10 Proven Strategies for Increasing Employee Productivity

10-proven-strategies-for-boosting-employee-productivity

Employee 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?

10 tips for boosting employee #productivity at your business… Click To Tweet

The key ingredient in employee productivity

It all starts with 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. 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. Recruit for cultural fit

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. Make training a priority

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.

Don’t have time to train a new employee?

Hire a fully trained freelancer and save time

Across the study, this held true for both new and existing employees.

But while training is an essential part of employee productivity, it can be a drain on company resources. Especially for startups that are scaling quickly.

By improving your training processes, though, you can train new hires without losing your mind. It works for us, and it can work for you.

3. Avoid 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. Communicate clearly

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%.

Employee productivity and future-focused conversations

Source: CRM Learning.

Focusing on the future—instead of rehashing past issues—demonstrates your commitment to moving forward. And that helps you find positive solutions.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore past failures. Instead, learn to approach negative situations in a positive, productive way.

“For example, if a meeting is held to address something like decreased productivity, the meeting itself will be more productive if it begins by pointing out positives that have also occurred recently,” according to CRM.

Modeling positive, open communication sets a precedent for team members at every level.

Check out our tips on improving organizational communication to get started improving team-wide communication and engagement.

5. Care about employee self-care

Between 1996 and 2000, the number of employees calling in sick to work due to stress tripled.

And what’s the most common source of stress?

The American Institute of Stress says that “occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults.”

Occupational stresses and fears are the leading cause of stress among American adults. Click To Tweet

That’s a big deal. Even when they do show up, excessively stressed employees are physically, mentally, and emotionally unhealthier. They’re also less productive.

When your team is stressed, everybody loses.

But the right kind of stress is actually motivating and good for productivity. The aim is to combat burnout before it happens.

How?

By encouraging team members at all levels to care for their mental, physical, and emotional health.

That means doing all the things necessary to foster a healthy, communicative company culture:

  • listening to employees
  • offering constructive feedback
  • giving employees challenging, meaningful work
  • establishing clear parameters for success

Even keeping your equipment up to date can help, as Amy Blackburn notes in “6 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout.”

Managers also have to model self care by showing—not just telling—employees that you value things like good sleep, work-life balance, and taking time for exercise and relaxation.

6. Allow remote work

Remote workers are more productive.

We dove deep into the research and found a lot of interesting things. Remote workers more productive, they log more hours, take less sick leave, perform better, and in general are more engaged at work.

And guess what? All this leads to significant cost savings for businesses.

Unsurprisingly, companies are catching on.

 

From 2012 to 2016, Gallup reports the number of employees working remotely jumped from 39% to 43%. And a Global Workplace Analytics survey found remote work has seen 103% growth among non self-employed telecommuters over the last decade.

7. Don’t lock down social media

Employees use social media for a variety of reasons.

Some are taking a mental break, others are using social tools to support professional connections, and sure, some are just slacking off. But cracking down on social media platforms as a way to encourage productivity can be a serious morale killer.

Strict rules around social media send a message that you don’t trust your employees. And those social media mavens, it turns out, aren’t just killing time—they’re killing it at work, too.

An Evolv study found that social media “power users” were better multi-taskers, more productive overall, and happier in their jobs.

#socialmedia power users are more productive at work—but finding balance is still crucial. Click To Tweet

And if there’s one key takeaway from current research highlighting the importance of an engaged workforce, it’s that happy employees are more productive.

If you feel the need to monitor how much time your employees are spending on social media, you can do that. Employee monitoring software, though it comes with its own morale issues, can be a big help here.

8. Offer unique perks

Tech giants like Google and Facebook understand the value of on-the-job perks.

And if Google and Facebook think it’s a good idea, you should pay attention.

These companies have become famous for offerings like massage rooms, nap pods, and complementary haircuts. And they’re onto something.

A recent Glassdoor survey reveals that four out of five employees would prefer perks to a pay raise.

You don’t have to be a Silicon Valley powerhouse to provide your team with extras that add up to loyalty and increased morale.

Think about perks that simply enrich employees’ lives:

  • Twillo gives employees a Kindle and a monthly stipend to buy books
  • Burton offers free ski passes
  • REI gives employees two full days off to do their favorite things outside
  • Tesla employees save up to 35% on movie tickets
  • eMarketer gives out business books
  • NutraClick subsidizes gym memberships

For remote team leaders, entrepreneur Miles Burke offers a handful of extras leaders can extend to off-site workers to sweeten the team dynamic.

9. Measure productivity

In today’s knowledge economy, businesses deal in ideas rather than widgets coming off an assembly line. Because of that, the classic formula for productivity no longer applies.

You can’t just divide output by input to measure productivity.

“When it comes to knowledge work, productivity is really hard to measure,” says Wharton Business School Professor Lynn Wu.

“It’s nowhere near as simple as the number of bushels a worker picked in an hour.”

But the fact remains: what gets measured gets managed.

activity-level-hubstaff

It’s more important than ever to measure productivity appropriately.

That starts with valuing the quality of the work as much as the quantity and resisting the urge to implement blanket policies that can alienate high-producing employees and cause overall morale to plummet.

To adequately and appropriately measure productivity for today’s business environment, you need productivity-measuring tools. These tools allow you to monitor, streamline, and manage projects across your entire team in a way that’s intuitive and easy to use.

10. Foster positive morale

In the end, it all comes down to this: happy, engaged employees work harder, smarter, and better.

Those who hate their jobs and feel disenfranchised or underappreciated may go through the motions, but burnout is all but inevitable.

When ingredients like open communication, a focus on self-care and autonomy, and the basic human needs of trust and respect are baked into a company culture, the result is better employee productivity.

While creating a company culture that fosters positive morale isn’t always easy, the important thing is to just start.

Throw open the lines of communication, let go of micromanaging, find the good in what your employees are doing (and tell them about it), and show you care.

Invest in employee productivity today

Many of the strategies listed above might seem counterintuitive—but it’s been shown over and over again that happy, engaged employees are more productive.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on high-end perks to foster this engagement, though.

All you need to do is put yourself in your employees’ shoes and ask yourself how you can improve your work culture so it’s more conducive to productivity.

Put in some time and effort in the coming months, and you’ll start to see employee productivity on the rise.

Want more ideas on how to improve workplace productivity? Check out our guide to choosing business productivity software.

 

How do you create a productive environment at work? Do you focus on engagement? Track productivity? Encourage remote work? Share your best tips in the comments below!