Personal Perspectives on Productivity: Part I

As promised, it’s time to get personal: we’d like to kick off our brand-new series of posts on workplace productivity with an interview with John Campbell, the Group Manager for Business Improvement and Innovation for the New Zealand Customs Service.

As someone who’s passionate about inspiring, motivating, training and maintaining enthusiastic and productive staff, John is perfectly placed to share his views on the issues affecting professionals in the modern workplace. Check out his thought-provoking responses to our questions below:

PEPworldwide:nz: What do you believe has the biggest impact on workplace productivity in your workplace and why?

John Campbell: Employee engagement has the biggest impact. We all know that if we do not involve our people in the work and the development of the future, then they feel isolated and disengaged. However, engagement is not enough on its own. We ask our people to think of new ways of doing business and to come up with business improvement initiatives. And when they do, we need to listen. I think we need to shift our thinking so that we put our people first, we give them timely and accurate feedback, we keep them involved and make them part of the process. When we do this they work better, they see the benefits of their work and are proud that it was their idea.

PEPworldwide:nz: What do you think are the biggest challenges for people in maintaining an effective work/life balance?

John Campbell: The pace of work. We have all got used to being connected and technology has allowed large quantities of work to be pushed through at faster rates, with managers requiring faster turnaround times. We all need to manage our time, look after our people, understand when we have loaded people up and look out for signs of stress and disengagement. It is not just about empathy – it is about the whole picture, talking to staff, forecasting peaks and troughs and trying to level them a little – or to at least prepare for the peaks and stand people down in the troughs.

PEPworldwide:nz: Have you identified any particular trends (for example, a move towards paper independence or remote working) around current methods of working in your industry?

John Campbell: The earthquakes in Christchurch and Wellington have created a different work model for us. Christchurch Customs House was not affected and it was all about looking after our people; our temporary accommodation in Wellington has no fixed IT infrastructure and is limited in size. As a result, we have become more flexible in our arrangements: we accept people can work from home, we ensure we use technology for meetings where possible (for example FaceTime, as we have no videoconference facilities) and we ensure we have a mobile technology to support this.

PEPworldwide:nz: What do you think will have the biggest impact on the way we work in the future and why?

John Campbell: Data. We will become a data management, knowledge-driven industry and will move away from fixed infrastructure and process-driven customer engagement. We will use data to process customers and manage the movement of goods and services.

PEPworldwide:nz: What do you find to be the most useful aspect of working in a modern digital environment?

John Campbell: The efficient use of time and use of technology to free up people to concentrate on core aspects of our business. It allows us to redirect the workforce to achieve what we want them to achieve – and not waste time on tasks that have to be done simply because there is no system for dealing with them.

PEPworldwide:nz: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of working in a modern digital environment?

John Campbell: Ensuring the right people have access to the right information at the right time while ensuring our customers only enter the information once. We can then use that information across the industry or business as many times as we like.

PEPworldwide:nz: If time, money and resources were no object, what would you invest in or implement to take your business not just to the next level, but beyond?

John Campbell: From a corporate perspective, I would invest in an enterprise management tool to track our business and monitor performance, benefits and trends. From a tactical perspective, I would invest in technology to process goods and people across the border without them knowing it’s happening, while freeing up our people to engage in more physical border protection activities (for example, searches and intercepts).

We’d like to thank John for sharing his thoughts and initiating what we hope will become an evolving discussion on workplace productivity. Look out for our next posts in this series, which will explore each of the questions above in more detail, with responses from other executives in different industries. And in the meantime, don’t forget to share any insights of your own – we’d love your feedback, too.