Improving Work Productivity: A Guide for Managers

SME Productivity Feb 23, 2016

Improving work productivity isn’t always easy – but it’s not rocket science either. Although each person may be motivated by unique needs, everyone has the same underlying desire to contribute to society – and receive recognition for it. For one person, contribution may be measured by the dollars they earn. For another, by the life they provide for their family. And for a third, by the impact their work has on the lives of others. Regardless of what their underlying motives may be, a savvy and compassionate manager can increase the productivity of his team by focusing on the following seven activities.

Establish clear expectations

One of the biggest killers of workplace productivity is expectation misalignment. Never assume that your team knows what metrics you value. Tell them from the beginning, and everyone can work towards the same targets. If you base productivity on total sales volume, while your employee is focused on number of sales, both of you will be disappointed in the end. While your employee proudly touts his 20 new customers, you disappointedly see $10k in sales where you wanted $20k. From day one, let your team members know what’s expected of them. Will they work weekends? Are they allowed to give refunds to customers? What is required for their next promotion? Answer these questions clearly at the beginning to prevent unfortunate surprises later on.

Reward productivity, not time

The moment you focus on time in the office, rather than outcomes, productivity is stunted. Once your team recognizes that they’re expected to put in 10-12 hour days, even when they have nothing to do, they’ll find creative ways to stretch three hour projects into eight hour projects. If they have to be in the office until 7 p.m. anyway, texting or sending personal emails in the middle of the day becomes commonplace. If you’re truly interested in improving work productivity, focus on outcomes, not time. If an employee meets their quota by noon on Friday, let them go home early – or at least on time. In fact, according to Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, the most productive teams are those that work just under 40 hours a week. When people spend less time working, but are more engaged during that time, they produce more.

Consideration: What is HR strategy and is your HR plans aligned with productivity goals?

Give recognition lavishly

There is an unlimited supply of praise and recognition available in the world. Some managers believe that giving recognition to their employees prevents their own success. Others feel that, if they compliment their team too much, they will lose respect. Both assumptions are false. After all, if your team members do well, that is a reflection of your leadership. Furthermore, no one has ever lost respect from their subordinates by providing sincere recognition. Recognition is one of the cheapest, yet most valuable, currencies in the world. The cost to you is a few moments, but the value to the recipient can be worth more than a substantial pay increase. And when you treat someone like a winner, it doesn’t take long before they start performing like one.

Empower your team with the tools and resources they need to succeed

Is there a software that would save your team time, or a conference that would provide them with valuable insights? Although you should pay close attention to your budget, resources that boost productivity are not a place to cut corners. Sure, you may save yourself $1,000 a year by tracking sales in Excel instead of a SaaS application. However, if this process requires an employee worth $25/hr to spend an additional 100 hours entering data, you’re actually losing $1,500 a year! The same can be said of education. Allowing a team member to spend several days and a few grand to take a course can result in a return worth 100x the investment. Improving work productivity by removing data silos. The result is less manual task and better business insights.

Distractions at work can impact how employees spend their time. Increasing productivity levels at work can be achieved in simple ways like only checking emails every 2-3 hours. Productivity tools like an integrated business application can minimise manual tasks and boost employee productivity levels.

Exceed the expectations of your team members

If you want your team to go above-and-beyond for you, then you need to do the same for them. Some easy ways to do this are to:

  • Give employees gift cards or take them out for lunch when they do an exceptional job.
  • Allow a team member to go home early if there is a family emergency.
  • Sit down with your subordinates when they are dealing with a difficult project and help them overcome the biggest hurdles.

Improving Work Productivity: References


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