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The Important Difference Between Activity and Productivity

If you want to be a valuable employee (and that’s something that everybody should want), then you need to be aware of an important distinction.

That distinction is between being active and being productive. In other words, there’s a difference between activity and productivity.

In short, this is what is important to remember about the difference between the two: organizations want employees who are both active and productive.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Look busy” before.” Perhaps you’ve seen the phrase in action. A group of employees are gathered somewhere, perhaps talking about the big game from the previous weekend. One of them sees a member of management approaching, so he (or she) says to their co-workers, “Hey, look busy!”

In such a scenario, the workers are attempting to look active to management. But is that group of workers actually being productive? The answer: probably not. In that scenario, the common goal is to appear productive through activity. However, appearances can be deceiving.

An important aspect to remember about this issue is that there is not much of a correlation between activity and productivity. Sometimes, there is a correlation, but not in every instance. Not by a long shot. Below are a few examples that illustrate this point:

  • An employee could work an eight-hour shift completing various tasks, but not actually do anything productive.
  • On the other hand, an employee could have an idea about a better way to complete a task or activity. That idea might result in a change to a process or system that takes only a few minutes to implement, but results in a tremendous increase in productivity.
  • An employee could find themselves doing the same task over and over again, due to the fact that they’re unable to complete the task correctly. This person is being quite active, but they’re not producing the desired results. They’re not actually being productive.

And that’s what companies want: desired results. That’s why they hire employees in the first place. They want to achieve results, but they need a group of people to make that happen. And those results are tied to productivity, not simply activity.

As a result, productivity is what you should focus on, both as a prospective employee an as an actual employee. Focus on productivity on your resume. Focus on productivity during the face-to-face interview. And absolutely focus on it if you’re hired, no matter if it’s a temporary position or a full-time position.

This means finding out the following pieces of information:

  • What the company expects in terms of productivity
  • What the company expects in terms of your position specifically when it comes to productivity
  • How you’ll be measured and evaluated in terms of productivity
  • What resources you have at your disposal to increase your productivity

If you want to increase your value as an employee, then you must focus on productivity. When you focus on increasing your productivity, you increase your employer’s profitability. And when you increase your employer’s profitability, you increase your value.

Don’t just try to “look busy,” but be both busy and productive. Organizations want activity and productivity in a prospective employee, and they’ll reward those who are able to supply them.

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