Empower employees with our top tips for easily boosting employee productivity. We've compiled the best of recent business research, studies, and more.
Creating an inspiring environment that fuels employee productivity is a lot easier said than done. There are countless approaches, so which one is right for your company?
Thanks to ongoing research on employee behavior and the development of tools to track the success of such efforts, investing in human capital management (HCM) has never been easier or more effective. Here’s a list of some of our favorite ways to boost your company’s output without significantly increasing your spending:
1. Understand the difference between efficiency and productivity.
In a March 2017 article titled “Great Companies Obsess Over Productivity, Not Efficiency” for Harvard Business Review, Michael Mankins writes that “efficiency is about doing the same with less.” To improve efficiency, then, a business would look to reduce the amount of time and the number of resources required to produce a given product or service. Simply put, improving efficiency is about streamlining.
Business productivity, however, is tied to the product of performance. “Productivity is about doing more with the same,” writes Mankins. Unlike efficiency, improving productivity means an increase in the company’s production output.
While both efficiency and productivity are important topics for any business, understanding the difference is a key to improving either. When it comes to getting more out of what you have through employee productivity initiatives, the focus should be on your people.
2. Create opportunities for employees to do what they do best.
According to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report, 35% of employees have changed jobs within the past three years. In an article analyzing the report results, Gallup explains.
“People in today’s workforce are looking for more than a paycheck — they are looking for a purpose and a chance to have coaching conversations that promote their development. This is evidenced in our finding that 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is ‘very important’ to them. This is the top factor stated.”
In other words, employees need customizable roles that enable and encourage them to contribute in ways that have personal significance.
Creating opportunities for employees to do what they do best requires a company to be malleable in the way it approaches improving employee productivity. From choosing candidates that have a high sense of self-awareness to fostering an environment that embraces diversity, employers are finding that sometimes they need to sit in the passenger’s seat to truly drive growth.
3. Understand and implement Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Just in case you don’t remember this section from your high school psychology textbook…
What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow proposed a motivational theory of five human needs. Typically portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, the hierarchy illustrates the idea that a person must fulfill needs in a specified order, starting with the lowest tier (physiological). Also, once a need is fully satisfied, it can no longer be used as a motivating factor.
When it comes to applying Maslow’s theory to your HR approach, fulfilling an employee’s “needs” takes on a different meaning. Here are some ideas on how to fulfill employee productivity needs:
- Physiological: maintaining office facilities and paying employees a fair salary on a regular schedule
- Safety: developing a safe office environment, providing quality health benefits, and offering a pension plan
- Belongingness and love: embracing and celebrating diversity, promoting collaboration across teams, offering equal access to programs and employee initiatives
- Esteem: recognizing team contributions, providing employee feedback, and rewarding exceptional employee performance
- Self-actualization: creating personalized training plans, offering custom management tracks, and providing high-level mentorship from executives consistently
As an employee moves from fulfilling physiological needs to self-actualization, he or she becomes more productive. The goal for businesses, then, is to create an environment that continually supports and inspires employees to achieve their highest potential.
4. Pay employees well (not necessarily more).
At Zenefits, we believe that paying employees well isn’t just about how much. It’s about fair wages that are paid on a consistent basis – available to view on any device, anytime. Fortunately, we’re not alone in thinking this way.
Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., and renowned economist Angus Deaton, Ph.D., analyzed data from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI) in an attempt to correlate happiness with salary tiers. They found that “people with an annual household income of $75,000 are about as happy as anyone gets.”
What about cities with a relatively higher cost of living?
Kahneman and Deaton found that $75,000 was a sufficient salary in even the most expensive cities. In fact, it’s likely that there are many places where happiness actually levels off at a lower average annual income.
While we don’t recommend contacting your payroll department to update every employee’s salary based on this finding, we do see an opportunity. According to the same data set, stress levels are higher among college graduates than people without college degrees.
So, how can you increase productivity and decrease stress…without paying people more? Aside from offering a consistent and reliable payroll platform, we recommend using Business Intelligence Reports to:
- Close the gender pay gap
- Reduce unnecessary department spend
- Correct salary outliers
Creating a more balanced work environment for even just a few employees can have a noticeably positive impact on the entire workforce. Regardless, paying your people fairly and on time provides you with a long-term strategy for ensuring your payroll system supports employee productivity – and doesn’t get in the way of your company’s future.
5. Consider implementing a workplace wellness program.
Workplace wellness programs are trending. If you haven’t heard of them, check out our blog post for a quick overview: Workplace Wellness Programs in 2017: Worth it?
Sponsoring a wellness program shows employees that you value their long-term health. A person could argue, and many businesses have found, that such programs reduce the total number of sick days taken by employees. This can also translate to a lower total healthcare insurance spend for a company.
This makes sense on the surface; a program that successfully helps employees quit smoking will likely result in a healthier workforce as a whole. But in order for that investment to pay off in terms of employee productivity, businesses must customize programs to the needs of the plan participants.
Creating a wellness program that aligns with your company’s culture will show employees that you’re dedicated to carrying out a unified mission. While this consistency and emphasis on wellness will be appreciated by many, there might be employees who’d prefer to ditch the walking meeting for, well, a sitting meeting. Making your program optional will ensure you don’t alienate any employees in the pursuit of a healthiness.
Want a more in-depth look at the value of employer-sponsored wellness programs? Download our free eBook: Your Ultimate Guide to Workplace Wellness Programs.
6. Ask difficult questions.
According to an employee productivity study from the AWA’s Workplace Performance Innovation Network (PIN), there are six factors that have the highest association with “knowledge worker” productivity. To help you assess your company’s strengths, we’ve created some simple questions related to each factor:
A. Social cohesion: “A shared liking or team attraction that includes bonds of friendship, caring, closeness and enjoyment of each other’s company.”
- Do team members get together for lunch or outside of work?
- Do employees feel comfortable in questioning or challenging the ideas of others – and if they dish it, can they take feedback?
B. Perceived supervisory support: “How employees feel the supervisor helps them in times of need, praises them for a job well done, or recognizes them for extra effort.”
- How do your executives respond to employees when a crisis or difficult situation arises?
- How are employees recognized for their individual achievements?
C. Information sharing/Transactive Memory System: “Refers to how teams pool and access their knowledge and expertise – which positively affects decision making and team processes. This leads to the idea of a team ‘Transactive Memory System’ (TMS) which can be thought of as a collective memory in a collective mind – enabling a team to think and act together.”
- Do employees freely share ideas, experiences, and resources with each other?
- When working on a project, do you know which team member is best equipped to help you with a specific task?
D. Vision/goal clarity: “The notion of vision refers to the extent to which team members have a common understanding of objectives and display high commitment to those team goals. For this reason ‘vision’ on the team level is also referred to as goal clarity.”
- Do your employees know your mission statement?
- Do your employees share your passion to move the company forward?
E. External communication: “The ability of teams to span boundaries (team and organizational) to seek information and resources from others.”
- How do employees communicate with each other when they have questions (e.g., in-person, chat, email)?
- How do your employees research and engage with competitors and businesses outside of their organization?
F. Trust: “The firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of others. It is created by the expectation that the actions of other persons will be to one’s benefit or at least not detrimental to him or her.”
- Do employees regularly ask each other for help, advice, and input?
- Do employees typically enjoy working on group projects?
Asking difficult questions can be tedious, but some of the answers could reveal opportunities for easily boosting employee productivity. Also, getting to know your employees better now will make it easier to assess culture down the road.
7. Find a healthy work-life balance for your company.
Each company is different, so defining “work-life balance” for your business will take some work. Finding this balance might require that your employees actually spend less time in the office in the name of productivity, but recent reports show that it could be worth the tradeoff.
According to Gallup, “53% of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is ‘very important’ to them.”
Your employees have lives outside of the office, and sometimes the two environments can affect each other. Offering flexible work schedules or an unlimited vacation policy shows employees that you place their needs first – and that you truly care about their well-being.
If your company operates on a more standard 9-to-5 schedule, look for alternate ways to accommodate employees’ personal needs. Creating an open system of communication that’s based on trust will go a long way in boosting employee productivity and developing a balanced environment.
Read more from our blog: Answering 3 Top HR Questions With Business Intelligence Reports
This post was originally published on July 27, 2017 and has been modified.