Meaning and Nature of Productivity

Meaning and Nature of Productivity

 Productivity – Everyone has a handy definition for productivity and no two definitions are quite the same; however productivity can be seen as the relationship between the output generated from a system and the input provided to create those out. Also productivity in simple terms can be any ration of output to one or more corresponding inputs. The unit of output used can be anything e.g. Naira, units of products served or whatever is meaning to the job or organization. These definitions show us that the word productivity comes from production.

It can be seen that productivity is all about the actual inputs used in the production process and also the output that will result at the end of the production process. The relationship between the input and output tells us the quantity of inputs used given the others resources and the output to be produced. This relationship is important as it helps us to know if the productivity is low or high so that necessary adjustment could be made.

The nature of productivity is associated with the industry especially the manufacturing industries and is a sine-qua-none for all engaged in production. It is concerned with overall effectiveness and efficiency of getting things done. It means making more from what you have and working smarter rather than harder. Thus when productivity is increasing the value of output is rising faster than the cost of production; the organization or society is doing more with less.


          During the primitive era, Nigerians were engaged in production. Productivity then was mainly on subsistence level. They discovered that human beings require different products to stay alive, but it was not possible for only one man to produce all the things he requires in life, people now discovered that you can take your products to a place so that other people who need them can exchange with you.

Barter system came into existence and life continued this way for a long time. With the practice of barter, people discovered the problems associated with it like double co-incidence of wants i.e. if you have a goat and wish to exchange it with yam, how long will you search before you meet some one who is able and willing to take part in such exchange? There is also the problem of acceptable exchange rate between the goods to be exchange.

Our colonial masters rescued us by the introduction of money. This helped a lot in the selling of the goods produced. Large/modern markets were built but most of these markets had insufficient stock of goods and this led to high prices for the few available ones.

Also many industries were established but they have all been faced with the same problem. It takes them much time to produce the required outputs. In our public establishments also, the case is still the same. This has contributed much to the high rate of inflation in Nigeria.


          Many students and known scholars have carried out studies on this issue of low productivity. They have carried out research to find out the real factors responsible for low-productivity.

Victor Njoku who was a student of Business Administration/Management at the University of Lagos carried out a study on this subject.

His study was limited to the public sector and his main area of concentration was on some of the government establishment in Owerri Imo State. He discovered that the factors responsible for this are associated with the workers and nature of the workers environment. He went further to say that unless something is done to these things its will continue in our country.

Some other prominent scholars in management carried out research on the general productivity of workers in the industry. Their concern was mainly on why there is low productivity in the industries and also was of eliminating it.

Such scholars are Frederick Taylor (Scientific Management 1915) and Henri Fayol (1947) (Administrative theory). Their study is embedded in the theory known as classical theory.

The father of scientific management Frederick Taylor from Philadelphia centered his study mostly on the low-productivity in manufacturing industries. During his tenure a management consultant in a steel corporation he discovered many things after his investigation like the practice of soldering by the workers, also that without proper tools, workers productivity remained low from his findings, he postulated some principles which have been useful in management. The principles are: –

  1.  Management by intuition, systems and standards.
  2. Harmony rather than discord in group action.
  3.  Cooperative behaviour rather than chaotic individualism.
  4. Working for maximum output rather than restricted output.
  5. Development of all workers to the fullest extent.
  6.  Maintenance of standard conditions
  7. High payment for successful completion of task.

There are others who contributed to this; they are Henry L. Ganth, and Franks and Lillian Gilberth.

The real father of management Henri Fayol (Administrative theory 1841 -1918) also carried out a study on low-productivity. He brought out principles which he said were not absolute but rather could be changed as the situation demands i.e.  his principles are and depends on the particular situation at hand. His principles which have really helped a lot in solving problems of low productivity are: –

  1. Division of work
  2. Authority and responsibility
  3. Discipline
  4. Unity of command
  5. Subordination of individual interest to general interest
  6. Unity of direction
  7. Remuneration of personnel
  8. Equity
  9. Responsibility of tenure
  10. Spirit de corps (team work)

These principles are today being practiced by many industries and statistics has shown that each of these has helped a lot in increasing productivity of workers no matter the country. Therefore the reverse of these principles causes low-productivity in workers.

The Neo-classical theory (Human Relations) also carried out experiments and interviews to find out the factors causing low-productivity of workers. Elton Mayo and his group of others did this in an electronic company beset with the problem of low-productivity and have sought answers on low productivity could be increased. Although scientific management embarked upon some incentive plan to wipe out inefficiency and increased productivity, Neo-classical theory noted that significant over lap still exited between top management and employees.

Other observations made were

  1.  Individuals are not only motivated by economic incentives but by diverse social psychological factors.
  2.    The informal work group is a dominant unit influencing the behaviour of workers.
  3.     Leadership structure should be modified in order to consider psychological factors.
  4.  Increased satisfaction leads to increased productivity.
  5.    Development of effective communication system in the entire organization.
  6. Effective social and technical skills.

In the interview held, they also discovered that unconducive environment causes low-productivity and that any organization where the management neglects the informal group of workers suffers from low-productivity.

These studies are directly related to this research in that they found out the thing and reasons why we have low-productivity in our industries. Though these studies were carried out by foreigners, they are still relevant in country and also the recommendations they made will go a long way in solving this problem of low-productivity by Nigeria workers.

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