Giving more meaningful work and flexibility is key to retaining older employees longer, attendees at CEDA's Recharging and raising enterprise wide productivity event heard.
Presenters, from Deloitte, Siemens and Microsoft spoke of how their organisations are approaching productivity and innovation highlighting that with new technologies, a changing demography and sustainability, productivity is not something businesses should address; it is something they must address.
Deloitte Australia, Chief Executive Officer, Giam Swiegers highlighted factors key to business productivity.
According to Mr Swiegers, productivity is "the responsibility of the leaders within organisations to engage employees and as a result increase productivity".
"You only have high productivity when you have the right people, in the right positions and they're pretty passionate about it," he said.
Mr Swiegers said The Gallup Organisation believes that disengaged employees are costing Australia $39 billion.
"To me it seems like we lose $39 billion because we allow bad leaders to remain in charge of disengaged employees," he said.
He also spoke of the need to look at keeping retiring workers longer because less than a third of people aged 55-70 are still employed.
"If you want to retain them, our research indicates you have to do two things. You have to give them far more meaningful work... and they demand more autonomy and more flexibility."
Lastly Mr Swiegers said we need to engage in crowd sourcing: "Taking complex problems, putting them out into the Internet and seeing if there is anybody out there that can help you solve these issues."
This is extremely pertinent for a country like Australia because "the further away you are from your key markets the less productive you will be," he said.
Siemens, Chairman and Managing Director, Albert Goller said Australia is indeed the lucky country and well positioned to tackle present challenges surrounding productivity but we must act now.
"I strongly believe that a country without manufacturing will be struggling in the long term...countries that have relatively easily escaped or even moved out of this global financial crisis are the countries that have a large manufacturing base."
Though productivity is being talked about, Mr Goller said he is not sure Australia has moved it into actions.
"Seventy-six per cent of the Australian and private sector are saying it's [their] top priority, but...there were only 25 per cent who were really measuring," he said.
"I haven't seen any company investing in technology, and by doing so looking much deeper into their processes, where they haven't gained productivity."
Ultimately Mr Goller's message was that productivity is an issue which should be addressed now by collaboration with three groups: government, industry/companies as well as research and education institutions.
"We are the luckiest country at the moment... [but] can we become the most admired country by really using our resources in a way that everyone will admire?"
Microsoft, National Government Industry Manager, Brad Coughlan spoke of the dynamic workplace and the importance of people, business and technology in productivity and innovation.
According to Mr Coughlan, the challenges around driving productivity in a dynamic workplace include:
People - "What does a workplace have to do and how does it have to function if we are going to mix different sets of people together with different styles of working in a way that enables us to productively collaborate and team together to drive the outcomes that our organisations need?"
Place -"The physical aspects of our organisations, and are we geared for enabling the sorts of capabilities and collaboration that we are going to need increasingly from here on in."
Technology - "The technology aspects that will be required to enable those capabilities within the organisation."
For those things to come together in a way that makes sense there is incredible collaboration required between three key aspects. They are the human resources team, the real estate (or facilities) team and the information technology teams, he said.
Mr Coughlan's advice for companies looking to move to a dynamic workplace to increase productivity: develop a transition process upfront, make sure that the communication process is front and foremost and ensure you train your staff.