When productivity lags, there’s a natural tendency to blame employees. Managers assume their staff is just not working hard enough or lacks motivation. They usually attempt to resolve this with either a carrot or stick approach, proposing more incentives or more consequences.
They may not realize their employee productivity problems actually stem from their own behavior as leaders.
When employees lack faith in the company’s management and its ability to achieve goals, productivity levels drop. Our own studies on strategy execution reveal more than half of employees believed there was a gap between their company’s strategy and its ability to efficiently implement it. Of those respondents, 64 percent did not believe the gap could be closed.
A more productive workforce has a direct impact on your bottom line, as well as benefits that are less quantifiable but just as important. When your staff is firing on all cylinders, you’ll notice improved satisfaction, higher retention rates and less conflict.
Improving productivity starts by restoring employee confidence in your company’s ability to get things done. Here are five steps you can take this year to empower employees to be more productive.
1. Share the Strategic Plan Across the Entire Organization
When employees have a clearly outlined plan of action, they’re able to navigate their daily responsibilities more efficiently. A well strong plan should:
- Identify potential challenges early on
- Prevent operational delays or bottlenecks
- Avoid unnecessary efforts
- Help employees organize their part in the process
All departments within your organization must be involved in developing this plan and have a clear understanding of their part in its effective execution.
2. Inspire Open Communication
Employees are most productive when they feel valued and respected by their company.
That means leaders must welcome all feedback, whether positive or negative. Encourage employees to talk about their successes and failures without fear of judgment or discipline.
The CEO of Red Hat, a leading open-source software company, has done this by implementing Memo List, an email list where every employee is invited to offer comments and criticism. Like the development of open-source software, the best ideas rise to the top.
Managers should use a reward system for exemplary performance and constructive criticism for performance that requires improvement. In an environment that fosters open communication, potential issues are brought to management’s attention sooner, where they can be resolved before growing into a larger problem. This enables the team to focus on getting the job done without the inefficiencies or issues that often interfere.
It also improves cooperation and decreases conflicts.
3. Regularly Monitor Progress
Managing performance shouldn’t be a year-end endeavor. Instead, make it a routine activity to ensure everyone understands what they should be doing and how it should be done.
The key is to monitor without over-stepping. Make monitoring progress a constructive and empowering activity by asking employees to help develop a system for measuring performance. Welcome their feedback and set regular meetings to follow-up on specific suggestions and activities.
4. Encourage Employees to Connect
Productivity goes hand-in-hand with communication and collaboration. If you want to improve one, you must improve the others. Plan happy hours, lunch outings and other out-of-office events to encourage interaction among employees across all departments.
Some offices have workout rooms or pool tables in shared spaces that encourage employees to connect during breaks; Google even has a ball pit. You don’t have to invest in elaborate playgrounds to build connections, however. Start small by initiating office-wide tournament pools or welcome parties for new employees. It’s especially important to build this rapport among a virtual team, where spontaneous interactions don’t happen as naturally.
Having informal, one-on-one video chats and time to socialize through virtual get-togethers can help your team feel more connected, even when you’re separated by distance. For more tips on building connections in a virtual team, check out our blog post (Link to Why Building Trust Is Key To Managing Conflict in Virtual Teams)
Relationship building outside the office improves teamwork on the job, which will positively impact productivity.
5. Eliminate What Doesn’t Make Sense
If a task doesn’t directly influence productivity, sales, quality or safety, there’s a good chance it can be eliminated. Ridding your operation of tasks that no longer contribute to goals will free time and energy that can be better spent on more important priorities.
Nearly every company has some extraneous processes or tasks that don’t add value. In the movie Office Space, it’s the new coversheets on the TPS reports.
At your company, perhaps it’s multiple layers of approval for expense reports or vacation time when you ultimately only need one person to sign off on them.
Identifying barriers to getting things done efficiently and making an effort to remove them is one of the most effective ways to promote productivity. This enables your staff to work smarter instead of always striving to work harder.
What are the secrets of the companies that empowered their employees to make remarkable achievements in the past year? To find out, download our free guide, “5 Companies That Excelled At Executing Strategy in 2014.”