Productivity Vs. Efficiency: What’s the difference?

Productivity Vs. Efficiency

Productivity Vs. Efficiency – Concepts with similar meanings are sometimes confused. The success or failure of a business entity largely depends on its performance in the market, which is based on productivity, and efficiency. One of the main goals of all organizations across the globe is to increase productivity and efficiency. Therefore, many people need to understand the two terms, which differ because productivity is the ratio between output and output in a production process.
On the other hand, efficiency refers to the proportion of the output produced to the standard output that could be generated utilizing fewer resources within a specific timeframe.


What is Productivity?

Productivity is getting more output from your resources within a given performance. You are more productive when output increases in your personal or professional life.

Productivity in business is the tangible product or intangible service achieved per worker or hour.

The assessment of business productivity evaluates how effectively companies or individuals utilize labor, time, and capital inputs to yield high-quality outputs, such as products and services.

For example, a company doing the same job with a profit margin of $1 million is more productive than another with a profit margin of $50 thousand.

Today, entrepreneurs focus more on results and numbers due to the market’s competitive nature. However, productivity is not limited to the number of goods produced or services rendered in a given time period. Rather, productivity is the quantitative relationship between a unit of output and units of particular inputs.

Therefore, productivity is calculated over the outputs of each factor resource (employee, capital, time, costs, etc.).

On the other hand, personal productivity measures how well you perform and reach your goals while balancing all aspects of life.

How do you measure productivity?

We measure personal productivity through criteria such as completed tasks, deadlines, personal growth, and increased income.

The simple formula for measuring productivity in business is this:

Total Output/Total Input = Efficiency

For example, John works 10 hours a day and packs 500 bottles.

He packs five hundred bottles for 10 hours of Input.

So his productivity is 500 bottles per hour /10 hours = 50 bottles.

Personal productivity = Total hours spent working/ Hours spent on productive activities X100

The total number of hours spent working is the hours spent at a desk or the hours you have to work. Productive hours are the hours you work with distractions and breaks in mind.

If you work 12 hours daily but spend 2 hours surfing social media, then your productivity is the time you spend working, which is 12 hours minus the time spent on social media, which is 2 hours.

Productivity = Time spent working = Total time – Time spent on social media

Productivity = 12 hours – 2 hours

Productivity = 10 hours

Therefore, your productivity in this scenario is 10 hours.

Productivity Example

If you are the HR manager of a company committed to performance, your boss may want you to meet with more people daily to fill a gap.

You cut talk times and some standard questions to beat the deadline. You meet with more people and deliver results as desired.

However, you compromise on quality and get very tired. As HR, you cannot go into the in-depth details of the interviewees, which subsequently affects their output and increases administrative costs on training and development.

So high productivity or performance is only sometimes good for business, which leads us to efficiency.

What is Efficiency?

Efficiency is the ability to do something or achieve results without wasting resources such as time, effort, or money. 

Focusing on getting the best or the same results with minimum effort and less time without sacrificing quality is doing things right.

In general, the term efficiency refers to the highest level of performance that uses the least resources to produce the most output.

How do you measure efficiency?

Efficiency measures how much work or energy you save to achieve a goal.

It is the energy output divided by the energy output and then multiplied by 100.

Efficiency = Total Output/Total Input × 100 

The reason we multiply by a hundred is that efficiency is a percentage. The higher the ratio, the more efficient a process will be.

Efficiency examples

Let’s take two people, one with the ability to write 30 words and the other with the ability to write 80. If both were to type the same 2400-word document, the first individual would take 80 minutes, while the higher word-count typewriter could do the same in 30 minutes.

However, if it takes 2 hours to edit content from an 80-word writer and 30 minutes from a 30-word writer, the faster writer is inefficient, even at a speed of 2.5.

What is the relationship between Efficiency and Productivity? 

Productivity vs. Efficiency – Being productive means doing more work in the same time frame, but being efficient means doing the same amount of work with fewer resources, such as time.

Efficiency and productivity are two different things, but you must remember that they are interdependent. While productivity is about the number of goods and services, efficiency is how well you produce or provide the service. 

So, if there are not enough resources, the work is not done well (less efficient), hurting output or productivity (less productive). Ultimately, your productivity depends on how efficiently you use your resources. 

Productivity takes a proactive approach, while productivity is reactive.

Efficiency aims to produce the best possible results in any given situation. 

A company’s productivity tends to decrease as its budget or time frame expands. A company should concentrate on achieving more with its current resources to maximize efficiency.

Businesses prioritizing efficiency emphasize making the most of their available resources, no matter how big or small their budgets.

How to achieve the right balance of productivity and efficiency?

Businesses and people who want to improve their lives should strive to increase productivity and efficiency; below, we explain why.

While productivity delivers quantity, efficiency delivers quality. 

Returning to the example of HR, which undermines the quality of interviewees in their quest to increase productivity, we note that incompetent employees cost the business more in the long run.

Efficiency takes into account the cost factor, while productivity does not.

Productivity is the refined measure, while productivity is the raw output.

Raw productivity reflects numbers, while efficiency indicates the quantity and quality of units produced or services rendered, positively affecting a business’s profitability. Organizations should always consider efficiency when planning to increase productivity.

For example, in the productivity example of a company that produces 40 high-quality batteries versus a company with more than 50 battery outputs, the company that produces high-efficiency batteries will sell more because it has a good reputation for batteries.

Productivity Vs. Efficiency

Quantity and Quality

The major debate between efficiency and productivity is on the quantity and quality difference. 

Efficiency emphasizes more on the quality of output. On the other hand, productivity is all about the quantity of output. So, quantity and quality difference exists.

Cost affects efficiency

Efficiency is concerned with using minimum cost to attain maximum output. However, productivity is less concerned with expenses. If we are getting great results, it means we are productive. So, efficiency emphasizes more on cost-effectiveness.

Waste Vs. Output

We are efficient if we minimize cost, effort, and resources to get high-quality results. In contrast, productivity is just concerned with the maximum output generation. We are not concerned about the waste of time and effort.

Basis for ComparisonProductivityEfficiency
MeansProductivity refers to the rate atEfficiency implies the state of
which products are produced, orproducing maximum output with limited
tasks are performed.resources and minimum wastage.
ExplainHow much output is produced by oneHow well resources are used.
unit of input.
Focus onQuantityQuality
RatioOutput per InputActual Output to Standard Output

This table summarizes the key differences between productivity and efficiency based on means, explanation, and focus areas.

Importance of Productivity and Efficiency

An organization adopts several strategies to achieve its goals. Efficiency and productivity are part of many strategies. Companies need to emphasize productivity, and sometimes efficiency plays a vital role in business success.

Companies use a combination of productivity and efficiency to accomplish projects. At the end of the day, we need both quality and quantity to increase the profit ratio. So, we must recognize all of them while making strategies.


Efficiency and productivity are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Efficiency is limited to achieving similar results in quality and less time. On the other hand, productivity is about quantity.
If you focus only on efficiency, you lose productivity, which increases profits. If you focus solely on productivity, you will lose efficiency and fail to account for core costs such as waste and correction costs.
Therefore, efficiency and productivity must be intricately linked for a company to achieve actual productivity.

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