, we celebrate Christmas in mid-winter and are all refreshed for the rest of the year and stop being passive-aggressive and start saying what we mean. Easy!

Angela Atkins is the general manager of Elephant HR. The published author has worked in HR for more than 17 years in a variety of sectors. This blog posting originally appeared on Atkins personal blog hrmanagementbites. To read the full posting click here.
How do you think NZ can improve its productivity levels? Let us know in the comment section below.
  • Graham Hart on 26/06/2014 12:35:33 p.m.

    Well we could start by being more visionary and aspirational in our strategic plans.
    We could then try and scope and resource new initiatives adequately.
    Followed by the appropriate communication and engagement efforts
    Topped off with a relentless focus on execution.
    That might help

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