“Research on the effect of human factors on productivity is a much neglected field. While productivity is the new buzzword, making a rapid journey from the backwaters of economic jargon into the mainstream political rhetoric, there are very few hard, established facts on its causes. Jerome M. Rosow, of the Work in America Institute, refers to it as “the productivity puzzle”. Science reports that “everybody talks about the lag in the growth of productivity, but nobody seems to know enough to do enough about it.” Hence, this presentation focuses on working hypotheses, not on a synthesis of findings. The following hypotheses seem fruitful:
Productivity is determined by a multiplicity of economic, cultural, psychic and political factors. Moreover, all these factors contribute significantly to the changing productivity rates. Therefore, those who seek to explain these rates must deal with this multiplicity of factors – and their interaction – rather than limit their analysis to one discipline.
Among the noneconomic factors, an odd combination stands out as particularly important: early formative socialisation and the total societal context seem more consequential to higher productivity levels than the immediate job context or later socialisation – such as supervisory style, details of organisational design or additional education. What is most consequential, in the longer run and for nationwide productivity, is the direction of society — wether our top national priority is placed in re-industrialisation or quality of life.
To the extent that evidence will support the preceding hypotheses, it would follow that proper selection of employees is more important than their proper education (including training); that improved matching of employees to jobs is more important than their proper education; and that job restructuring will achieve more than will those attempts aimed at changing the basic personalities of employees. I turn now to discussing, in some detail, these three lines of hypothesis-developments.”