Why is workplace productivity so important?
Time is money in all successful organisations and boosting workforce productivity is one of the best ways to make more of the limited resources available.
Demanding more for less is a time-honoured way to raise stress,
lower morale and kill productivity.
There are more effective ways to unlock optimum employee performance and boost business at the same time.
Whether you are running a fixed campaign, delivering a defined project or trying to maximise productivity across your business, this guide will show you three key ways to effectively unlock your team’s productivity and deliver tangible, long-term results for your business.
Why are three keys better than one when it comes to unlocking team productivity?
- Focusing on one approach will have a limited or temporary effect. Each of the three keys depends on the other two to be completely effective.
- The three keys to workplace productivity can result in even more benefits to your business, like key staff retention, creativity and a happier workplace.
- Three keys are a fail-safe. If one approach needs more work, the other two approaches will still bring big productivity benefits.
Let’s take a look at the 3 keys…
1 DEVELOP A TIME-SAVVY WORKFORCE
Two recent studies¹ estimate that around 3 hours per day are wasted doing pointless tasks. Besides the hours of personal admin, office banter and trips to the coffee machine, managers need to factor in the amount of time spent duplicating and correcting work, doing work that doesn’t need to be done and sitting in endless meetings to discuss it.
How much could be achieved if you could somehow grab those hours back and put them to good use?
As a manager, you can do exactly that through a range of simple interventions that will soon have your team operating at full capacity and enjoying the work they do.
Helping your team to manage their time better by creating structure, purpose and achievable targets is the first key to unlock your team’s productivity.
Choose your tools wisely
Project management tools can make light work of managing a team or campaign as long as you choose a platform that is intuitive and useful. It is counter-productive to spend more time populating your software than actively meeting deadlines.
Good collaborative tools can be accessed anywhere, at any time and on any device, so your team can dial in from wherever they are working and stay on track with the project.
A web-based project tracker like Podio can be used and updated by the whole team, while an online meeting platform like GoToMeeting is the ultimate collaborative tool for pushing workplace productivity levels up. It can be used to problem solve, catch up, monitor progress and share documents. It is also an ideal way to keep track of actions and minutes and keep communication going in real time.
Position your players
- Collaboration is the key to workplace productivity in a team-based environment. Co-ordinated goal mapping and effective delegation (playing to strengths) are a must from the manager.
- Use skills effectively. When delegating tasks in the project management plan, don’t put your maths wizard on the phones while your ‘people person’ crunches the numbers.
- Make the project management plan in collaboration with the team. Make all members feel like a key part of the puzzle.
- Pair up if possible – two heads can be faster than one at problem solving, more hands make light work and if more brain power is needed, an online meeting can be arranged immediately to brainstorm as a team.
Organise a kick-off meeting
- Set the stage. Use video conferencing from the start so that everyone gets used to the format and can set up a catch-up meeting quickly. Use the platform to share any important project documents.
- Keep it focused. Ask yourself and your team – is this step necessary to meet goal or is it a ‘nice to have’? Streamline the tasks as a team and make sure the list is the shortest distance from start to successful completion.
- Tap into resource throughout the organisation without impacting their productivity. Bring that expertise to the table in the online meeting, even for five minutes, and add value to the project that would otherwise be outweighed by travel costs or unavailability.
How to prioritise meeting format and regularity
Schedule regular meetings - to help to track goals and monitor performance. A regular catch-up keeps everyone on the same page. Set frequency according to project pace.
Collaborate - Allow team members to collaborate effectively by encouraging ad-hoc online meetings for brainstorming, problem solving and information sharing.
Avoid arbitrary physical meetings - why pull colleagues away from productive work when there are more effective ways to get together and share information? Save physical meetings for project completion so you can dole out your thanks and appreciation in person.
Meet online - Online meetings are more flexible and productive. They can be lengthened, cut short, called at short notice or cancelled and joined by colleagues on the move (phone apps) or those located elsewhere. They also help to cut out the coffee and the small talk and get straight to business.
Setting the perfect deadline
- Don’t overpromise and under deliver. This puts pressure on your team, can lead to mistakes and will result in disappointment from your client when the deadline is missed, or met badly.
- Use mini-deadlines. Small, achievable targets help team members stay focused and productive all the way to deadline. Meeting goals is a major motivator, and manageable targets can make the whole project feel more like a hill than a mountain
- Aim for great, deliver excellent. Set a realistic deadline once you know what the project entails. Then use the rest of this document to smash that deadline wide open, while still delivering the absolute best your team can produce.
2 MOTIVATE & INSPIRE EMPLOYEES
A great manager is the one with a highly motivated, highly skilled and highly driven team that strives for perfection every time and hits deadlines on time, every time.
This team can only achieve what they do because they have a great manager. A leader that inspires, develops, motivates and rewards success. A manager that makes every team member feel like an essential cog, without which the whole thing would fall apart.
A great manager is one that sets clear expectations, goals and direction and communicates regularly with their team.
A great manager is also one that works well with other leaders. What good, after all, is a car with one new tyre and three flats?
How to be a great manager
Be an inspiration to your team – Bring them together one morning per week for five minutes to reinforce how crucial everyone is and how much they are bringing to the project. This is a well-known call-centre technique and it works!
Encourage cross-departmental collaboration – Goal and vision sharing between departments further boosts team productivity, as all branches work to the same ends. Busy managers can collaborate through online meetings so there is no need to leave the front line.
Regular communication – a combination of formal meetings and ad-hoc get-togethers helps keep everyone in the loop and allows managers to motivate. An annual ego-boost will not suffice.
The 3 intrinsic motivators that drive employee productivity
Businesses often look at motivation in terms of what they can give or take away, but the kind of motivation that drives genuine, sustainable productivity is often unrelated to material rewards.
In the 1970’s the psychologists Deci and Ryan discovered that people are almost always motivated from within and that material rewards can actually undermine productivity.
Intrinsic motivation then, is the fuel that stokes the productivity fire, and these are the three key intrinsic motivators that managers should get to grips with:
Say ‘thank you’. Sometimes, all your team members need to hear is that you care that they worked their socks off for you, and the business. They get their salary regardless, so if they don’t feel valued for the work they do, they could start seeing the job as a pay cheque and nothing more.
Show some real appreciation. Employees only go above and beyond if they feel appreciated, but above and beyond is fundamental to increased productivity. Feed back and keep your staff on board with your thoughts about them.
Celebrate exceptional achievement. When you meet up with your team, take a few minutes to single out those that really pushed the boundaries to further the project. The praised members will be thrilled with the recognition, but their colleagues will be striving henceforth for their mention too
Responsibility is a powerful motivator and a valuable tool in your productivity drive toolbox. When used correctly it:
- Shows your staff you believe in them to do a great job
- Gives them a reason to personally invest in the success of the business or project
- Encourages them to encourage others to perform in turn
- Provides the right conditions for creativity as staff themselves look for more intelligent and faster ways to reach goal
- Frees up management time that can be put to more productive use
- People tend to aim for the bar, no matter where it is set. As a manager, by setting the bar high it shows you not only have high expectations of your team, but that you believe in them to meet them.
- Your team want you to have high expectations of them, they want you to be proud of them and think of them as essential members of staff. If they know you expect the best, they will strive to deliver it.
- Failure to communicate your expectations to your team can lead to presumptions. Are we doing a bad job? Are we unimportant? Does my boss like me? All questions that lead to dissatisfaction and low productivity.
3 BREAKING POOR COMMUNICATION HABITS
Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful business and the one thread that ties our three keys together. Without it there is no genuine collaboration nor basis for increased productivity.
Misunderstandings, communication breakdowns, vague instructions and the ever-present workplace conflict can contribute to workplace despondency, low morale and reduced productivity.
That is why the third key to unlock your team’s productivity is breaking those poor communication habits.
Why good face-to-face communication facilitates better productivity
A productive team is a team that communicates well with each other and others to get the job done.
Face-to-face communication is valuable in both project conditions and everyday working situations, because it helps to build relationships, cut out unnecessary layers, clarify ambiguous issues and save time.
Face-to-face communication also allows us to be persuasive, to enjoy giving and receiving praise and to bring more people into the conversation. It provides instant feedback and is essential for delicate situations.
A number of factors can lead to poor face-to-face communication - social anxiety, poor listening, mixed messages (body and speech are saying different things), aggression and active avoidance.
How to overcome poor face-to-face communication habits
Discourage email as a communication medium. Encourage colleagues to talk in person, either physically or through your instant online meeting platform/app.
Make sure organised meetings are structured, have a clear purpose and that everyone is able to bring something to the table.
For those with social anxiety, online meetings can be a godsend. Shy employees often clam up in a group setting but feel empowered in an online environment where they are technically alone and communication isn’t dominated by those who shout loudest.
Encourage collaboration. People working together talk together.
Why non face-to-face communication can hamper productivity
- Email is now the default communication tool in modern business. It is used to ask simple questions, to communicate important company information and to deliver veiled criticism of colleagues to a wide audience without immediate comeback.
- Email is not appropriate for most forms of business communication, but it is widely accepted as such because it removes the need to talk to people – something a surprising number of people feel uncomfortable with. Employees also like having something in writing when disagreements arise.
- Other non face-to-face communication techniques, including memos, letters, phone calls and press releases, are ideal for specific purposes, but never as a replacement for two-way dialogue.
How to overcome problems with poor non face-to-face communication
- Ideally, non face-to-face communication should be restricted to specific situations – company wide bulletins, formal notifications (pay rises, changes in terms of contract) and as a reinforcement to face-to-face dialogue.
- However, in a busy workplace, it simply isn’t practical to get people together in the same room for every little question or announcement. That in itself is counter-productive.
- That’s why businesses that use new online technologies to facilitate communication reap productivity benefits that significantly outweigh traditional modes of both face-to-face and non face-to-face communication. Those technologies can include instant messaging, online meetings and video conferencing – all of which are instant, efficient and more productive than traditional methods.
5 key takeaways that will help you transform your team’s productivity levels
- Boosting team productivity requires commitment and action from management. It is not a passive activity.
- Staff morale is just one third of the puzzle when it comes to motivational techniques that lead to increased productivity.
- Psychological motivators are more effective long-term than material rewards when it comes to increasing productivity.
- Collaboration and communication are the magic ingredients to productivity once all else has fallen into place.
- Online meetings, project management tools, video conferencing and instant messaging can shave hours of wasted time from a working week, improve communication and efficiency and keep everyone on the same page at all times.
1Johnston, N. (2015) ‘Three hours of each working day is wasted ', The Times, 5 October Huth, S. (2015) ‘Employees waste 759 hours each year due to workplace distractions’, The Telegraph, 22 June.
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