How do you actually get your team to be more productive without constantly motivating and micromanaging? Why do some teams seem to get things done effortlessly while others struggle to meet deadlines?\nIt’s frustrating when your team is always behind. No matter what you do, you never seem to catch up. You know your team is capable of being productive — you just don’t know how to help them get there.\nWe’re here to help.\nThese proven strategies will help you improve your employees’ productivity and keep your business operating at peak efficiency. You don’t need to drive your employees to burnout, either. The best tactics are good for your business and for your team.\n Some teams seem to get things done effortlessly. Others struggle to meet deadlines. Your team’s productivity is within your control. \nRead straight through or use the links below to jump to the sections you need most.\n\nDefining employee productivity\nFactors that impact productivity\nHow (and why) to measure your team’s productivity\nStrategies to improve employee productivity\n\nSet expectations\nIdentify and stop micromanagement\nHow to hire for your culture\nOnboard the right way\nDevelop your team’s skills\nRecognize and reward achievements\nImprove team communication\nProvide valuable feedback\nHave more effective meetings\nTry flexible scheduling\nEquip your team with the right tools\nMake time for focused work\nTake care of your employees’ health\nFix workflow issues\nBuild transparency and unity\n\n\nNext steps\n\nWhat is employee productivity?\nEmployee productivity means that your team is effective and efficient. They use their work hours wisely to produce more and better results in less time.\nBeing productive is about more than “getting stuff done.” A person who tweets random content on your business page is technically doing something, but they’re not exactly being productive, right?\n You always hear the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” but how do you actually DO that? \nIn order to be productive, your team needs to meet three criteria:\n\nThey get through their work and finish a reasonable quantity of tasks. This means they’re meeting deadlines and not spending too much time on any one thing.\nThey do good quality work. The finished results meet or exceed your expectations.\nThey don’t waste time on things that are lower priorities. Time and effort are used efficiently.\n\n\nIn other words, productive employees focus on the right things at the right times. There’s very little wasted effort, and the work they do creates the results you want.\nThat’s why it can be so difficult to turn around a team that’s struggling to be productive. Employees are working, probably more than 40 hours a week, and they think you’re telling them to work even harder.\nBut the common advice “work smarter, not harder” doesn’t help in this situation. That leaves you with an important question. How do you work smarter? You can power through hundreds of tasks every day, but if they’re the wrong tasks, you’re still not productive.\nTo get your team back on the productive path, you need to understand what’s going on in your team and address those specific challenges.\nWhat factors affect your team’s productivity?\nDealing with productivity issues is often complicated. The problem has more than one source. Some of these factors will be outside of your control — like a global pandemic.\nStill, there are plenty of things you can do to help your employees be more productive. Focus on the things you can influence and worry less about all the stuff you can’t fix.\n\nFor example, it pays to invest in your team’s wellbeing. Encourage your employees to stay physically and mentally healthy. Actively work on your company culture. These things show your team that you care and have a direct impact on productivity.\nThe way your company operates is important, too. Things like your work environment, communication habits, and workflows all make a big difference.\nBefore you can create an effective strategy, you need to know what factors are currently hurting your team productivity. Here are some things to look out for.\nPhysical and mental health\nEven before the pandemic, 61% of employees reported that they’re burned out at their current job. 31% feel high levels of stress at work.\nStress is terrible for productivity. Think about it. When you feel frazzled, don’t you find it hard to do great work?\n\nStressed out employees are more likely to make mistakes. They’re also more likely to get sick because stress suppresses the immune system. The more stressful your work environment, the more often your people take sick days.\nEven worse than taking frequent sick days is when employees come to work ill. This is known as presenteeism – employees are present at work but not productive. Sick team members perform poorly and are likely to pass their germs around, making the problem worse.\n Even BEFORE the pandemic, 61% of employees reported that they felt burnt out at their current job. \nThis is why so many modern companies offer employee wellness programs. Studies show that these wellness programs can improve productivity by up to 11%.\nYou don’t need a huge budget to launch a program of your own.\nGood programs give your employees the resources and freedom to meet their personal health goals.\n If you offer a wellness program, you have to be the top participant. Set the example. Prove to your employees that this stuff matters. \nTry some of these ideas to make room for wellness at your company:\n\nEncourage a 20-minute break each morning for a walk, a quick workout, or some simple stretching exercises\nSet a company wellness goal. If your team uses fitness trackers, set a group goal to walk a certain number of total steps. If you meet the team goal, you can celebrate by going to get a healthy lunch together\nSee if your team health plan provider offers any wellness support programs\nGet your team together to participate in a marathon or obstacle course race\nStart a weekly fitness class, either virtual or in your office\nPromote a healthy work-life balance by setting clear communication rules. If people are used to answering messages or sending emails after hours, put a stop to it\nGive your employees permission to take mental health days. They’re not going to be productive when they’re overwhelmed anyway\n\nWhatever you decide to do, make sure that you participate.\nYou can’t force employees to take care of themselves. But you can set the right example. Stop sending Slack messages after hours. Talk about the meaningful things you do outside of work. If you set a wellness challenge, be the one to beat.\nAt Hubstaff, we use our Communication Manifesto to help us set healthy limits. Nobody should be available at all times, and we encourage team members to turn off notifications when they step away from work. Personal time is not negotiable.\nTo set up your own Communication Manifesto, download ours as a useful starting point.\n\n\nSkills and knowledge\nObviously, it’s important to have the right technical skills. An experienced, competent team member finishes work much more efficiently than someone who’s still learning the job.\nSoft skills matter, too. Someone with great organizational skills and a strong sense of responsibility to their team is more likely to be productive.\nYou might be tempted to blame your employees’ lack of knowledge or skills for their productivity issues. Be careful. Having the right skills is just a small part of the picture. If there are other roadblocks, even your most experienced team members will struggle to work efficiently.\n Addressing information gaps is an ongoing process. \nThink about the way knowledge is stored and shared at your company.\n\nIs it easy to find information about processes and procedures?\nCan employees access historical data to make informed decisions?\nDo all decisions need to go through you?\n\nTo be productive, your employees must be knowledgeable and you must make information accessible.\nAddressing knowledge gaps is an ongoing process.\nKeeping information organized takes continuous effort. At the same time, your team needs to keep up with changes in your industry. Build good habits and your knowledge base will improve over time.\nWorkflows and processes\nInefficient workflows are a major drain. Your employees can spend more time figuring out how to do their job than they actually spend doing the job.\n\nThis is a common problem. Studies show that 39% of employees feel that the document management processes at their company are broken, with the biggest issue being actually locating documents. Another 55% of newly hired employees say that they don’t get access to the tools and documents they need during onboarding.\nCommunication issues like these are expensive. Businesses lose $26,041 per knowledge worker every year due to communication barriers.\nThe most productive companies write things down. An employee should never have to ask you how to do a job — but if you are the only person who knows how things are supposed to be done, then everyone has to come to you for answers.\nDon’t become your company’s biggest bottleneck.\n 39% of employees feel that their company’s document management process is broken. \nDefine roles, write down processes, and keep your workflow documents up to date. You’ll be able to spot inefficiencies in the way you handle projects and you’ll make it easier for your team to do their jobs independently.\nThe Hubstaff team uses Hubstaff Tasks for this. We automate our workflows and use comments, checklists, and attachments to keep all the relevant information available to anyone who needs to work on a project. Because we work from our project management software, it’s easy to hand off work efficiently and jump in to help whenever needed.\n\nWork environment\nDuring the pandemic, lots of companies saw firsthand how your work environment affects productivity.\nFor some people, working from home was a great productivity booster. They found that they could focus better and get more done because they had more control over their environment. Conditions were more comfortable and it was easier to limit interruptions.\nOthers found it much harder to adjust to their new environment. Household distractions made it hard to focus. Many were unable to create a dedicated space for work.\n\nYou can learn from this. Your team’s workspace can either help them be more productive or make it harder to get work done.\nYou might have limited control over your team’s work environment, especially if they work remotely. However, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. A few tweaks can go a long way.\nFurniture\nYour employees spend 8 hours a day at their desks, so it’s important that they’re comfortable and healthy. If you can, it’s wise to equip your team with ergonomic office furniture.\nEven in a well-designed chair, prolonged sitting is associated with some serious health risks. Fortunately, standing desks are proven to boost productivity, too.\n\nSimilarly, providing each employee with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse reduces chances of one of the most common workplace injuries — carpal tunnel syndrome.\nLighting\nNatural lighting reduces eye strain and headaches. It’s also a major mood booster, which may be why natural light is linked with better productivity at work.\nPut the people with the most computer-based work at seats that face windows. They’ll get the most benefit and you’ll get the biggest team productivity boost.\n Natural lighting reduces eye strain, helps boost mood, and is linked with better productivity. Open up those blinds and let in some sun! \nThis might now always be possible. Some offices just don’t have enough windows to ensure all employees get some sunlight. In those cases, consider getting some daylight lamps to imitate natural light in the office.\nCompany goals\nHere’s an experiment you can do right now:\nPick 3 employees at random from different departments. Send them each an email or Slack with this message:\nHey, [name], I’m working on my communication strategy and I’d like to see how well I’ve done so far. Could you tell me in your own words what you consider our main goal as a company?\nDo you think you’ll get the same answer from all 3 people?\nWhen you write down goals and share them publicly with others, you’re more likely to achieve them. Give your team the chance to work together to achieve something awesome.\nIf your company’s goals are unclear, your team has nothing to focus on. Instead of working towards a bigger picture, they’re just finishing tasks and checking items off their list.\nIt’s hard to stay motivated when you feel like you’re just doing busy work.\nYou face a different challenge if your company goals are so far out of reach, it doesn’t even feel worth trying. Striving towards an impossible goal isn’t a recipe for success. It’s a straight road to burnout and frustration.\n\nThe goals you set for your company should be:\n\nSpecific\nMeasurable\nAchievable\nRelevant\nTime-bound\n\nThese are known as S.M.A.R.T. goals. If you’re missing any of the points on this list, you’re not giving your team the tools they need to achieve.\nStudies also show that specific and challenging goals lead to higher performance compared to non-specific ones like “do your best.”\nIt’s important that company goals are aligned with employees’ individual goals as well. When setting company goals, consider how these align with your employees’ personal and professional plans.\nHow to measure employee productivity?\n\nThe best way to measure productivity for your company depends on your industry, company size, and the types of products or services you sell. Most companies measure productivity based on:\n\nPercentage of goal met – One way of determining productivity is to set a goal for each team or department. This might be a number of sales a team needs to drive, or an amount of revenue they need to generate. The goal should be specific and measurable.Then, calculate productivity based on what percentage of the goal the team or department has managed to reach in a given period. The formula looks like this:\n\n\nFor example, imagine you have a bunch of new products for your online store, but you can’t list them until your team finishes photography, writes descriptions, and adds the new items to inventory. You can set a goal for your team to add 65 new products to the website this month. If they get 73 products on the site, they met 112% of the goal. If they only get 52 products added, they met 80% of the goal.\nThis measurement works well for goals with numeric values, but doesn’t give you any indicator of quality.\n\nNumber of tasks completed – You can also measure productivity by looking at how many tasks an employee or team has managed to complete in a specific period. This method works best for repetitive, production-based jobs. For example, you might track the number of support tickets closed. For jobs with more variation in day-to-day tasks, this metric can be misleading. A developer might have a task to fix a display issue and a task to build and test a new type of contact form on your website. The time and effort required are drastically different, so simply completing the task is a poor measure of productivity.\nRevenue per employee – Some companies opt for looking at productivity as the amount of revenue they generate per employee. You can calculate your company’s revenue per employee by dividing the total revenue by the total number of employees.\nThis measurement tells you about the overall productivity of your team instead of showing you how effective an individual employee is. As you work to improve productivity for your entire company, this is an informative number.\nLabor productivity formula – According to the labor productivity formula, productivity equals total output divided by total input. For example, let’s say your business generates $100,000 in revenue in a month with the help of 1,500 work hours. In that case, your productivity would be $100,000 \/ 1,500 hours = $66 per hour.\n\n\n\nActivity level – If your team works remotely, tracking activity level is a smart way to spot productivity issues in real-time. Hubstaff users can see this information in the dashboard. Activity levels should be treated as an indicator, not a specific measure of productivity. Use historic data to help you understand how your employees work on a regular basis. Changes to individual or group activity levels can tell you that it’s time to check in.\n\n Recommended reading\nWhat, Why, and How to Measure Remote Employee Productivity\nA Guide to Employee Productivity Metrics You Can Actually Use\nHubstaff Productivity Benchmarks Report\nThe importance of measuring productivity\nIf you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.\nThis applies to productivity as much as any of your other business metrics. Tracking employee productivity allows you to do all of these things:\nImprove profit margins\nProductive employees make money for their companies. This is the whole point of measuring and improving your team’s productivity, right?\nTracking results gives you valuable insights that show you how to make more money.\nFor example, maybe you discover that your employees get more work done when they work from home. Remote work lowers your overhead costs, too. Inspired by this, you might make flexible work arrangements more available.\n Productive employees make more money for their companies. \nIdentify your most valuable employees\nAll your employees are good at what they do — that’s why you hired them. Still, some seem to consistently accomplish more.\nThey might be better at organizing their time or prioritizing work. Maybe they don’t mind coming in early or leaving late on those few occasions when there’s an important deadline.\nSometimes, it’s hard to notice all the efforts these kinds of employees take to provide more value to your business. This is where it helps to measure employee productivity on an individual level.\nUncover workflow issues\nAn effective workflow helps you complete more tasks while using as little time and resources as possible.\n\nHowever, your workflows might have bottlenecks or other issues that make it harder to stay on track. Workflow issues range from unclear guidelines and lack of information to poor team organization and workload imbalances.\nThese problems aren’t as visible as you’d expect. Work gets backed up like traffic behind an accident. The difference is that a problem in the middle of the workflow can cause issues at the beginning, middle, and end. Until you look at the entire process, you just see the general backup.\nHow to improve employee productivity\nWe’ve talked about the variety of things that affect productivity, from your company goals to your employee’s mental health. You also explored some of the reasons why tracking is so important.\nNow it’s time to break it down and look at specific ways to fix your productivity problems.\nOnce you’ve identified the sources of your productivity problems, use these strategies to improve.\n1. Set clear expectations\nYour team only knows what you expect from them if you tell them.\nDo you want your team to do things like this?\n\nUpdate all tasks in your project management software with their current status before the end of the week\nRespond to emails and messages within the same day, even if the response is “I got your message and I’ll look into this on Wednesday”\nProofread all marketing materials before turning them in for approval\n\nYou need to tell them clearly that it’s important. It’s not as obvious as you think.\nMaybe you think it’s ridiculous that you need to tell your employees to double-check their work for typos, but they might think that the whole reason they submit for approval is because it’s your job to catch those errors.\n You need to be clear about what’s important to you. Most of the time, it’s not as obvious as you think. \nIf you don’t make your expectations clear, there’s anger and resentment on both sides. You want things that you’re not getting. Your team feels like you’re being demanding and unfair.\nAs you work on communicating your expectations, it’s okay to challenge your employees. As long as you’re realistic, you can ask for a little more.\nStrike the right balance between what your team delivers now and what you know they’re capable of. Look at each employee’s past performance data. This can give you an idea of their limits.\nIt’s unwise to ask for a drastic increase in results, even if you know they can get there with more effort. Expectations that look too difficult will actually hurt performance. Your team feels that since they have no chance of reaching that goal, they might as well not try at all.\nUse S.M.A.R.T. goals to set specific benchmarks in areas like these:\nJob-specific performance\nPerformance goals are some of the most important when you’re working on team productivity. These expectations should be directly linked to your larger business goals.\n When setting performance expectations, make sure that it’s something your employee can directly influence or control. \nFor example, let’s say you want to reduce the number of returns your customers make. Your job-specific expectations might look like this:\n\nFor customer support, the average satisfaction rating for each agent should be at least 3.6 stars\nFor your shipping department, overall order errors should be below 0.25%\nFor development, any website-related bugs assigned to a developer should be fixed within 5 business days\n\nGoals may be individual or might apply to a specific team. Of course, you can evaluate multiple metrics to give you a more complete picture of job performance.\nBe careful to choose a measurement that your employee can directly influence. It’s frustrating for everyone if you expect your marketing team to drive online sales, but they have no control over the layout and functionality of the website. It may be more realistic to expect your marketing team to drive a certain amount of qualified traffic.\nIt’s also important to let employees know how often their performance will be reviewed.\nSome of your performance expectations may be tracked on an ongoing basis. Due dates are a good example. You’ll notice immediately if a task or project is past due.\nOthers can be measured at specific intervals. It makes sense to track website traffic each month. Higher-level metrics can be reviewed every quarter or once per year.\nCommunication\nHave you ever hesitated to send someone a message because you knew they weren’t going to respond before you found the answer on your own? It’s frustrating when your team isn’t there when you need them.\nSet some basic communication guidelines to help keep your team running smoothly. These expectations might include:\n\nBeing respectful, honest, and straightforward when talking with coworkers\nUsing the right communication channel for the situation (e.g., emails for lengthy discussions, Slack messages for quick updates, etc.)\nResponding to messages promptly\n\nFor example, you might tell your team that emails can be checked once or twice a day, but direct Slack messages should be checked within a couple of hours.\nYou can also set limits on how public Slack channels are used to make sure you’re sharing information without interrupting everyone’s day. At Hubstaff, we expect our team to reply in comment threads instead of the general channel to keep conversations organized and prevent important updates from getting buried.\nTeam communication can make or break your productivity. For more help, get our free Communications Manifesto.\n\n\nMeeting deadlines\nYou set deadlines for a reason. Due dates help you manage priorities and keep your team working as an organized unit.\nWhen employees miss deadlines, it affects everyone else in the workflow. You either need to adjust the entire timeline for the project, or the next person has to scramble to meet their own due dates because they got started later than they expected.\nStress the importance of meeting deadlines by showing your team where they fit in the workflow. They’ll be more conscious of priorities when they see how it impacts their teammates.\n Due dates help you manage priorities and keep your team working together. \nKeep in mind that your due date might look reasonable on its own, but your team has a lot of other things going on at the same time. If you assign a bunch of deadlines at the end of this week, some of them are going to be missed.\nIf this is a problem in your team, project management software can help a lot. Tools like Hubstaff Tasks can help you create realistic timelines and manage due dates, even when priorities change.\nAssigning and meeting deadlines takes practice.\nAs you get used to this process, check with your employees each time you assign a new task or change a deadline. They should look at the other things on their plate at the same time and either confirm that your goal is realistic, or request that you shuffle some things to make room.\n2. Don’t micromanage\nWanting to stay on top of everything that goes on in your business is natural. However, it shouldn’t involve constantly telling employees how they should do their job.\nMicromanagement happens because you’re trying so hard to get the results you want. In reality, you’re hurting employee morale and performance. This destroys productivity.\nPlus, you can’t be effective at your own job when you spend so much time being involved in everyone else’s. This creates major bottlenecks and slows down everyone’s work.\n\nEven if you hate the idea of micromanaging your team, you might still have some bad habits that you’re not conscious of.\nYou might be a micromanager if you:\n\nDon’t like delegating work – Are you reluctant to delegate because you think you can do a better job than your employees can? That’s micromanagement.\nMust proof and approve everything – Everyone makes mistakes. Your employees will make them too. It’s fine to correct an employee’s mistake when you notice it, but it’s a much better approach to teach them to double-check their work so that you don’t have to correct them.\nAsk for minor changes on everything – When things come to you for approval, do you always have a suggestion for at least one nitpicky change? Sure, everything can be improved. But not everything needs to be improved.\nMake all the decisions and solve all the problems – Do all decisions need to come to you for a final stamp of approval? That’s frustrating for your team, and it’s a major productivity drain. Empower your employees to solve their own problems.\nAttend every meeting – It’s highly unlikely that you’re needed at every single meeting. Think about whether employees really need your input at a particular meeting before deciding to join it. Remember, you can always catch up on the highlights later.\nAsk employees to CC you on every email – Are you one of those people who wants to be in on every discussion employees have? A lot of email chains are largely a waste of time. You should be spending your time on more important things anyway.\nAlways ask for updates – While it’s fine to want to know the status of a particular project, constantly asking employees for updates on every little thing makes them anxious and wastes time they could be spending actually working on the project.\nFocus on how tasks should be done instead of why they need to be done – This gets right to the point. A micromanager wants everything done his or her own way. Good leaders don’t care about the minor details as long as the goal is accomplished.\n\n\nIf you recognize some of your own habits on that list, here’s what to do.\nDon’t be a perfectionist\nIt’s great to have high standards, but perfectionism is harmful to you and your team. Obsessing over perfection causes anxiety, depression, and frustration.\nThe problem is that perfection is impossible. You and your team will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Mistakes are learning experiences.\nBe more willing to let your team make mistakes. Set realistic goals and expectations.\n Mistakes are learning experiences. Learn to appreciate them. \nTrust team members to do their job\nMicromanagers don’t believe that others can complete tasks as well as they can.\nThat toxic behavior destroys productivity and employee engagement. Nobody wants to work for someone who treats them like they’re incompetent.\n Trusting your team to make decisions isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. You can set specific boundaries so you’re still involved where you need to be. \nIf you don’t trust your team, they don’t trust you, either. To fix it, you’ll need to prove again and again that you have faith in your employees.\nStart by encouraging people to make decisions without your sign-off. You can set specific parameters to make it clear which choices must go through you and what employees are empowered to do on their own.\nFocus on tasks that can’t be delegated\nAren’t you busy enough? Focus on completing tasks only you can handle. Delegate everything else to your team.\nIf you find it hard to figure out which tasks to delegate, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix. It divides tasks into four categories:\n\nDelegate all tasks that are urgent but not really important, and focus on urgent and important tasks instead.\nThis matrix is a handy guide for people who have a hard time recognizing the tasks that only you can do.\nRemember to focus on the reasons why a task is important instead of the specific way you want it to be done. If the finished work accomplishes the goal, it doesn’t matter whether it was done exactly how you would have done it.\nAutomation can be a major timesaver, too.\nInstead of delegating simple tasks to a team member and taking up their time, you can use tools to automate some of your work to free up human hours.\nFor example, you might decide to automate expense reporting.\nThe experts at Fyle HQ point out that it’s a huge time waster to manage expenses with emails, spreadsheets, and manual expense forms. Plus, it’s way too easy for a dishonest person to take advantage of a manual expense system.\nWe recommend using automation in situations like these. It’s way faster and easier to use a simple expense tracking system, especially if you deal with a lot of expense reporting. You can also build in safeties and rules that help prevent abuse.\nLook for automation solutions that give you total visibility, but that you don’t need to spend a lot of time managing. You want to find a way to spend less time on tasks, not more.\n\nSmart automation so you can spend more time on your top priorities.\nTry Hubstaff today.\n\n\n3. Hire for cultural fit\nA company’s culture includes the values and beliefs that all its employees share. Each employee you hire has a cultural impact on your company.\nHow well a team member’s beliefs and values align with your company’s can significantly impact the entire team’s productivity. Employees who are a cultural fit for your company will have an easier time collaborating and communicating with others.\nIf a team member doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team, on the other hand, they’ll be dissatisfied. They’ll also have a hard time collaborating with the rest of the team. As such, they’ll likely be less productive and drive the entire team’s productivity down.\n You can be diverse and still have a unified culture. Build your culture around important values and goals and look for a fit there. At the same time, embrace different perspectives and backgrounds for a stronger, more diverse team. \nHere’s how to make sure you hire employees that align with your company culture:\n\nCreate a culture document – Start by creating a culture document that describes your company’s values. Make sure to also outline what kind of behavior you expect from team members. We at Hubstaff have an Employee Handbook that everyone reads during the onboarding process.\n\n\n\nAdvertise your company values – 46% of job seekers consider company culture very important when evaluating potential employers. Accentuate your company values in your job descriptions. Also, provide potential applicants with a link to your culture document.\nDiscuss company culture during the initial interview – Let candidates know what your company values are during the initial interview. Explain how you work as a team and let candidates ask questions.\nTry to gauge how candidates would fit in – Ask questions that will help you understand if candidates’ values align with your company culture. Here are some questions you can use:\n\nWhat did you like most about your previous job?\nHow would you describe our company culture based on what you’ve seen and heard?\nWhy do you want to work for our company?\nWhat are your best and worst personality traits, and why?\nWhat values are most important to you as a person?\nWhat type of work environment do you thrive in?\n\n\nPrioritize cultural fit over “nice to have” skills – Skills can be taught. Cultural fit, on the other hand, can’t. When comparing candidates with similar skill sets, prioritize those that seem like a better cultural fit for your company.\n\n Recommended reading\nHow to Build a Kick-Ass Remote Culture\nHow to Hire Remote Workers: A Quick Guide and a Free Contract\n4. Improve your team member onboarding program\nWhen you’re making a new hire, you’re excited. Your team is growing!\nYou go through a long and hard interview process and single out the right candidate. It’s not uncommon at this stage to worry about whether you made the right choice.\nEven if you are certain you hired the right person, you might still worry about how much time you need to get them up to speed.\nIt would be great if this person could start working as efficiently as possible right away. That rarely happens, though. It takes time for a new hire to learn how you do things. They need to get to know their teammates, learn about the projects that are already in progress, and get used to the culture.\nThis can be frustrating. You hired a new person because you don’t have enough time to do everything yourself. Now, you find yourself spending even more time on their job.\nYou’d like them to learn faster, but there’s no real way to force this. What you can do, however, is provide them with the resources they need to get up to speed. This is where it’s crucial to have a good employee onboarding program.\n\nGet the free Onboarding Checklist\nBring new team members up to speed faster.\n\n\n\n\nYour onboarding program should teach new hires everything they need to know to be a productive member of your team. It should also help them fit in with the rest of the team faster.\nHere’s how to adjust your onboarding program to get new hires up to speed more quickly:\n\nStart onboarding immediately – Your onboarding process should start as soon as your new hire accepts your offer. Schedule a call to go over your company’s documentation and policies.\nShare goals and expectations on the first day – Educate your new hire on key priorities during the first day. Let them know the team’s goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as their own individual KPIs.\nDiscuss career path – You should talk with your new employee about their potential career path early. Educate them on promotion criteria and what’s the potential next step on the ladder for them.\nProvide new hires with a mentor – 87% of companies who use buddy programs state that these programs improve the efficiency of new hires. Make sure you assign a mentor to each new hire. This person should help them with getting started. They should also be available to answer any questions the new hire might have.\n\n Recommended reading\nHow to Use Video for Remote Onboarding\n5. Provide ongoing training\nHiring isn’t the only way to grow. Your existing employees should have plenty of opportunities to upgrade their skills and help your company achieve more.\nThe work environment evolves over time. Think about what it meant to be a social media manager in 2010. It’s completely different than the same job today.\nOngoing training is a smart way to make sure your team is well equipped to keep up with a rapidly changing economy.\n Hiring isn’t the only way to grow. Invest in your people to grow from within. \nTraining isn’t just for job specific-skills. Soft skills like organization and time management are necessary for maximum productivity, and most people never receive real training in these important areas.\nBy improving their skills and knowledge, employees also become more confident, more effective, and more engaged.\nOffering ongoing training shows your team that you care about their future. It’s a good strategy to build trust with your team while you work towards better productivity.\nA lot of managers worry about the investment because there’s no guarantee that your employees will stick around after you’ve spent so much time and money helping them grow. The more skilled your people are, the more valuable they become. Some people will leave and seek a higher-paying position that you trained them for.\nYes, some of your people will leave after you’ve invested time and money in them. But what’s worse — investing in someone who leaves, or not investing in people who stay?\nHere’s how to get started with creating a team member development plan:\nAnalyze team member skill gaps\nProductivity is easier when there’s a good match between the skills your employees have and the skills that are necessary to operate your business.\n\nA skill gap analysis helps you identify the skills employees need to fulfill their job duties but currently lack.\nYou can perform a skill gap analysis on an individual or company level.\nAn individual skill gap analysis looks at the skills a particular job requires and then compares them to the skills an employee actually has. It’s useful for when an employee’s duties change or they do poorly on their most recent performance review.\nPerforming a company-wide skill gap analysis, on the other hand, is useful if your company is having problems meeting business goals or if you’re planning a strategy shift that requires employees to develop new skills.\nAfter deciding on the type of skill gap analysis you’ll perform, the next step is to identify crucial employee skills.\nThink about which skills you value as a company. Then, consider which skills your employees need to do their job well, as well as what kind of skills they might need in the future.\nFinally, use surveys, assessments, employee interviews, and performance reviews to measure your employees’ current skill levels.\nWhile you can perform a skill gap analysis internally, there are also consultants you can hire that specialize in this type of analysis. Hiring outside help can often make for more objective analysis, as well as free up your time to focus on other tasks.\nSet measurable learning goals\nThroughout this entire article, we’ve talked about setting clear, measurable goals. That still applies.\n You have specific business goals in mind when you offer ongoing training. Your employees should have their own goals, too. \nDetermine exactly what you want to accomplish from your training program. This will help you choose the right training methods and materials.\nYour goals also help team members to understand what’s expected of them and give them a better chance of meeting your expectations. Encourage them to set their own personal goals before they get started.\nFor example, do you want to help employees improve job-specific skills, develop the right attitude towards work, or increase their knowledge of the company’s industry? Are you grooming people for advancement as your company grows, or helping them gather knowledge so they can make strategic decisions?\nYour goals, whatever they may be, should be aligned with your business objectives. They should also be realistic and relatively easy to measure.\nHere’s an example: I want to train employees to be able to complete routine tasks in 25% less time within the next six months.\nSome companies make training mandatory, but most allow employees to participate voluntarily. However you do it, make sure that your team is incentivized to participate.\n There’s no point in creating a voluntary training program if nobody takes advantage of it. Make it easy to participate. \nThe best way to get people to participate is to set aside a certain amount of paid working hours for ongoing training. If you can afford it, offer your employees 1 to 3 hours per month to work on upgrading their skills.\n\nMeasure productivity with Hubstaff\nGet it free for two weeks.\n\n\nTrain your team\nThere are plenty of different training methods you can use.\nWebsites like Udemy for Business, Lynda, and Skillshare are affordable training options for teams of all sizes.\nYou can select specific courses for your team, or you can set a budget and some parameters and let your team choose for themselves.\nThis is a good choice if your team is diverse and includes a lot of different roles and specialties. You can select classes for the entire group on skills like communication. Then, you can specialize and offer technical skill-based training for just the people who want and need it.\nProfessional trainers are a pricier option, but if you have a specific need, these training sessions are especially valuable.\nYou can offer in-person training to your team in a few different ways.\nSome trainers will come to your office and do a workshop during business hours. This guarantees that your team will participate, and they’re often a lot of fun. You commonly see these types of events for team building or regulatory training.\nIf this doesn’t make sense for you, you can let your employees take the lead. Offer to reimburse a certain amount of money for ticket prices and\/or travel to valuable workshops and conferences.\nAs an added bonus, employees that you send to conferences can network and build relationships that help your company grow.\nYou might also decide that certain workshops or business events are too valuable to miss. If you see something that’s particularly beneficial to some or all of your team, consider going as a team.\nIn some cases, it makes sense to ask your employees to take the lead on internal training events.\nFor example, your customer support manager might be a great candidate to lead a workshop about dealing with conflict.\nThis type of training works really well for a lunch-and-learn type of environment. It can be an opportunity for cross-training. People in other departments might be really curious about how developers do such cool things with code, and this is a chance to build team unity and share knowledge.\n6. Recognize team members’ achievements\nRecognizing employees’ achievements motivates them and lets them know that you value their contributions. It also shows other employees what kind of behavior is encouraged.\n 40% of employees say they’d put more effort into their work if that effort was recognized more often. \nA lack of recognition, on the other hand, can lead to employees becoming dissatisfied and disengaged. This can result in a significant drop in team productivity.\nIn fact, 40% of employees state that they’d put more effort into their work if their efforts were recognized more often.\nYou can recognize and reward employees’ achievements by:\n\nPraising them publicly and privately\nRewarding them with a gift card\nDonating to a charity of their choice\nLetting them leave early on Friday\nLots of other ways. Get creative!\n\nIt’s important to build this habit. Don’t leave recognition and praise for quarterly or annual events. Reward employees for their good work in the moment.\nHere’s how to start an employee recognition program:\n\nCreate your program policy – Explain what kind of behavior should be recognized and rewarded. Describe the different types of rewards, as well as the reward approval process.\nDefine success metrics – Think about how you’re going to measure the effectiveness of your employee recognition program. Consider monitoring team productivity, turnover rate, and employee Net Promoter Score.\nTrain managers – You’ll also need to train managers on how to carry out your employee recognition program. Explain how they should recognize employees’ contributions. Instruct them on how and when to reward employees.\nLet employees know about your recognition program – Write a company-wide email letting employees know about the recognition program. Explain goals, guidelines, and rewards.\n\n Recommended reading\nEmployee Retention Strategies: How to Keep Top Performers\nTop Tips on How To Motivate Employees In The Workplace\n7. Improve team communication\nAccording to a McKinsey study, improving team communication can increase productivity by up to 25%.\n\nEffective communication speeds up workflows and processes. It allows team members to complete tasks faster. By being able to communicate more effectively, team members can:\n\nGet their questions answered faster\nCollaborate on tasks more easily\nProvide more effective feedback on each other’s work\nGet their thoughts and ideas across more easily\n\nHere’s how to improve your team’s communication:\nChoose the right communication channels\nThink about how your team members work and cooperate on a regular workday. Which communication channels would suit their needs best?\n\nDifferent tools are great for different things.\n\nEmail – While a lot of modern teams hate email, it still has its place in team communication. For example, it’s great for sharing updates with the entire team. However, it’s not very useful if you need to discuss something urgently.\nVideo conferencing – If your team is operating remotely, video conferencing is a must. It allows team members to see each other face-to-face and helps avoid misunderstandings. Video conferencing is great for when your team needs to have a lengthy discussion, especially if it’s on a sensitive topic where tone and body language are vital.\nInstant messaging – Chat apps like Slack are great for when team members need to get an immediate answer. For example, a junior marketing associate on your team could use instant messaging to reach out to their manager and ask for feedback on some marketing materials they’ve created. Instant messaging is also a good option for having informal conversations with team members.\n\n\nCreate a communication policy\nA communication policy serves to set expectations for team communication. It lets team members know how to communicate effectively.\nThe goal of having a communication policy is to help your team get better at sharing information. It should also stress the importance of communication for getting tasks and projects done on time consistently.\nAny good communication policy should let team members know:\n\nWhen they’re expected to respond to messages\nWhat kind of communication is appropriate for each channel the team uses\nWhether they need to provide status updates (and how often)\nWhen and where meetings take place (and how they look like)\n\n\nWant to see an example?\nDownload our Hubstaff Communication Manifesto for free and see how our team sets communication guidelines.\n\n\n\n\n8. Provide feedback\nAccording to one study, 82% of employees state that they actually appreciate receiving feedback.\nHowever, 62% claim that their manager should provide higher-quality feedback. Here’s how to do that:\n\nAvoid generic comments – Just saying “Good job.” isn’t enough. Let the employee know what you liked and disliked about their performance specifically. Make your feedback specific and solution-oriented. Employees need to understand what the issue is and how they can improve.For example, let’s say you gave one of your employees the task of preparing a presentation for a client. Their presentation had all the right information, but lacked compelling visuals.In this case, you should praise the employee for making sure that all the information in the presentation was accurate. But, you should also mention how the presentation would have been even more effective if it included some compelling graphics and ask them to remember to include them next time.\n\n\nFocus on performance and behavior – Avoid making comments regarding an employee’s personality. Focus on their behavior and performance. Give specific guidance on how they can improve both.\nPraise in public, criticize in private – Never criticize team members publicly. Provide feedback in private. You can also deliver feedback in writing (e.g., by sending the employee an email). Keep in mind that it’s better to provide negative feedback in person to avoid any misunderstandings.\nProvide feedback as soon as possible – It’s crucial to provide feedback as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a performance review to give feedback.\n\n9. Have more effective meetings\nMost meetings last between 30 to 60 minutes. Employees consider a third of each meeting to be completely unproductive.\n If you have ineffective meetings, you’re wasting thousands of productive hours every year. \nThat’s 10 to 20 minutes wasted per meeting. If you hold just two meetings every week, that’s 20 to 40 minutes wasted per week. During the course of a year, that adds up to between 1,000 and 2,000 hours. That’s a lot of time your employees could spend doing actual work.\nHere’s how to have more effective and productive meetings:\nConsider if you really need to hold a meeting – You can resolve a lot of issues over email or a quick Slack message. Don’t immediately schedule a meeting for every little issue.\nInvite only those team members who need to attend – Most issues don’t require an all-hands meeting. Think hard about which team members absolutely need to attend the meeting.\nCreate a meeting agenda – If you want to have a productive meeting, creating an agenda is crucial. Write down talking points and end goals for each meeting.\nMake it short – If you schedule a 60-minute meeting, you’ll find a way to fill up that time even if you could have wrapped up the meeting sooner. Try to figure out how much time you really need to discuss the issue.\nEnd with clear next steps – You should end each meeting by assigning action items to everyone involved. This will ensure your team takes action to solve the issue.\n\n Recommended reading\nHow to Run a Successful Virtual Meeting\n10. Let your team work a flexible schedule\nA traditional 9-to-5 schedule doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, 47% of employees strongly agree that a flexible work arrangement would allow them to be more productive.\nBusinesses have increasingly started to realize this in recent years. More and more companies let their employees work a flexible schedule.\n\nThis gives employees the opportunity to create a schedule that works for them. That way, they can work at times when they’re most productive instead of forcing themselves to work through regular work hours.\nA flexible schedule makes your employees happier, boosting their productivity even further.\nHere’s how you can implement a flexible work schedule at your company:\n\nCreate a flexible schedule policy – Your policy should outline clear guidelines on attendance, availability, and communication. This will make sure employees don’t abuse your new flexible schedule arrangement.\nDo a phased roll-out – Start by implementing a flexible schedule for a single department. Closely monitor employee performance during this time. If all works out well, roll out a flexible schedule for your entire company.\nMeasure performance – It’s important to measure the effect of your new flexible schedule on employees’ productivity. Are you seeing tasks being completed more quickly or projects moving forward faster? If so, you’re on the right track.\n\n\nGet our free Work From Home Policy Template and get started on your own remote work policy.\n\n\n\n\n11. Provide team members with the right tools\nThere are plenty of tools out there that can help your team members be more productive. However, you need to choose your tools carefully. Just because a solution works great for another company, it doesn’t mean that it will make your team more productive.\nTest each tool before implementing it across your entire company. If you’re going to use a paid tool, make sure it can actually deliver a positive return on investment for your business.\nSoftware solutions can help you simplify:\n\nCommunication – Tools that aid and simplify communication are a necessity for modern teams. Consider using solutions such as Slack and Zoom to help team members communicate more effectively.\nProject management – These tools allow team members to collaborate more effectively. Solutions like Hubstaff Tasks enable teams to collaborate on tasks in real-time using comments, mentions, and checklists.\nProcess documentation – Documenting all your processes ensures team members know how to approach completing tasks correctly. You can use tools like Process Street to create process documentation for your team.\nFile storage and document management – Your team needs a way to share files and collaborate on documents. This is where solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive can help.\n\nHelp your team collaborate more easilyStart a free trial of Hubstaff Tasks today.\n Recommended reading\n49+ of the Best Online Collaboration Tools for Productive Teams\nThe Best Project Scheduling Software in 2021\n12. Encourage deep work\nIt can take employees up to 23 minutes to focus after being interrupted.\n\nThat’s a decent chunk of time. Now think about how many times your employees get interrupted during the day.\nEmails, phone calls, and team members popping by to ask a question are just a few different types of interruptions your employees likely deal with on a daily basis.\n It takes about 23 minutes to refocus after being interrupted. Your “quick questions” eat up a lot more productive time than you think. \nIf employees could work the entire day without interruptions, their productivity would skyrocket. While it’s unrealistic to try to eliminate interruptions completely, there are some things you can do to reduce interruptions, such as:\n\nLetting team members use noise-canceling headphones – If your team works in an office, consider letting some or all team members use noise-canceling headphones during the work day. If your employees work from home, provide them with a pair of headphones they can use to focus more easily.\nInstructing them to turn off notifications when they really need to focus – Does your team use Slack? While a highly useful tool, it can also be very distracting. Instruct team members to turn off Slack notifications when they’re working on a task that requires their full attention.\n\nDoing these things promotes deep work and helps team members get into a state of flow. When employees are in a state of flow, they’re highly focused on the task at hand, which helps increase their:\n\nProductivity – People have shown to be as much as five times more productive when in a state of flow.\nCreativity – Those working in flow state report being six to eight times more creative.\nLearning abilities – A number of studies show people learn up to 500% faster when in a state of flow.\nSubjective well-being and happiness – Being in a state of flow can also improve your employees’ subjective well-being and happiness.\n\n13. Take care of your employees’ health\nYour employees need to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, in order to be productive.\nThat’s why 70% of companies offer some form of employee wellness program.\n53% of employees with access to company wellness programs state that these programs improve their health. According to employees, these programs help them:\n\nPay more attention to their health\nLose weight\nDetect and prevent diseases\n\nThey also help cut down on sick days and improve employees’ productivity.\nIf you want to help employees stay healthy, start by paying more attention to them. Do they seem stressed out or tired? Do you think that some employees might be close to burning out?\nThen, look into ways you can help them. Would a more generous time-off policy help employees keep their health in check? Similarly, do you think implementing a flexible work schedule could help your team achieve better work-life balance?\nPut some thought into what you could do to help employees stay healthy. If you’re not sure, ask them. Your employees will certainly have multiple ideas of how the company could help them take care of their health.\nAn added benefit of implementing ideas your employees suggest is that it increases chances of them actually taking advantage of your wellness program.\n Recommended reading\n10 Practical Ways to Overcome Remoteliness in 2021\n14. Streamline your team’s workflow\nIf you haven’t optimized your workflows lately, you probably have some inefficiencies and bottlenecks to fix. Addressing these is crucial for improving productivity.\n\nThink about the biggest workflow problems your team deals with on a regular basis. Start there and look for ways to improve or automate parts of your workflow.\nAutomation can be of big help when you’re looking to streamline your workflow. Thanks to technology, today’s businesses can automate 45% of employee activities, including:\n\nAppointment scheduling\nLead generation\nInvoicing\nPayroll\nSocial media marketing\nWebsite backup\n\nLook for a project management tool that already has automation features built in. You don’t have to start from scratch.\n Recommended reading\nCreating a Project Management Workflow and the Best Software to Help You\n15. Make sure everyone’s on the same page\nA lack of team efficiency often comes from team members not having access to all the information they need to do their job effectively.\n If you’re the only one who knows all important information, you’re the only person in your company who can make good decisions. That’s not an efficient way to work. \nTo increase productivity, focus on improving transparency. This will help keep everyone on the same page and allow team members to do their best work.\nBeing transparent with employees builds trust. This, in turn, helps employees to commit to your company’s cause more easily. It also allows them to see the big picture and understand how their efforts are directly contributing to the company’s goals.\nWhen employees work in a transparent environment, they feel more comfortable sharing their ideas. This helps the team solve problems faster.\nHere are some ways you can improve transparency and avoid creating information silos:\nRecord every meeting\nThere will always be meetings where one or more people who needed to attend were missing. It’s important that you provide a way for these people to review what the team discussed during the meeting.\nTry to record or make a transcript of every meeting.\nFor video meetings, this is easy. Set the default settings to record to the cloud, then post the recording in a Slack channel or in your task software.\nIf you have your meetings face-to-face, use a simple recording program on your phone or laptop. Audio alone might be okay unless you’re whiteboarding an idea. In that case, you should also try to record video.\nWhen those options aren’t practical, assign someone to take detailed meeting notes instead. Take pictures of any whiteboards and share the notes with all attendees.\nRecording in-person meetings will take some trial and error, especially if you have some people dialed in on the phone and some in the room. Test a few solutions and find the one that works best for your team.\nKeep important discussions in public channels\nYou should have important discussions in a place where everyone can contribute. This doesn’t need to be an all-hands meeting.\nA lot of modern teams, especially remote ones, use public Slack channels for important discussions.\nBe mindful of interruptions when you use solutions like Slack for group discussions. Threaded comments can help you keep conversations organized, and it prevents notifications from bothering people who don’t need to be involved in the conversation.\nMake sure you post in appropriate channels. You don’t need to have a discussion about bug fixes in the general channel. Create channels for departments or business groups for more specialized topics.\nCreate a single source of truth\nA single source of truth (SSOT) is a database that contains all the information on your company’s workflows, processes, and projects. Having such a database ensures everyone on your team has access to all the information they might need.\nWhen creating an SSOT, it’s important to get employee buy-in first. You can do this by explaining why creating such a database is important and how it can make their job easier.\nIf you want employees to keep contributing to the database, you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so. One way to do this is to use a dedicated tool like Confluence.\nFinally, it’s important that you check and cleanse all the data that comes into your database to prevent any issues later.\n Recommended reading\nTransparency and Ethics in Business: How to Make Them Work for You\nStart improving employee productivity today\nThat’s enough reading for today. It’s time to take action.\nHere’s what you need to do:\n\nMake a list of your biggest productivity challenges – What are the biggest issues stopping your employees from being more productive? Is it a lack of skills, poor communication, or something else? Write all of these down right now, while you still have this blog post open.\nDecide on your priorities – Look at your list and determine one or two challenges that should be the easiest to fix. Make these your priority.\nLet team members know – Send an email to your team members and let them know that you’re looking to solve these specific challenges. This will make sure everyone’s on the same page and make sure team members can actively contribute to solving productivity problems.\n\nBookmark this post so you can come back to it.\nEager to learn more about improving employee productivity? Check out the following blog posts:\nHow to Keep Your Employees Focused and Productive – Learn more tips on how to help employees stay focused and improve their productivity in the process.\n8 Time Wasters at Work (and How to Nip Them in the Bud) – Find out some of the most common time-wasting activities at work and learn how to stop employees from engaging in them.\n8 Best Online Work Timers to Accelerate Your Productivity – Read this blog post to learn about the best software solutions for improving employee productivity.\n\nYou can get great content like this delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our blog.\n\n\n\n\nThis post was originally published in February 2020. It was updated in January 2021.