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Jan09

Surprising Ways to Improve Your Team’s Productivity


Got a workforce that isn’t measuring up to your expectations?  Concerned that your employees are wasting time on the company clock and holding your entire company back from meeting its overall goals?

If so, you may have a productivity issue!

Obviously, low productivity within an organization can stem from a number of different causative factors – with different sets of workers facing different disincentives to get their work done.  However, the solutions to your productivity problems may be simpler than you expect.  Consider any of the following surprising ways to improve overall output and drive business success:

Idea #1 – Give workers more responsibility

If the thought of encouraging productivity amongst your employees by adding more to their workload seems counterintuitive, you might be surprised to find that employees often view being given additional responsibilities as an indication that they’re trusted and relied upon by their organizations.

Think about it…  If you’re an employee who’s being constantly passed over for exciting projects and higher levels of responsibility, it’s natural to assume that this is occurring because your company doesn’t believe you’ll do a good job.  And when this is the case, both your morale and your willingness to commit to the tasks you have been assigned goes down – resulting in lower overall productivity.

So if you want your workers to do a better job, give them some measure of responsibility over project success.  Start small, and allow employees to both build trust with you and increase their overall level of productivity and satisfaction with your organization.

Idea #2 – Improve your bosses

In addition, be aware that it isn’t always the failing of your employees if you see a decrease in employees.  In many cases, it’s their bosses who are managing ineffectively – leading to underutilized workers focusing their time on the wrong objectives.

Interestingly enough, research conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research demonstrated that improving the caliber of the bosses supervising a team improved the group’s productivity to the same degree as adding another employee in some cases.  According to the agency’s working paper:

“Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team.”

So if your organization is struggling to maintain productivity, it might not be unmotivated employees that deserve the majority of your attention.  In some cases, improving your bosses’ performance through additional training exercises and learning opportunities could make all the difference your organization needs.

Idea #3 – Say a personal “Thank you”

Finally, be aware that many employers have a very warped view of what motivates their employees to perform to the best of their abilities.  To see how extreme the divide is between what employees want and what their employers believe they want, consider the following employee statistics compiled by Mindflash.

The employers surveyed in the research gathered by Mindflash placed the following ten workplace benefits in the following order, based on the items they believed mattered most to their workers:

  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion/growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic help with personal problems
  10. Feeling “in” on things

However, when employees were asked to prioritize the same list of office perks from most to least desirable, their results were much different:

  1. Full appreciation for work done
  2. Feeling “in” on things
  3. Sympathetic help on personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion/growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline

Although it might be surprising to see employees value appreciation for their hard work over higher salaries, greater job security and better growth opportunities, anyone who’s worked in a thankless, unappreciative environment knows how critical proper feedback can be to building employee morale.

With this in mind, consider that the low levels of productivity you’re observing might be occurring due to the perception that employee contributions aren’t being recognized.  Really, how motivated would you be to work hard if you were never called out or thanked for your dedication?

As such, one simple solution to many productivity issues is to start recognizing employees for their contributions.  You don’t need to make a big production out of it and you don’t need to reward your productive employees with a financial incentive or other prize.  Instead, a simple, heartfelt “thank you” from a boss or manager will go a long way towards encouraging employees to be more productive in the future.

Do you have any other recommendations on how you’ve improved productivity within your own organization?  If so, share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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