From Frederick Taylor’s study of brick laying manual laborers in the early 20th century, to the multi-year benchmarking of automotive plant productivity as part of the International Motor Vehicle Program, the systematic observation, measurement, and analysis of work has a strong tradition in operations management. Traditional manufacturing provided the setting for much of the early research on worker productivity. However, as we have now seen an inexorable shift towards more service driven economic output, especially in the industrialized economies, the research in operations management on worker productivity has also increasingly focused on services.
This monograph will take stock of the literature in operations management on worker productivity. The research is not exhaustive but is meant to showcase some of the interesting and relevant papers that fall into a few key themes. Mainly, the individual worker is the focal unit of analysis, and the goal is to explore the various operational factors that allow the worker to become more productive. Key areas of emphasis include the behavioral microfoundations of productivity, the effect of peers and workplace dynamics, the design and organization of work, and ways to improve human capital. Although much is known about the drivers of worker productivity, much remains unexplored. Furthermore, looming changes to the modern workplace call for new ways to think about worker productivity. For example, artificial intelligence, new models of business, and novel workplace arrangements, all have important implications for the design and organization of the modern workplace, and for the roles and responsibilities of the knowledge worker. Collectively, these developments will continue to make worker productivity a rich and exciting area of research.
Worker Productivity in Operations Management reviews the existing literature in operations management on worker productivity and outlines interesting and promising areas of future research. In contrast to approaches that involve estimating productivity at the national level or at the firm level, the author looks at the individual worker as the atomic unit of analysis in order to examine the drivers that impact worker output. Specifically, the author will focus on the operational factors that have been empirically shown to improve the individual worker’s productivity. The research is not exhaustive but is meant to showcase some of the interesting and relevant papers that fall into a few key themes explored in this monograph.
The monograph is divided into several chapters that logically build on the preceding sections. Section 2 explores the behavioral micro-foundations of worker productivity. Section 3 considers the worker as a peer in the modern workplace. Sections 4 and 5 examine the design and organization of work, such as how work is assigned to workers, and how tasks are completed, including topics of task division, sequencing, and early task initiation. Section 6 looks at how individual workers can learn to become more productive over time. Finally, section 7 examines interesting areas of future research.