Employee and workplace productivity is a little like breathing.
It’s vital in keeping your company alive and thriving. And when all is going well, you probably don’t think too much about it.
But when things get labored, or there’s a major blockage, operations quickly grind to a halt.
On the other hand, when things are going smoothly, they tend to continue without much intervention. And that’s a good thing.
But how do you get to that point? What turns a poor performer into a productivity powerhouse? How do you make your employees more productive?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to improve and increase employee productivity at work.
The key ingredient in employee productivity
It all starts with employee engagement.
Disengaged employees drag a company down. But engaged employees show up more often, stay longer, and are more productive overall. Currently, though, only about 33% of the U.S. workforce feels engaged.
The costs of ignoring lagging employee productivity and the underlying unhealthy company culture are steep, as the newest study suggests. Disengaged employees have higher rates of absenteeism and turnover, which can drag down profits.
And it’s not just individual companies that suffer. Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.
Here are 10 key strategies to foster a culture of engagement and boost employee productivity.
1. Improve cultural fit with better recruiting
Zappos famously approaches hiring more like a courtship than a typical recruitment process. Future employees are screened, first and foremost, for how well they’ll fit in with Zappos’ Family Core Values.
Such a strong focus on cultural fit even before employees log their first hour can save time and money down the road.
In a post for RecruitLoop, Manager Foundation’s Keith Tatley writes:
While on the surface cultural fit may not seem like a critical factor in the hiring process, it is arguably one of the most important selection criteria.
Conversely, nabbing an employee that does fit your company culture is likely to energize other employees. This results in increased motivation and productivity, adds Tatley.
2. Improve employee skills with training
Once screened, hired, and on the job, training is a crucial part of ensuring productivity.
A 2013 study in the International Journal of Science and Research found that training greatly benefits both employers and employees. It also leads to greater efficiency and productivity.
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Across the study, this held true for both new and existing employees.
By improving your training processes, you can train new hires without losing your mind. It works for us, and it can work for you.
3. Encourage autonomy by not micromanaging
Back in February of 2015, we interviewed Robby Slaughter, a productivity expert. And he surprised us with his advice:
He told us that the most effective tool for increasing productivity is having managers back off.
“The best way to encourage productivity is to encourage individuals to take ownership over how they manage their own time and resources,” says Slaughter.
“This is a wonderfully self-correcting process: we want people who are self-starters and are able to operate independently. Granting workers freedom over when, how, and where they work creates proof of their work ethic in a way that trying to control them cannot.”
It’s counterintuitive: manage less and get better results.
But science backs up this premise. Most people are more strongly motivated by autonomy than financial rewards.
So just stay out of the kitchen. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.
Micromanaging can be second nature to managers who have made a habit of it. They excel at day-to-day operations, budget management, and solving problems. But they’re now required to engage in more strategic thinking.
And that’s hard.
“At higher levels managers usually need to dial down their operational focus and learn how to be more strategic,” Ron Ashkenas writes in the Harvard Business Review.
“To do so, managers have to trust their people to manage day-to-day operations and coach them as needed, rather than trying to do it for them.”
Learning how to let go and allow your employees to take control can spare you from an all-too-common vicious cycle of despair:
Managers hover. Employees get nervous and perform poorly. So managers continue to hover.
It’s a continuous, unproductive loop.
Stop it before it starts by trusting your employees to be independent.
4. Focus on the future with clear communication
It’s true in romance, and it’s true in business:
Communication is the key to success.
Without effective, two-way communication, relationships end and businesses fail. Managers who effectively communicate clear expectations and responsibilities to their employees will be rewarded with an engaged, productive workforce.
To get started creating a culture of positive communication, flip the typical script.
A CRM Learning article posits that 80% of a work-related conversation is spent on the problems of the past. That includes assigning blame.
15% is spent on what’s happening now.
And the amount of time spent discussing solutions and future possibilities?
A tiny 5%.