How to Increase Workplace Productivity


Part 1
The Current Landscape of Workplace Productivity

If you pulled most managers aside and asked them what they would like to happen with their employees in the next year, one of the answers will have something to do with workplace productivity.

Companies cannot survive without high performing workers who care about the job they do. Unfortunately, a lot of factors can contribute to low productivity. Some of those elements are related to managers while others are on the head of the employees themselves.

Below are eye-opening statistics from Gallup concerning workplace performance and productivity:

  • High performing employees have three things in common: talent, high engagement, and ten plus years of service with the company.
  • 85 percent of employees are disengaged in their work globally, and a lot of this is due to a lack of human capital development.
  • Employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are eight percent more productive and six times more likely to be engaged.

In all of the above statistics, engagement is a crucial factor in determining productivity. In fact, employees who are engaged are 27 percent more likely to report excellent performance. Therefore, if leaders want to increase productivity, they need to increase their focus on engagement and finding out how they can improve it among their employees. Between 2011 and 2016, employee productivity grew .3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this is a definite increase, there is still a lot of work today’s leaders have to do to increase workplace productivity across the board.

Part 2
Challenges to Increasing Workplace Productivity

Most of the challenges related to increasing workplace productivity have to do with human capital development and engagement. Every worker is different, and leaders have the problem of trying to determine how best to motivate and inspire employees regardless of personality.

  1. The Problem with Email

    Email can be a helpful resource in workplaces. It sends information quickly and efficiently. The only issue is that most employees and leaders do not know how to use this tool efficiently. Approximately 28 percent of the work week for employees is used to check email. This keeps workers from getting to the work they are assigned to do.

  2. A Lack of Adequate Communication

    Many signs point to the detrimental impact of poor communication in the workplace. If managers are not clear in how they assign duties, or projects are not explained then productivity can lack. According to data from Salesforce, 86 percent of corporate executives, employees and educators felt ineffective communications is a big reason for failures in the workplace.

  3. Poor Management

    Leadership development is pivotal in creating a productive workplace. Sound managers can provide the guidance, training, and direction to employees they lead. Without capable management, workers can flounder in productivity. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 58 percent of employees felt that poor management is the most prominent obstacle to productivity.

  4. Disengagement

    Employees can become disengaged for a lot of reasons: lack of autonomy, poor management, lack of challenge in their work, unclear direction, and workplace conflict. This disengagement takes employees away from their tasks and decreases their motivation to get things done. According to Gallup, disengaged employees costs the U.S. $450 to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.

  5. Task Overload

    Employees are now expected to have the ability to handle multiple duties at one time. The issue with this is that it can end up overwhelming employees to the point where they cannot get anything done efficiently. Also, in this new technology age, employees may feel compelled to check email, take phone calls, send text messages, and to work on more projects then they may have time for. This can keep employees from grasping the information they need to, and it can also contribute to stress.

  6. Workplace Stress

    57 percent of employees who said they were very stressed at work felt less productive and engaged, while only 10 percent of low-stressed employees felt the same way. When employees are stressed, they are less likely to be productive, and they are more prone to make mistakes.

Part 3
8 Steps to Increase Workplace Productivity

  1. Determine Where the Lack of Productivity Is Occurring

    — Before addressing a decrease in productivity, managers should sit down with leaders and determine where productivity can improve.

    — A specific department could fair worse than another, or low morale due to budget cutbacks and layoffs could contribute to low productivity.

  2. Develop a Plan for Addressing the Productivity

    — Once the cause of low productivity has been established, leaders should develop a plan to address each one.

    — Is email taking up too much of the time of employees and causing them to delay other duties?

    — Is communication lacking?

    — Knowing which factors are leading to a decrease in productivity can help leaders work with departments to develop a plan to tackle it.

  3. Establish Leadership Development Programs

    — Many managers could use some additional development to help them develop the leadership skills needed to guide employees to success.

    — Training on communication, project management, giving useful employee feedback, and conflict resolution can provide managers with the tools they need to be effective in keeping themselves and employees on track.

  4. Develop an Efficient Employee Feedback System

    — Employees cannot improve if they are not receiving feedback respectfully and effectively. If a particular employee is making a certain number of errors, then they should be instructed on how best to improve.

    — Employees may not be aware of how they can better their performance, and giving them the knowledge on what they can do differently can help.

  5. Give Employees a Sense of Ownership

    — Repetitive tasks can create disengaged employees. Task differentiation can motivate employees to become invested in their work.

    — Allowing workers the opportunity to work on solutions for company problems and collaborate with others to spur innovation can decrease burnout and disengagement.

  6. Get Feedback from Employees

    — No one knows their work day better than they do. Constant interruptions, internal conflicts, and task overload are things that managers may not be directly privy to.

    — Distributing employee surveys and establishing focus groups that value transparency can get leaders to the heart of what is going on concerning productivity.

  7. Create a Rewards System

    — Rewards and recognition can increase employee motivation and engagement. Many workers may feel their work is not appreciated or noticed which can contribute to disengagement.

    — Developing a rewards system that acknowledges employees who go above and beyond or those that create new and innovative processes can let employees know that their work is meaningful and valued. Also, simple words of encouragement and a “thank you,” can go a long way.

  8. Check the Equipment

    — Nothing is more frustrating than an employee not being able to use a computer or the software on it because it is out of date or non-functional.

    — Problems that are blamed on an employee’s lack of productivity may be caused by obsolete technology.

    — Employees need to be given all the tools they need to perform at a high-level. Failing to ensure this could contribute to a lack of productivity.

Part 4
Increasing Workplace Productivity: Best Practices

Improving on workplace productivity should not be a one-time thing. It should be something that employers regularly engage in to keep their workflow on the positive side. Below are best practices that leaders should always see to establish in their workplace to further encourage increased productivity.

  • Require Senior Leaders to Also Engage in Training

    Mid-level managers are not the only individuals who need to participate in leadership training. Senior leadership needs to set the example by participating in a practice that encourages them to learn the skills required to be effective leaders. This will, in turn, inspire mid-level managers to do the same.

  • Provide Work-Life Balance

    Workers cannot get work done if they are worried about how they are going to fulfill familial obligations. Management should do all they can to work with employees on a case-by-case basis to support their work-life balance. If a worker needs to come in later to take their kids to school, or if someone needs to work remote to take care of a sick loved one, management should find ways to support employees that show their dedication. Doing this will ease the stress they could bring to work, and it will show that they care about more than just them fulfilling their duties.

  • Set Clear Goals and Objectives

    It is alarming how many companies are not clear about what they expect from their employees and how many goals they would like for them to meet. Leaders need to be clear about objectives and how long employees have to meet them (example: S.M.A.R.T. goals). Workers cannot succeed if they are not aware of what the expectations are.

  • Encourage Teamwork

    Employers can use influence to inspire even the most disengaged employee. Encouraging cooperation and collaboration can help push employees to give their best. When they know that they have to do their best for the benefit of others, it can go a long way.

Productivity can make or break an organization. Therefore, employers need to make sure they are monitoring how workers are performing and creating plans to allow them to do the jobs they are assigned to do. 


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