It goes without saying: the more productive your employees are, the more impact your organization will have.
High productivity leads to increased revenue, greater growth, and greater movement toward your mission and goals.
The problem: for many companies, their employees aren’t highly productive.
In fact, one survey found that 85% of employees are NOT engaged and that low engagement is costing companies $450-500 billion each year.
Leadership and leadership decisions. Everything falls back to leadership.
That can be tough to hear as a leader, but it’s also good, because it means, as a leader, you can change it.
How do you change it?
That’s what we talk about in this article. You will learn 50 powerful ways to improve employee productivity in the workplace.
How this article is laid out:
The first point is about you as a leader – if you aren’t right as a leader, it really doesn’t matter what you do.
Second, we cover some basic steps that you and your organization should do to create an environment for high efficiency and productivity in the workplace.
Third, we talk about other strategies you can use to help engage your employees and help them be more productive.
Table of Contents:
- Be a great leader
- Make sure your mission (purpose), vision, and values are clear and written
- Live and share your mission, vision, and values
- Let your mission and values be what drives you
- Create a good company culture
- Create a culture where mistakes and failures are welcome
- Create a culture of safety
- Be a company of change
- Set clear goals to improve employee productivity
- Set milestones
- Have great leaders
- Develop great leaders
- Care for your employees
- Set clear expectations and job duties
- Help employees prioritize their work and focus on their MITs
- Remove barriers and bottlenecks
- Remove bureaucratic rules
- Hire well
- Make sure people are in the right seat
- Fire fast (If the problem isn’t you)
- Teach effective time management techniques
- Help people grow and develop toward mastery
- Give lots of feedback
- Communicate effectively and frequently
- Empower your people to make decisions and solve problems
- Give decision making power to those near the issue
- Serve your team
- Delegate well
- Remove the silos
- Acknowledge, praise and reward frequently
- Automate where you can
- Give time for people to work on ideas
- Measure what’s important
- Don’t bog down employees with reports and unnecessary data
- Make sure to explain the “why”
- Give purpose in what they do
- Give autonomy
- Hold effective meetings
- Encourage breaks
- Provide quality tools and resources
- Welcome and encourage feedback (and listen well)
- Welcome and encourage disagreement
- Don’t tolerate gossip, negativity, drama, and politics
- Make the first days awesome
- Reward the behaviors you want
- Help employees manage and remove distractions
- Set good email use policies
- Talk to your team about how you can help improve their performance
- Help employees move toward their career goals
- Show trust toward your team
You As A Leader
1. Be a great leader
EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership.
The reason we have so many issues in our government, our schools, and our businesses is because of bad, or poor leadership.
If you fix the leadership issues in your organization (and possibly with you), you fix the main issue.
No one thinks they are a “bad” leader, so check yourself and see how well you are really doing.
It doesn’t mean you are “bad” or destined to failure if you aren’t the best right now, it just means you have room to grow. And, if you recognize that, that’s a huge step toward being a great leader.
Learn the principles of good leadership.
None of the other steps really matter if your leadership is suffering. Make sure to start getting YOU right first, if need be.
Again, it’s okay if you struggle as a leader right now. Learn. When you grow as a leader, everything around you then can grow as well.
For signs of “bad” leadership, checkout: 141 Signs You Are a Bad Leader
For common mistakes of leadership: 75 Common Leadership Mistakes
For common causes of leadership failures: 25 Major Signs of Leadership Failure
Set Your Organization Up For Success
2. Make sure your mission (purpose), vision, and values are clear and written
One of the first steps you need to take is to make sure you mission, vision, and values, are clear and written down.
What is the overall purpose, the mission of your company (besides making money)? What higher value are you trying to accomplish and attain? How are you trying to impact the world?
For example, Kickstarter’s mission is to “to help bring creative projects to life.”
It needs to be simple, concise, and clear.
The paragraphs that many corporations and government entities call their “mission statements” are just lip service and mean nothing to anyone (and no one knows what they are except when it’s reevaluated at the yearly stakeholder meeting).
What vision do you have for the future? What do you want it to look like in 5, 10, 15+ years? What kind of world do you envision creating with your product or service?
And what are your values? What values do you live and stand by as an organization?
Make sure you know what those are and have them written out clearly.
(Need help writing your mission statement? Read – The Definitive Guide to Mission Statements)
3. Live and share your mission, vision, and values
Once you are clear about your mission, your vision, and your values, make sure that you live them.
If they aren’t followed and lived out by upper management, then no one else will either. If all they are is lip service, then they mean nothing, and it will just be another “management thing” that people ignore.
Make sure you live it out and you share it consistently and constantly.
If you are serious about your mission and values, it needs to be constantly repeated and presented and part of who you are and what you do.
Make sure everyone knows your mission (your purpose, your “why”) and the values you all are living by.
If they are on board and they see it as true, they will be more excited and motivated as they move toward it.
If they aren’t excited about it and don’t fit into it, then they will leave (or you may have to ask some to leave). If they aren’t on board, then they aren’t a good fit anyway and need to find a place where they are a good fit.
When you find your WHY, you don’t hit snooze no more! You find a way to make it happen. – Eric Thomas Click To Tweet
4. Let your mission and values be what drives you
People are motivated by purpose. When you have a strong, overall purpose (beyond making money) that others can get behind, they are generally more motivated and will surely improve employee productivity.
It also helps you (and your employees) in your decision making. Every decision is based through the lens of the mission and values.
It helps you make decisions faster and helps everyone be on the same track heading in the same direction.
5. Create a good company culture
Having a clear purpose/mission, values and vision are a strong part of your company culture. If you are clear about your mission and values, live it, and share it, that will help establish a strong culture.
(Though this article isn’t focused on culture, per say, many of these strategies can help you build a strong company culture.)
When you have a strong culture, your employees will be more motivated, improve employee productivity, and their work performance will be high.
When it’s weak, you have higher turnover, your good people leave, you lose productivity, and your revenue streams hurt.
6. Create a culture where mistakes and failures are welcome
Some companies have cultures where mistakes and failures are not tolerated. People fear making mistakes because they don’t want to be reprimanded or docked.
What happens then?
People stop innovating and taking risks. They don’t try new things because they don’t want to make a mistake. They do what’s easy instead of what is necessary because they know they can do the easy (and they may get in trouble for a mistake in the necessary).
You end up with a company that’s not innovative, lives in fear, is punitive, and, as you can guess, has lower morale and productivity.
Be a company that encourages mistakes and failures – that encourages new ideas, innovations, taking risks, and trying new things. ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
If someone tries for something big and fails, praise them for it!
If someone stretches themselves and makes a mistake, praise them for it.
This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate every kind of mistake (e.g. sloppiness, laziness, etc.), but innovation and great ideas come from trying new things, and new things come with a lot of mistakes and failures.
If you don’t tolerate and accept the failures, you won’t get the successes either.
7. Create a culture of safety
One of the main points of Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last (that stuck with me the most) is the importance of safety.
Your employees need to feel safe at your company. They need to know you support them and that you have their back and that you are there for them.
If the feel safe at your company, then they can face outward and deal with all the external problems and situations your company faces as they know you have their back.
If they don’t feel safe, if they feel people are after them, looking for them to do wrong, backstabbing, politics and drama, then they will be facing inward to protect themselves instead of outward – and those external challenges will be ignored or dealt with poorly.
Make sure you have a culture where people feel safe.
They should feel safe speaking up without retribution. They should feel their leaders are out to help them, not undermine them.
There shouldn’t be politics or drama that they have to worry about or deal with.
They should know that their company has their back and supports them, and as they face outward to deal with the externals, you are there for them and with them.
8. Be a company of change
Be a company that changes.
Many companies fail because they are stuck doing what they did in the past, they way the did it. Good people end up leaving, and they get passed by other companies who innovate and are willing to change.
Don’t be rigid on old rules or ways of doing things – let it be known and encouraged that you are about constant improvement, and if a new way of doing something comes that is better and more productive, you are willing and wanting to ditch the old.
This can help motivate employees to try new ways of doing things and make your company more productive and profitable.
Great companies foster a productive tension between continuity and change. ~ Jim Collins Click To Tweet
9. Set clear goals to improve employee productivity
Once you have a clear mission and values, you need to have clear goals that your company is pursuing toward that mission.
When you have a clear goal that the company is trying to accomplish, then everyone throughout the company then can create goals to move the company toward that goal.
This not only helps give purpose to employees for what they are doing, but it also helps everyone align the tasks they are doing with the goals of the company and focus on the areas of their job that are most important.
Greater focus on what’s important = greater productivity.
Learn more about setting goals for your company here.
10. Set milestones
It can be hard to visualize big, long-term goals.
If you break them up into milestones, it can make goals more tangible.
Create milestones along the way toward your company’s goals. Have your teams and employees set milestones for theirs as well (as applicable).
Don’t make them easy (or too challenging), but make them challenging enough that it causes your teams to stretch and push hard to make it happen.
Then, when they reach milestones, acknowledge and reward them, even if it’s just you telling them how awesome they did and showing sincere appreciation.
11. Have great leaders
Make sure the leaders you have throughout your organization are good leaders and that they are trained well.
A large percentage of employees quit their jobs, not because of pay or benefits or because another job just look good, but because of their managers and leaders.
If you can fix your leadership issues, you will not only improve employee productivity but will likely reduce turnover.
If you have bad leaders, offer to train them and guide them. If they are arrogant or unwilling, it’s about time to replace them with good leaders.
12. Develop great leaders
Not only should you work to have good leaders now, you should be working to develop good leaders for down the road.
Even now, be developing the next generation of leaders.
This does not only boost productivity and motivation but keeps it high as time progresses as well.
Other Strategies and Ways to Improve Employee Productivity
13. Care for your employees
One of the best steps you can take to motivate and improve employee productivity is to care about them.
Don’t treat them as a number, as “them”, or a commodity that can come and go.
Treat them as people, as part of your family (work family).
You can’t know everyone (depending on the size of your company), but you can get to know some that are around you. Know there names, what they like to do, their families.
Be there for them when things go wrong. Be flexible. If a family member passes away, offer support, flowers, time off, or whatever else they may need.
Caring may cost some time and money, but the rewards you get from it or well worth it.
Care for your employees. Treat them as people, as part of your family (work family). ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
14. Set clear expectations and job duties
One of the big reasons employees aren’t productive is that they aren’t clear about what their job duties are or specifically what is expected of them.
In other words, they don’t really know what they were hired to accomplish.
This can happen for several reasons. For one, often, job descriptions are vague, and then no one tells them specifically what is expected of them.
So they spend days and months working on tasks that later they find out (if they ever do) aren’t really that important.
You need to make sure all your job descriptions are specific – why you are hiring this person, what they are expected to do, what their most important tasks are, and what are you expecting them to accomplish.
Make sure they have something written they can compare to what they are doing to make sure they are on track.
Also, their supervisor should know exactly what their most important tasks and expectations are and should go over with them to make sure both are on the same page.
Share with the company’s mission and goals and show them how their job aligns with it.
15. Help employees prioritize their work and focus on their MITs
Having clear expectations and job duties is the first step in helping employees prioritize their work. The second is twofold:
First, depending on the employee, you also may want to teach them how to prioritize their work if they struggle with it.
Sit down with them and go over the different tasks they must do.
Help them see what is important and what is not important. Teach them to focus on their most important tasks (MITs) first.
Second, help remove the work that isn’t important to them. If they are wasting hours on tasks that aren’t part of their MITs, help them find ways to remove those tasks by batching, delegating, or deleting them.
If you can find a way to remove those tasks and put them with someone else whose job makes those tasks important (to them), then you are helping your employees be even more productive.
16. Remove barriers and bottlenecks
Sometimes rules and processes and systems can create bottlenecks. Sometimes you have goals and projects you want your team or employee to pursue, but they have barriers created by higher-ups.
An example of a bottleneck would be if all reports must go through one person before being submitted somewhere else.
If that person is sick, backed up, or slow, you are bottlenecking the productivity of your employees.
A barrier could be lack of access to certain people or resources.
In both those cases, work to remove those. If there are barriers preventing them from doing their work effectively, see what you can do to remove them for them.
If there is a bottleneck, see what changes you can make to remove those.
The less barriers and bottlenecks your employees have, the greater their work performance will be.
17. Remove bureaucratic rules
Bureaucracy is the bane of productivity. Period.
Sometimes they are created with good intentions, but usually it has the same result – lower productivity, lower morale, and good people leaving.
Rules are sometimes created to passive-aggressively deal with problem behaviors. One person did something wrong or is not doing things well, so instead of dealing with that individual person, a new rule is created that affects everyone because of that person (this happens a lot in government, for sure).
Rules may also be created to help systemize processes – but problems arise when you forget the people and the trust part.
A lot of rules come about due to lack of trust in employees. Someone feels they must control them, they can’t trust them, so they create a bunch of rules.
This is discussed in the next section, but if you have issues with trust with your people, that’s on you for hiring poor workers. That’s a leadership issue.
If you have problems with people not following rules – deal with the person.
Let go of the people you can’t trust, hire motivated people you can trust, and create a culture trust.
Any rule created should be one that help improve employee productivity. If it’s meant to passive-aggressively deal with people issues or because you feel like you have to micromanage your employees – stop. Solve those issues separately.
If the rule makes productivity worse or lowers morale, find a way to fix the issue without the rule.
Remember, it all ultimately goes back to leadership. If you are having issues you think you need to create rules for, examine yourself and your decision making and your policies first to see what created those issues.
Bureaucracy is the bane of productivity. ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
18. Hire well
One of the best strategies you can have to improve employee productivity is to hire well. Take the time to hire good people.
Too often people rush in the hiring process. They get mediocre workers who then cause issues. Leadership may create “rules” to deal with those mediocre workers, and over time their good people leave.
Or they have higher turnover trying to find the right person – and that costs a LOT of time and money.
We should hire slow and “fire fast”*, but we often do the opposite.
Take the time to hire great people. Make sure they will be a good fit for your culture. Do multiple interviews.
And if they aren’t a good fit, make the changes you need to fast.
*see #17 and #18.
19. Make sure people are in the right seat
If people aren’t working out in a position the way you think they should, make sure they are in the right seat.
Is there another position that would fit them better? Would they thrive doing something else?
Before axing someone or just letting them sit in a position that’s not right for them, make sure it’s not because they are in the wrong seat.
At the same time, make sure you have the right person for that position. Just because someone does “okay”, doesn’t mean they should stay there.
Would someone really thrive and rock that position? Then see if you can find a better spot for the person in it and move that other person to that position.
20. Fire fast (If the problem isn’t you)
If the person isn’t working out well, before taking major action, check to see the cause of the problem.
Were they given clear expectations? If not, that’s likely the problem.
Do they need training? That could be an easy solution.
Are they just in the wrong position? See if you can move them.
Are there other supports you can or need to provide? Do so if applicable.
However, if they are underperforming and the above doesn’t apply, make the change fast. It’s not fair to the rest of the team (or to them) to let them keep at a job they are underperforming at.
When you wait, it creates more work and stress and lower morale for the rest of the team. It also makes the person you need to let go think they are doing okay (or leave them struggling).
Though we tell ourselves differently, generally the main reason we wait to let go of someone is because it is uncomfortable for us to do so. But what you are doing is stealing time from that person and your team.
Make the change. Do so with dignity. But let the person go.
If the person is not a good culture fit, it’s okay to let them go, too, to find a place that better fits them.
And of course, if someone is immoral or unethical, get rid of them fast!
Dealing with employee issues can be difficult, but not dealing with them can be worse. ~ Paul foster Click To Tweet
21. Teach effective time management techniques
One great way to improve employee performance is to teach them how to perform well. Teach them how to be productive.
You can do online courses, provide books, host in-house training, share wonderfully written articles about the subject – whatever you choose.
Just make sure they know the steps and technique to be productive.
For some great articles to share, check out: The 40 Top Tips to Improve Your Time Management at Work
22. Help people grow and develop toward mastery
If you want your team to be more productive, help them grow in their jobs so that they can be more productive.
One of the prime motivations of humans is the desire to develop toward mastery. We want to get better at what we do.
When you provide those avenues, not only are you getting a more motivated employee, but you are also getting a more skilled employee as well.
Provide training for the core areas of their job. The better they are at their critical areas, the greater their productivity increases.
It can also be wise and kind to provide opportunities for general training to help with their career, such as leadership, goal setting, conflict resolution, technical skills, and so on.
Soft skills are huge, and those will help them not just at work but in all areas of their life.
This doesn’t mean you have to provide it in house, but you should definitely encourage and offer the ability and opportunities for them to go, learn, and grow.
23. Give lots of feedback
One of the best ways to grow your employees is to give them constant and consistent feedback.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen, and it hurts in many ways:
- When there’s no feedback, they don’t know if they are doing a good job or not, or if they are on the right tasks.
- It lowers employee engagement.
- It increases turnover.
- It hurts morale.
- It lowers productivity.
Think about it – consistent feedback helps employees focus and get better at there tasks, week by week. Without it, they just do the same thing or guess what they should improve at.
Employees feel more cared about and engaged when someone is actively helping them improve.
And think of productivity by itself – if you want greater productivity, constant feedback directs efforts week by week to what is most productive.
Too often we call feedback the annual performance review. That’s a joke.
If all you do for feedback is the yearly review, you are failing your company and your employees.
Make constant and consistent feedback part of your work culture – from anyone, to anyone – but especially from supervisor to employee.
Learners need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching. ~ Grant Wiggins Click To Tweet
24. Communicate effectively and frequently
One major reason for a lack of trust in an organization is the lack of communication.
Lack of communication also causes confusion, disorganization, and wasted hours and money. It hurts decision-making and innovation.
Lack of communication can cause a lot of damage.
Make sure communication is frequent, clear, and open from the top. If there are issues, make sure to share them quickly – otherwise people will feel you are hiding something and come up with their own “truths”.
Make sure when giving instructions to set clear expectations and watch out for assumptions. Make sure information is disseminated clearly and simply. Be informative, but concise.
Create an environment of high communication and free information movement. Let feedback and disagreement be something encouraged and asked for.
The better the communication that comes from you and the better communication flows through your organization, the higher the productivity will be.
25. Empower your people to make decisions and solve problems
Few things are more frustrating than having to ask a manager for permission for everything – it’s frustrating for employees AND customers.
It also shows a lack of faith in employees, and it’s demotivating.
Instead, empower your employees to make decisions. Give them a level of authority where they can solve problems that arise without always having to wait for approval from someone else.
26. Give decision making power to those near the issue
One of the biggest causes of poor decision making in organizations is that decisions are made far from the issue or problem.
It’s often the people on the front (or near it) who are facing the problem. They see it. The people at the top are often detached.
What often happens is that the people at the top think they have the problem figured out and make decisions without even consulting those at the problem.
So the people with the decision making power have little information and the people with the most information have the least decision making power.
That creates so many issues, failed policies, bad directives, and annoyed and frustrated employees. Then the employees are often blamed when the failed policy fails.
Instead, let decision making be as close to the problem as possible. Give people the power to solve problems where they are at.
If it’s a major problem that you need to decide, make sure to get the input from those near the problem. Don’t assume you know because you are on top.
And, if you don’t trust them to make decisions – it sounds like a you problem – you’ve either hired poor workers or you haven’t trained or set good expectations – or you have a trust issue and have a hard time letting go.
It’s not the tools you have faith in–tools are just tools–they work, or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not. ~Steve Jobs Click To Tweet
27. Serve your team
Good leaders are great servants. They serve their team. They not only care about their team, but they work to help them succeed.
A leader is someone who leads and guides a team toward the accomplishment of a goal or goals.
Doesn’t it make sense then that, as a leader, you would want to empower and help your employees accomplish those goals?
Open doors for your employees. Provide the resources they need. Offer training that will help them along.
Whatever it is, you are there to support your team, not for your team to support you and make you look good.
28. Delegate well
One reason leaders try to do everything (sometimes) and why work doesn’t get done well is that people delegate poorly.
Delegation does not equal abdication.
When you delegate a task, you are not going hands off. You still are the leader and still are responsible for the results.
The level of involvement will depend on the person, but you do want to have check-ins and you do want to set expectations for those tasks.
If you delegate well and stay involved and help push tasks that are off trach back on track through your checkups, then that will help your team’s and improve employees’ productivity overall.
To learn how to delegate well, read The Definitive Guide to Delegation.
29. Remove the silos
Silos are when different departments or teams are “me vs you”. Instead of being all part of one team working together, they start seeing each other as enemies fighting for resources, primacy, etc.
That’s silly and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Patrick Lencioni has a great book on removing them (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars).
One major tip for helping resolve silos (that Lencioni promotes) is to have a common goal that everyone is pursuing.
Nothing pulls people together like a crisis. You don’t want to create a crisis, but it’s the common goal that brings people together.
When your team meets about the goal, don’t let them lead from the viewpoint of their departments but from the viewpoint of the organization – what will help the company reach the goal.
Make it a constant that we are one team pursuing one common goal.
There are other strategies that you can use, but whatever direction you take, don’t tolerate silos anymore (even if it means eventually removing people).
30. Acknowledge, praise and reward frequently
Many employees feel they are never acknowledged by their employers – and the effects aren’t good: turnover, low morale, and low engagement.
It doesn’t take much to acknowledge the good work of your employees, and it’s worth every minute of sincere praise you give.
You can also find ways to reward employees – and it doesn’t have to be money (and often shouldn’t be). Awards, prizes, public recognition (for some), names announced to others, etc. can all be motivation to keep working hard and moving forward.
And, again, you caring about them and caring enough to acknowledge the work and sacrifice they do can mean a lot in itself.
(Based on a survey conducted by the Happiness Study, 58% of those who responded reported that getting just a simple “Thank you” or “Great Job” frequently from their bosses has positively impacted their mood at work.)
31. Automate where you can
The more you can help automate the tasks that your employees do, the faster they can work and the more productive they can be.
You may know some tasks that would benefit greatly with automation, but also ask your employees. What types of automation could help make their work easier?
For example, the app Zapier connects a lot of programs together. Instead of manually entering data from one program to the next, is there a way to do it automatically?
The more you can automate tasks, the freer your employees will be to do more important tasks.
32. Give time for people to work on ideas
Quite a few companies do this for their employees. They either have certain periods during the year or a set amount of hours each week where there employees can work on the personal projects for their company. (Here are some companies who value great ideas).
The great thing about this is that a lot of great ideas and projects come from these times.
Many of Google’s products, for example, came from this idea.
It’s also a motivator for your employees for when they are working on their other work as well.
The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they're valued. ~ Ken Robinson Click To Tweet
33. Measure what’s important
You’ve probably heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.”
There’s a lot of truth to that.
This is not about micromanaging or a lack of trust, but if something is important for your company, you need to find a way to measure your progress as you go.
A good measurement aligned with good goals can be motivating. People like to see numbers go up and they like to “win”.
You can also tie certain awards to certain milestones people reach.
However, you don’t want to measure everything.
Know what is most important, your goal or what you are trying to reach. Then look at drivers that will help you get there.
You can measure the main goal, but it can be wise to measure the drivers as well. For example, as a team or individual, how many sales calls per week or product tests or whatever were performed.
If people don’t reach a milestone or fall behind, don’t let it feel or be a punitive issue, but come along and see what the issue is and what you can do to help that employee succeed.
If you don’t measure anything at all don’t expect to see results.
At the same time, be careful of over measuring as well, because that then becomes a drag and annoyance on your employees having to record EVERYTHING.
34. Don’t bog down employees with reports and unnecessary data
It’s sadly ironic sometimes – companies, educational institutes, etc. want more and more data – that they spend so much time collecting data or writing reports on data that it keeps the employee from actually being productive.
In teaching, some teachers are bogged down with so many reports and forms to fill out for “data” that they don’t have much time to actually prepare a great lesson to teach (or it takes away time they could be using teaching or helping students).
In sales, for example, some places require so much from sales people that they spend more time filling out reports and data than actually making sales calls.
Data is important. It is important to measure. But you can go overkill as well.
If your desire for data keeps the person from actually doing their job effectively and well, then it’s not effective.
Just telling the employee to “make time” or “fit it in” is not helpful either.
Sometimes employees already know what needs work, what doesn’t, and have what they need for data without the extra that employers throw at them.
Talk to your employees and see how you can improve the data situation. See what is really needed and not. Also make sure you aren’t over measuring because of a lack of trust in your employees either.
Try to see things from their shoes as well, and it can help you make better decisions that affect them and the company as a whole.
35. Make sure to explain the “why”
Sometimes rules, policies and decisions are made but no explanation is given why.
Sometimes a change of direction happens, but again, no “why”.
The lack of why can bring frustration and made-up stories to employees, especially if they have a history of working with inept leaders in previous companies.
One of the best tools you can use is explain the “why”.
If you are going to have to cut back on travel for conferences, explain why. Don’t just do it.
If you are changing goals or going a different direction, explain the why.
If there is change that needs to be made, explain the why behind it.
However, this doesn’t mean making decisions from on top detached from the problem that affects the people in the front and then just saying “why” you did it.
You still need to get input, if nothing else, from them.
However, if you are going to have to make changes, explaining the why can be a big help for employee understanding and acceptance, and it can remove a lot of the negative rumors before they start.
36. Give purpose in what they do
Purpose is one of the primary drivers of human motivation.
Part of this comes from having an overall purpose and mission for your company, your why.
However, you can also help them see purpose in what they do day to day. Help them see how what they do helps move the company forward toward its mission and goals.
Let them see the impact their work has.
For example, if you produce a certain medical product, having people talk about how the product helped save or improve their life can be a huge motivation.
Or if you develop human resource software, having testimonies of lives changed or helped can help people see that their work is important.
It doesn’t have to be so dramatic either. Just you taking the time to help connect what they do with the big picture or how it helps customers can have a big impact.
37. Give autonomy
Autonomy is another driver of human motivation.
If you want people to feel motivated in their jobs, give them some autonomy in their work. Let them make decisions.
Set the expectations, but let them choose in what way they get there.
Micromanaging or making people always do it “your way” brings nothing but low motivation and frustration.
38. Hold effective meetings
Setting and teaching good policies on meetings will help you make your and everyone else’s time use more effective.
While meetings are necessary part of work, too often they are done poorly.
Many time they don’t need to be held, and when they do, they are ran poorly.
There are different types of meetings and the guidelines for those meetings will be different, but here are some basic guidelines, tips, or ideas:
- Hold a daily huddle meeting.
Have a short m meeting with your team every morning to see where everyone is at, who’s is working on what, and what problems or ideas can be helped by someone else. These typically last 10-15 minutes tops (and they can save you from having other meetings throughout the day).
- Have a preset agenda for each meeting.
Granted, this may depend on the meeting. Some may be, “lets talk about the main issues we each are facing then decide what we should focus on”. That’s an agenda in itself.
Or you may have a set, specific topics, and that’s what you cover.
- Don’t have a meeting if it’s something that can be handled with a quick email, phone call, or chat.
- Start on time.
When you wait for people, you will always be waiting.
- Stay on track (don’t allow side-talk).
Stay on target with the conversation. Don’t get sidetracked. Keep it focused.
Hold effective meetings and keep it focused. ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
39. Encourage breaks
For someone to be productive, it’s important for them to take breaks throughout the day.
Generally, if you work straight without stopping, you mentally become less and less focused (though if you get into a good flow, you can sometimes work for hours focused).
The Draugiem Group installed time tracking software on their computers (something I don’t generally recommend). What they found was that their top 10% of producers didn’t work more but took more breaks.
On average they worked 52 minutes then took a 17-minute break.
Encourage your employees to take breaks, take a walk, or do something to refresh their brain. It may seem like a waste of time, but it actually can improve employee productivity even more.
One popular method is the pomodoro technique.
40. Provide quality tools and resources
One major source of a loss of productivity is a lack of quality tools, equipment, or software.
When computers are old and clunky and have issues, that wastes a lot of the employees’ time dealing with it.
If software is unintuitive and clunky (or employees haven’t been trained effectively even if it is more intuitive), that wastes time as well.
If someone is posting social media for your company, but they have no management tools, that wastes a lot of time for them.
Talk with your employees. Ask them about their tools and resources. What upgrades could be done to make them more productive?
It may not even be something that costs a lot of money, but you won’t know unless you ask.
41. Welcome and encourage feedback (and listen well)
One of my biggest frustrations with some places I have worked with is their lack of willingness to listen to feedback.
They may pretend they do, but they don’t really care, nor do they really listen.
So much could be better in those companies if (well, first if they had better leadership) they actually listened to their employees on how to make things better.
Be a company, be leaders who not only listen to feedback but encourage and welcome it.
When you encourage feedback, problems you may not know about become more visible, new ideas that you may not have thought of yourself come out in the open, and the company can fix issues and move forward faster.
But you must be willing to listen and be willing to admit you don’t know everything and other people can have great ideas. You must realize you may be detached from what is going on ground level.
Encourage and reward candid feedback from your employees (and act on it). ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
42. Welcome and encourage disagreement
Not only should you encourage feedback, but you should also encourage disagreement and dissent.
The worst ideas come with group think. The boss comes up with an idea (or someone else, but often the boss) and everyone agrees with it. No one questions it. No says what could go wrong (except maybe by the water cooler).
Then the idea falls apart and the company loses money, employees, and a lot of time.
Disagreement is important because you gain other perspectives and ideas. It tests your ideas and pokes holes and shows pitfalls.
Even after a discussion you decide to still go with a certain idea, when you know what pitfalls there might be there, you then can work to avoid them.
Without open disagreement, you likely won’t see them.
Disagreement, along with open feedback, can bring about some of the best ideas. Encourage it.
(However, once a decision is made, everyone then needs to be on board to make it happen.)
43. Don’t tolerate gossip, negativity, drama, and politics
Politics, drama, gossip and negativity should not be a part of your company or your culture. If it is, you need to fix it.
Gossip should never be allowed or tolerated. People should always go to the person they have issues with it and deal with the problem directly. If that doesn’t work, then they should take it up.
Talking negatively about people never helps an organization move forward and just creates drama.
If people are constantly being negative, it’s going to be a drag on other people. Those people need to be told they need to change or go.
Politics should never be a part of a company either. When there are politics, it means people are about themselves and their posturing and not about the mission or the good of the company or the good of others.
That should never be tolerated, and if people aren’t willing to change, no matter their position, they should go.
Get the right people on the bus, remove the ones that aren’t a good fit, and don’t tolerate the negatives (and if you get the right people, you won’t really have to deal with these issues as much).
44. Make the first days awesome
The first days at a new job can make or break the motivation of the employee.
When an employee starts at a new company, they are excited and nervous. They are ready to get going, get moving, and accomplish great things.
When the company starts them off well, explaining the culture, goals, having everything ready for them to go and start, and having people to meet and teach them, they are often off to a good start.
But that often doesn’t happen.
Many times they spend a lot of time with HR talking about the policies and procedures.
Then when they get to their office area, their computer may not be working yet or their login is inaccessible.
Some of my first day experiences included being asked to sit in a room and read policy books for 2 days, and for another it was a couple of weeks before I ever got my work computer or access to the software.
You can do so much better! Start them off well, use their initial motivation for good, and don’t kill it!
45. Reward the behaviors you want
If you want certain behaviors, reward those behaviors. If you want people to be finishers, reward when people finish projects (well).
If you are working on punctuality, reward good punctuality.
If you want people to take initiative, reward that!
Too often organizations give lip service to certain behaviors, but they never encourage or reward those behaviors. In fact, they may even reward the opposite behaviors.
They say they want one behavior, but rewards are based on doing something completely different.
You may say you want collaboration on reports, but if you reward how fast they finish them, you are likely to get less collaboration.
Think about what behaviors you are wanting from your employees and what behaviors you are actually rewarding. If they don’t match, fix it.
46. Help employees manage and remove distractions
Distractions can be a killer of productivity. Allow and help your employees take steps to remove those distractions.
If your employees don’t need to have constant access to their emails for their jobs, allow them to only check it a couple times a day. Encourage them to turn off notifications so they aren’t distracted and can focus on their tasks. (You could do the same with phone use).
If there’s a lot of noise where they work, offer to buy them quality headphones.
Encourage employees to set blocks of uninterrupted time and for others to respect that (no “stopping by” for a quick chat).
If your employees are constantly hungry, allow them to have snacks or provide some healthy ones yourself.
See what distractions your employees struggle with and help them overcome it.
Help employees overcome distractions at work. ~ The Exceptional Skills Click To Tweet
47. Set good email use policies
Poor email use can be a significant waste of time.
One idea is to teach good email use. For example:
Most emails should only be 3-5 sentences tops (in most cases – not always practical). It makes you write concisely, and nobody want to read an essay (and few will).
Have set acronyms to use in subject lines. This lets people know what’s in the email, if they even need to read the email (such as if the message is in the subject line) and so on.
Encourage them to change the subject line when the topic changes in an email thread. That makes it easy to know what it is about and for easy searches.
Also, teach people how not to hit reply all! 😊
Teaching some basic email use and etiquette can go a long way in making your team more productive.
48. Talk to your team about how you can help improve their performance
One of the best strategies to improve employee productivity is to ask them how you can help them do that!
Ask them what is working and what’s not. What’s distracting them? What policies are hindering their work? What resources do they not have access to?
Work to see things from their perspective.
Ask them what you can do to help them be better at their job, and you may find some keys to greater productivity.
49. Help employees move toward their career goals
Helping your employees move toward their career goals, even if that is eventually away from you, may seem counterintuitive, but it can actually be helpful.
It shows you care about the employee themselves and their future. They are much more likely to be devoted to the company and work hard and encourage other good workers toward your company, now and later.
And, if you can tie how their career goals can align with your current company goals, it can help boost their motivation even more.
50. Show trust toward your team
This principle has been shown in different ways throughout this article.
If you want effective employees, hire good people then trust them to do their job.
Give them purpose, autonomy and help them grow to be the best they can be.
Give them the expectations and end goals (and the help they may need along the way), and let them work. No need for micromanaging.
You will have more time on your hand to do what you need to do, and your employees will feel empowered to theirs.
Final Thoughts on 50 Powerful Ways to Improve Employee Productivity
If you want to improve productivity of your employees, use good leadership, and create an environment that encourages high performance.
It starts with YOU as the leader.
I hope these strategies have been helpful. If you have any questions or thoughts, please let us know in the comments below.
If we missed a strategy, please share as well.