Putting The Fun Back Into Productivity

Why workers are unproductive and what credit unions can do to boost employee productivity.


It takes Google 0.38 seconds to return 85.7 million results for the search phrase “how to improve productivity at work.” The importance of the question necessitates a well-considered answer because, as it turns out, we aren’t very productive.

An August TIME article provides statistics showcasing the dawdling productivity of American workers. The article cites a report by JPMorgan Chase economists Michael Feroli and Robert Mellman, who found worker productivity has grown at an annual rate of only 0.7% in the past three years despite averaging 2.9% growth from 1995 to 2005. And the reasons are deeper than just an addiction to Facebook and Candy Crush.

Why aren’t we productive? What can we do?

The study attributes poor productivity to the decline in technology growth, measured by the increased affordability of computers and other information-processing software. Although workers are constantly producing new things, rarely do they produce a radical, change-the-way-you-work product. New technologies increase efficiency, which helps to increase productivity.

But the American workers have spoken: The iPhone was so 2007.

As written in the article: “Economists believe one of the main factors that drive worker productivity is technology, as a firm invests in new technologies like new computers, software, or high-speed internet, it enables its workers to get jobs done more efficiently. Over the past generation, we have seen an incredible decline in the price of high-tech equipment, which has driven much of our economic growth over that time period — especially during the boom years of the 1990s.”

So, short of inventing new technology, what else can an employer do to improve productivity?

Make work fun.

Productivity is often linked to the happiness and satisfaction of workers. The sentiment "a happy worker is a productive worker' is generally accepted and often overlooked. Executives who believe they must choose between higher profits or happy employees have the wrong idea. It’s productivity that drives performance.

As not-for-profit institutions, most credit unions are as concerned with employee happiness and member satisfaction as they are with earning money. Employees interact with customers on a daily basis, meaning their productivity is directly linked with potential lending opportunities and member onboarding.

Credit unions continually upgrade their branch technologies and many are taking the member experience online. But credit unions can further improve employee productivity by creating a workplace atmosphere that emphasizes light-hearted competition and fun.

Productivity improves when employees are excited and motivated by their work. This can mean incentives, contests, performance thresholds, or community outreach efforts. Managers need to remind unproductive or uninspired employees why the credit union is a great place to work.

Other strategies the credit union can take are fitness or health-centric initiatives, which provide employees with light competition and help them to reach personal goals. Even a focus on intra-office social interaction can have benefits. A positive relationship between co-workers boosts employee satisfaction.

Not every credit union has the resources to upgrade technology as it improves, especially as often as it does. Creating an atmosphere that is competitive and fun provides similar productive benefits for just about any price range.

And who doesn’t like fun?


How does your credit union increase the productivity of its employees? Leave a comment in the space below.


Aug. 22, 2013


  • We started a monthly sales competetion for all employees who can sell the most products (Debit Card,ATM,Credit Card, Prepaid Cards, Loans,HomeBanking, Bill Pay, etc.). The winner gets 4 hours added on to their pay. It seems to motivate some but not everyone. I think the problem with younger generation is that they have an attitude of "The World Owes Me" so they don't really go above and beyond to better themselves and contribute to the company's growth.
  • I disagree that the younger generations think the world owes them something. That kind of thinking is a part of the problem. Young or old, there are many people who believe the world owes them something. You shouldn't generalize that to young people only. Different incentives appeal to different people. Maybe the problem is that money isn't the right incentive for your younger employees. Try something else... try asking them what would motivate them instead of assuming that because money isn't a motivator, that they think the world owes them something.
  • We try to build relationships within our department for staff to work better as a team so they want to help each other achieve their goals. We created "Healthy days" where all staff is allowed to take a 30 minute walk and be on the clock one day a week. They can walk as small groups. Everyone signs up on the specific day choosen and we allow them casual dress down. We have rotating flex schedule 7-3:30 - 30 min lunch, 7:30-4 - 30 min lunch, 8-5 - 1hour lunch & 8:30-5 - 30 min lunch. Staff seems to really enjoy the flex time. We celebrate once a month for whatever reason you want to and do a carry-in and/or make it a "theme day" where everyone brings in something to go with chinese, mexican, american, italian, baked potato, chili cookoff, breakfast food, or soup, salad & sandwichs.
  • I'd love to hear any suggestions that other c.u. are doing. We are not achieving this with our employees.