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The EY New Zealand Productivity Pulse - What makes employees productive? - EY - New Zealand

The EY New Zealand Productivity Pulse

What makes employees productive?

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The Pulse identifies four groups of workers on a new 10-point EY worker productivity scale – from ‘highly productive’ through to ‘unproductive’ – and each group is identified through a number of key characteristics.

Super Achievers – 27.3% of the New Zealand workforce

Productivity ranking of 9-10

The ‘highly productive’ group spends almost three-quarters of their time adding real value to their organisation and only 11% on wasteful activities.  They are more likely to be female, may be contract workers or people with extensive tenure and may work in the public sector. They work with a high-performing team, feel their work is valued and have clear career goals.

Solid Contributors – 45.1% of the New Zealand workforce

Productivity ranking of 7-8

The ‘productive’ group spends almost as much time as the Super Achievers adding real value and 13% of their day on wasteful activities. They are more likely to be male, in a professional or technical role in the private sector, may work in larger organisations and are highly motivated. Technology is important to their role.

Patchy Participants -  20.3% of the New Zealand workforce

Productivity ranking of 5-6

The ‘less than productive’ group spends only 61 % of their day on work of real value and a fifth of their time on wasteful activities. They are below average for the New Zealand workforce.  They may be school leavers, working in unskilled occupations or work part-time. Their skills alignment with their role is significantly lower than the first two groups.

Lost Souls  – 7.3% of the New Zealand workforce

Productivity ranking of 1-4

The ‘unproductive’ group spends only half of the working day adding real value to their organisation and over 27% of their time on purely wasteful activities. These workers don’t have the right skills for the job, don’t feel proud of their work and are worried about redundancy. For this group, our uncertain economic conditions are further affecting their productivity. They have low confidence in leadership.

Does age matter?

In a job market where senior workers are struggling to find work, employers should be aware that the older a worker becomes, the more motivated they are to contribute and the higher their productivity. 

Most productive industries

The most productive industries, based on their workers’ average ranking on the EY worker productivity scale were in order from most productive to least productive:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Retail and wholesale trade
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Manufacturing and construction were slightly under the national productivity average. 

In addition to productivity, the Pulse also tracks workers’ skill utilisation, motivation and satisfaction with their roles.

Manufacturing ranks lowest of all industry groups in motivation, skill utilisation and satisfaction, with construction not far behind. Interestingly, more than a third of construction workers plan to leave their jobs in the next 12 months. This could mean they are facing restructuring; another explanation might be they are planning to move to another employer to take advantage of the Canterbury rebuild.

The highest still utilisation is seen in the highly productive healthcare and social assistance group.

Uncertainty drags down productivity

The Pulse shows insecurity taking its toll on productivity. Managers should be aware that insecurity isn’t just generated by job losses. It’s also caused by feelings of uncertainty within an organisation and when people see negative media coverage about the health of the economy and particular industries.

In downtimes, executives concentrate on projecting confidence to the market. Given the above findings, they may also need a focus closer to home. In the current uncertainty, employees need authentic internal communications from a unified management team.




  • Braden Dickson
    New Zealand Performance Improvement Leader
    Tel: +64 9 308 1064
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