A few months ago, I read an article on Economist.com that contrasted the increases in productivity in Europe and the USA and I began to wonder what the big deal was with measuring productivity across industrialized nations. Does productivity measure the progress of people achieving their everyday tasks or does it relate to some sort of competitive advantage that helps society? I can understand the baseline measure that the more you produce in a capitalistic society the more people may be buying thus the more money may flow which might then leave you with a greater distribution of wealth. Is that really the point of the productivity chart and analysis? Are there not greater factors in the bigger picture that hold more weight and meaning?
A few weeks after reading that article I learned about the concept of Gross National Happiness while listening to NPR on my drive home. The host was discussing the many factors that nations look at to gauge the current status of their economy and this concept was mentioned. Usually nations look at GDP, productivity, unemployment, etc…but this was something different. This was something that every man regardless of their work experiences or personal struggles could relate to. A King had decided that the prosperity of his nation would not be measured in money or productivity but the overall happiness of the people in his Kingdom. Sounds way too good to be true right?
And now it’s July 7. These two concepts were meshing and mingling in my brain and I began to wonder what they both ultimately meant. One concept focuses on phsyical/monetary growth while the other includes culture, health, and the overall quality of life. It seems to me that productivity and GDP are great measurements for money…money….and money… but what about the people who are working those jobs day and day out. The productivity of a nation and it’s people are left to industrialized figures and numbers which never consider the actual people working those jobs. Couldn’t we raise productivity if people were happier? Couldn’t we raise productivity if people were motivated? In this struggling economy, productivity has increased over the year but the unemployment rate has gone up and the quality of life for most people living in the US has degraded.
Productivity and happiness combined ultimately lead to motivation. A person’s motivation to do their job well and also receive satisfaction for a hard days work and a steady paycheck as a reward. If we could take a stab at analyzing the motivation rate of our country during the last year vs the productivity, I believe we would see a sharp contradiction of the two. Productivity increased over the year as those with jobs worked harder and tirelessly not to be laid off like the millions of others. Motivation on the other hand probably fell down the drain as people were forced to work longer hours and put in more overtime to get the same jobs done as before. If we could combine a rise in productivity as well as a raise in motivation then I believe we would have the start of a very different culture. A culture were people wanted to work hard for their paycheck and self-worth rather than out of fear and mistrust of others.
Here’s to hoping one day people are both productive and motivated to work. To work for their self-reward as well as their monetary reward.