Productivity, efficiency, output, effectiveness, performance… a lot of these words are easily thrown around as jargon and viewed as synonyms but often used in the wrong context. Take it from us, we have one of the words in our name, and occasionally clients misunderstand our services, vision and goals.

Productivity VS Efficiency

The difference between productivity and efficiency is perfectly summed up by the Productivity Pro, Laura Stack:

Productivity is simply output per unit of time.

Efficiency is the best possible output per unit of time: i.e., doing things right.

When you do the right things right, you hit your maximum level of efficiency and productivity.

We like to think that productivity is more than just the measure of how effectively resources are used to produce outputs. It is all about using less to create more – to work smarter, not harder. Productivity is a mindset that continuously aspires for better ways of accomplishing tasks and conducting business.

Productivity refers to how well people, companies and entire economies convert inputs into outputs. In business, productivity is the key to profitability and its ability to thrive. But take note, companies do not become more productive because their budgets or timelines grow – each situation is unique.

Efficiency refers to the amount of effort and resources people put into work, while productivity is all about the amount of work done over a certain period.

How to differentiate between productivity and efficiency, and why it matters

Productivity Efficiency
Quantity Quality
Measure bulk output Measures proportion of output that works as intended
Performance How well you performed
Raw Refined

Just because you perform something doesn’t mean you did it well. There is a famous saying by the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal,

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

This doesn’t only apply to writing but a reminder that quality work (any work) takes time and concise refinement. It will follow a tested process that guarantees to get it right the first time, even if it takes a little longer.

The alternative option is just to put out work as fast as possible. This route may result in errors, less trust between team members and more time being used in corrections and redoing work.

According to Laura Stack, raw productivity shows how much someone accomplished. Efficiency reflects productivity that generates profit and should always serve as an input to productivity planning, so that ironically, it becomes an output as well.

Productivity + Efficiency = True Productivity

Why we’re passionate about productivity

The impact of the recent pandemic on the South African economy and business sector was significant and a hard pill to swallow. Organisations and individual productivity are more important than ever to enable swift economic recovery, or at least improvement.

Efficient work practices can be the distinctive competitive advantage of a business.

Being productive creates a sense of achievement for individuals in the workplace and often leads to greater financial reward and personal growth. As their needs are met, employees become more loyal to employers and dedicated to their work.

Productivity & time management, and what we can learn from the Pomodoro technique

As mentioned above, allowing for proper time and task management can improve productivity because one is improving the efficiency of the work. We have recently looked at how less can be more with our deep dive into the most productive countries in the world working less than 40 hours, and why multi-tasking is worse for productivity, rather than embracing the view of doing one task at a time.

A new favourite technique that passionate productivity buffs around the globe encourage people to try is the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have – rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.”

Surprisingly this approach has worked very well for individuals who get distracted quickly by external factors such as their phones, social media, idle chit-chatting with colleagues, etc.

Productivity SA helping South Africa become more productive and competitive

Our goal is to lead and inspire a productive South Africa, thereby growing the economy and increasing our country’s competitiveness within the global market.

Learn more about Productivity SA’s vision, factors that hinder productivity and the benefits of increased efficiency and true productivity here.

Remember, we are here to help you think outside of the box and would love to help with your business’ productivity and progress. From small businesses to large scale manufacturing, we can help with growing, scaling back or resetting your business with one of these appropriate programmes:

Or contact us for general consulting services or ask us about our Research, Innovation and Stats initiatives.

Productivity SA is established in terms of section 31 (1) of the Employment Services Act, No. 4 of 2014, as a juristic person with a mandate to promote employment growth and productivity, thereby contributing to South Africa’s socio-economic development and competitiveness. Productivity SA is managed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).