Employee productivity affects your bottom line. Here are 7 tips on how to increase it across your workplace.
For every business, doing more with less is necessary. No matter how large or profitable an organization is, waste doesn’t add to the bottom line. For small and medium-sized businesses that run on tight budgets and margins, shifts in productivity can put the company at risk. Maintaining consistent levels of productivity, and even increasing them, is necessary to keep the right balance.
When talent is scarce or vacancies remain open for periods of time, employees are often asked to do more to keep production levels up. This can add stress to a workforce already pulled tight. These situations often occur as demand for your product or service increases.
Maintaining productivity levels can be difficult — increasing them can be a challenge. Working with your team in a coordinated effort can help you boost employee output and even improve on the processes or services you already have in place.
1. Engagement is key
You’ve heard the refrain a million times — “happy people work harder.” It’s a measurable metric: when employees are invested in their work and organization, productivity rises.
Gallup estimates lack of engagement costs United States businesses $450 to $550 billion annually. In another of their polls, they found companies with engaged employees are 21% more profitable than those without.
Gallup estimates lack of engagement costs United States businesses $450 to $550 billion annually.
Building an engaged workforce starts with two-way communication: listen to staff members’ ideas and concerns, and act on them. Provide autonomy and respect. The most highly engaged employees take ownership of their job and their company; they work independently or part of the team with a focused goal — success.
It requires intention to build an engaged workforce, and it also requires a culture that holistically offers what workers need to believe and take pride in their work. The more they own their role in the organization, the higher productivity will rise.
2. Eliminate inefficiencies
It’s likely every member of your staff has an idea on how to do their job easier, faster, and better. Tap into that brain trust to boost productivity.
It may be a process that can be altered to make the workflow easier. It may be a log jam somewhere along the line — possibly a person who has too much on their plate and, as a result, slows others down the line. Ask staff members for workable suggestions to move the flow more effectively; they probably have a myriad of ideas.
Pilot these to see what productivity increases are possible. Some ideas will work, others won’t. If an idea fails, don’t be punitive or deterred — remind staffers that failure is how people learn. Move quickly onto the next idea to assure staffers you value their suggestions and want them to keep them coming in, even when they don’t go to plan.
3. Remove distractions
In today’s work environment, the biggest productivity drain may be in your employee’s pocket: their cell phone. While it may be unreasonable to ask staffers to lock up their phones while on the clock, you can certainly require less online activity and more activity on the line.
For staffers that routinely check their phones in case their kids call, ask them to set a separate ringtone for their children so they will know if their kids give them a ring. Then ask them to only respond to those calls when necessary, and let anything else go to voicemail until they take their break or lunch.
4. Provide incentives
The smallest incentive can be the biggest motivator. If staffers meet overall production goals, offer to bring in a free lunch for the team. If you need individuals to boost their production rates, look for something low-cost that will motivate them. Nothing makes employees work harder on a Friday than offering to let them leave an hour or so early as long as the work is done.
Building an engaged workforce starts with two-way communication: listen to staff members’ ideas and concerns, and act on them.
Rewards, even the smallest — like an afternoon cookies run — show employees you’re noticing their efforts and are appreciative.
5. Consider temps or remote workers
If you simply cannot meet goals with the staff you have, and hiring isn’t an option, consider temporary or remote workers to get you over the hump. This may be a stopgap solution in the short-term, but it may help you better understand what staffing levels are required to meet demand — and whether or not it’s cost-effective.
For work that can be done remotely, freelancer websites are available to find talent within days. If you want to assign on-site work, temp agencies have a host of talent with almost every skill set available. They can typically help you find workers within days, as well. These may be costly, but the upside is that when things get back to normal, the agency moves the staffer onto a new role — you don’t have to let them go yourself.
6. Upskill for better outcomes
A vicious circle of truth for many businesses is if they had the time to train their staffers, their staffers could work faster. Yet oftentimes this training doesn’t happen, because work schedules are too busy. If that’s true in your organization, it may be time to bite the bullet and upskill.
With online tutorials for just about anything you can imagine, you may even be able to ask employees to learn on their own time. Make sure you pay them for the hours they invest in learning. The upside is an employee who’s better able to increase productivity and who may even be able to help others with the knowledge they’ve gained.
7. Keep tools and equipment up to date
If the gear is outdated, the gears don’t run smoothly. Yes, you can wash your clothes down by the river, but a washing machine is faster and better. If replacing old equipment is beyond your budget, consider rentals as a makeshift solution.
Outdated software, computers, and peripherals that slow employees down are costing you money. Updating (even with the growing pains of retraining employees to use them) will boost productivity exponentially — a wise investment.
Remember: Measure productivity and set goals
Look for ways to determine a baseline of where your production levels are today.
It may be measuring how many customers you’re able to serve in a day, and alternatively, how many you turn away. It could include how many returns, errors, or omissions you find on a weekly basis.
Whatever the tasks or processes are that add to the bottom line — measure them to determine a baseline of where you are today.
Your goals may be as simple as meeting current demand or as lofty as increasing sales by 50%. Whatever you hope to achieve, set a goal and strive to get there. “We need to decrease returns” is a complaint. “We need to decrease returns by better training our staff on order fulfillment” is an achievable goal.
You may want to consider incremental increases so change doesn’t seem insurmountable. Set small goals, like reducing returns by 5% for the first month. If that works, go for another 5% until you reach the levels you ultimately want to achieve.
Don’t let missteps stop you. You may need to adjust processes along the way, but the ultimate goal of increased productivity is worth the effort.
As you pilot ideas from staff, new equipment, or processes, look for measurable improvement. Make sure to congratulate the staff for any improvements you find. Whether it’s fewer complaints or more widgets, they need to know their hard work paid off and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. When you share ownership of successes, engagement will rise along with productivity.