Improving employee productivity – top ten tips

Posted on: February 10th, 2016

All employers want to increase employee productivity. The reason is obvious. If employers can increase output with the same number of employees, why would they not want to? Even a 1% increase in productivity could have a significant impact if achieved across the business.

The question is how to achieve this. Each business is different; however, we’ve put together our top ten tips below that employers should consider to increase employee productivity.

1. Streamline procedures

Nearly all employers have procedures that are no longer required or could be streamlined.

Look at all your processes and procedures critically with a view to asking why the policy is needed and how it makes your business more efficient.  Encourage employees across the business to raise suggestions as to how to improve processes – those using the systems day in and day out will be much better placed to do so than those at the top.

2. Minimise meetings

Some meetings are useful. Many meetings are not. All meetings should have an agenda. Of course other points will come up and the agenda doesn’t need to be stuck to rigidly; however, employees should know what they’re going to be discussing in advance for meetings to be productive. Action points should be assigned to specific individuals at the meeting, with deadlines for completion.

The final agenda item should always be a question – what is the impact of this meeting?  If attendees struggle to answer this question, the meeting was probably unnecessary.

3. Accountability

All employees need to be aware that they are accountable for their actions and decisions. Employees who don’t complete tasks and are never chased, or worse, have tasks taken off them and given to someone else, have no incentive to deliver.

Employees should be given measureable tasks and objectives and should report back on these. Ideally, employees also then need to take responsibility for following up on their own tasks – once something has been achieved, what’s the next step? What went well and what could be improved? Employees shouldn’t get in the habit of simply completing a task, submitting it and then never looking back.

It’s also key that poor performance and productivity is noticed and dealt with. Employees who see others not pulling their weight are likely to become less motivated and in turn, less productive.

4. Responsibility & trust

Employees need to feel that they are trusted. Too many rules and regulations may mean that employees feel overly scrutinised. Insofar as possible employees and teams should be free to operate in their own style and decide themselves how to achieve the results they need. It is very rare that a demanding task manager will get better results than a helpful and accommodating manager that encourages employees to take responsibility.

Employees also like to feel useful. Ensuring that they have responsibility for specific tasks or goals is likely to result in higher levels of motivation.

5. Train your managers

Easier said than done; however, research shows that employees have increased loyalty and motivation when managed well. Management is not rocket science – the majority of employees consider a good manager is simply someone who keeps their promises and puts employees first.

Managers should model the behaviour that you want all employees to emulate. If your managers are not up to scratch, how can you expect your employees to be? Invest in your managers first.

6. Break the monotony

Some employees in your organisation will be content to stay in the role that they are in for the next 15 years. The majority; however, won’t. Tasks which used to be a challenge will become disinteresting for employees over time. Consider how you can break the monotony for employees and help them gain new skills that will benefit the business. This could be giving new tasks or projects to existing employees and then recruiting to backfill roles, or rotating tasks. If employees currently lack skills to complete other tasks, consider whether there’s an opportunity to offer training.

7. Be realistic

Setting targets for employees is a helpful way to measure productivity and performance, and ensure that employees are accountable. However, to be helpful, targets must be realistic. Whilst it might seem a good idea to set targets at the level you want the company to achieve in the long term now, if those targets are clearly pie in the sky, employees will be dis-incentivised.

Better to set a challenging but realistic target, that the employee feels is potentially achievable, then trying to incentivise the employee with rewards for meeting a target they know they’ll never achieve.

8. Reward productivity

If employees improve their productivity, recognise this. Many employers will simply move the goal posts once a milestone or target is achieved, for example so that next year that employee has to achieve 10% more again. Before doing this, the goal achievement must be celebrated and recognised.

9. Listen to your employees

Everyone likes to be heard and employees are no exception. Many employers make the mistake of feeling they have excellent communication with their employees, because they regularly cascade information down. This is of course a great thing to do. Communication; however, should be two ways. Employees who’ve had the opportunity to have their say in relation to a new proposal or way of working will be much more likely to get behind the changes. Be seen to listen.

10. Equipment

It goes without saying that with rapid development in technology, employers also need to consider investing in the proper equipment. If employees’ productivity is being held back due to lack of adequate systems, or employees could provide a quote three times faster if they were given smart phones, these investments should be made.

Before embarking on new ways to increase productivity, employers should think carefully about what they mean by productivity in each role, what steps may assist, and how improvements will be measured. This will ensure that they can assess the impact of changes, and make continual improvements.