Employee Productivity: Everything You Need to Know to Boost Productivity in The Workplace
Have you ever wanted to increase employee productivity?
You sure have. And you’re very likely having trouble with it, as only 34% of U.S employees feel engaged with their work.
See, productivity has become harder and harder to measure over the decades. This is due to modern industries employing more knowledge-based work rather than a simple “product per hour” work with repetitive tasks.
This, leading to massive misunderstandings over what’s productive and what’s not.
Companies are not looking forward to improving their work environment, and if they’re, they don’t know how to do it.
Hence the importance of this post. Because here, you’ll find everything you need to know about productivity and how to increase it effectively.
So let’s start right away.
How You Should Think About Productivity
Back then, productivity was simply measured with “output by input” formula. Which was pretty revolutionary decades ago for manufacturers and any kind of business involving assembly lines — and this formula still applies for this kind of industry.
What does this mean? Well, this means that the labor market is requiring more and more “human” and “creative” work than before.
But measuring productivity for knowledge work is complicated (yet not impossible). And referring to work hours per week or tasks completed per day is simply not efficient.
So when we think about productivity in a knowledge-based industry, we have to see employees as the means of production — not as simple operators.
And to increase productivity, you need to account for human factors. Such as:
- Having a sense of meaning in the job
- Feeling comfortable in the workplace
- Being supported by their colleagues and leaders
- Fostering a healthy company culture
- Working in an environment that enhances creativity
The good news is, this post will cover all the human factors you need to consider when trying to improve your workplace employee productivity, without having to rely on inaccurate metrics.
Employee Productivity Factors: 5 Categories
There are so many factors to employee productivity that they need to be divided into five categories. These categories reflect workplace aspects that affect how employees interact with their work (remember, in a human way).
In this section, you’ll learn about these five categories and see a few examples of each.
1. Observational Productivity Factors
This is the first and more important aspect of productivity as it refers to the way you measure and set goals, and from where you can start building a plan of action to improve the quality of your work.
Observational factors may include:
- Using monitoring systems. Tracking how many hours are being worked, what’s being done, and how tasks are being done. Having this kind of data helps give a sense of progress in the workplace and spot opportunities for improvement.
- Conducting regular employee reviews. As said before, there are human outputs you can’t measure directly. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask your employees about their performance and how confident they’re feeling about their work — hence the importance of employee reviews.
- Collecting feedback through employee surveys. If you approach employee surveys in a way that’s more engaging than the traditional annual surveys (such as pulse surveys), you can collect valuable feedback you can use to implement positive changes in the workplace.
2. Motivational Productivity Factors
Knowing how to motivate your team is a valuable perk for any leader. And if you approach motivation the right way, you’ll soon see the difference in productivity and see how it pays-off.
Employee motivation isn’t at all under your control, but you sure can do something about it when leading a team.
Some factors that may motivate your team include:
- Offering monetary rewards. Some people work just for the money (nothing wrong with that), and offering monetary rewards can perfectly work for them for a quick productivity increase.
- Offering free-time rewards. Other people just want more free-time, and offering the possibility of leaving early can be an appropriate incentive to work more proactively.
- Targeting meaningful goals. Many people have career goals, and if you took the time to talk with employees, you could know what they want to achieve and align their job towards their individual goals, so they have a reason to push harder.
Celebrating your wins. Celebrating daily/weekly wins with your team, no matter how small they are. Having a sense of progress incentivizes productivity, so doing this on a daily or weekly basis can make a huge difference.
3. Environmental Productivity Factors
The work environment is a huge productivity factor. Keeping track of how your workplace or your employee’s setup (if they work remotely) affects your team’s productivity can give you an idea of what you can do to improve efficiency.
Some of these environmental factors include:
- The level of natural light in the office. It’s proven that natural light increases productivity. So taking a look at how your office windows are positioned or how regularly you go outdoors is worth checking.
- Room’s colors. Just as with natural light, your wall’s colors can surprisingly influence your mood. Check out what kind of colors works best, and see if it’s time for a new painting.
- Amount of plants in the workspace. Also backed by science, having green life in the office is another productivity factor you can take advantage of if you’re looking for remodeling the workplace.
- Having enough private space. Private space makes sense; your employees need to have enough room, so they don’t feel like they’re in a public place.
- Distractions. Remove any kind of distractions, not just from the office, but from the computers and any device that can make a sound. You can find software for this.
4. Procedural Productivity Factors
Procedural factors have more to do with the job itself and how your employees can work more effectively. Some new routines, programs, and simple habits can be included here.
With procedural factor, we refer to:
- Investing in proper training for your team. Having a solid training program for newcomers or keeping your team up to date with industry changes is essential to ensure that you’re working on the right goals.
- Giving more breaks and allowing naps. It has been proven that providing regular breaks and allowing naps in the workplace can make some people more productive. They will return to their work with fresh eyes and get more creative.
- Making schedules more flexible. It turns out that employees prefer to have more autonomy over financial compensation. If you can let your employees work when it’s best for them, or implement a work from home policy, the results in productivity will show up eventually.
- Delegating the right tasks to the right person. The importance of getting feedback and doing employee reviews is so you can delegate work to the right person and make sure that your team skills can complement each other. So, if you’re not paying too much attention to who is doing what, then it may be time for you to start leveraging your employee’s strengths.
- Avoiding unnecessary meetings. $37 billion are wasted in meetings due to a lack of efficient communication. A quick tip: if something can be handled through email, reject the meeting.
- Don’t micromanage. Micromanaging is a productivity killer; if you can trust that your employees can deal with everything on their own, there’s no need to watch them working all day. Instead, you can invest that time on strategic work (more on this later).
- Integrating tools to improve processes: There are many tools you can leverage to improve the productivity of a process. For instance, use proposal tools instead of custom templates every time you need to propose a new SOP, or integrating email testing in your email campaigns to improve email delivery, etc.
5. Communication Factors
Communication is everything for a healthy workspace. If you master communication and your teammates never have to ask you the same question twice, you’re in an excellent spot for productivity.
To improve communications, it is essential to:
- Invest in team communication software. Apps like Slack or Trello will keep your team in-touch constantly without feeling the need to ask for documents, send emails, or mistakenly duplicating work.
Encourage employees to write concisely, specific, and to the point. There are rules for writing effectively in the workplace, so whenever you can, ask your employees to improve their writing whenever you see redundancies, unclear sentences, and unnecessary information.
- Avoid sending messages too late in the night. It is inevitable. Some people will still send messages and emails when they’re out of office. But as a rule, keep them from sending messages too late into the night and have them respect weekends, as this may hurt the recipients’ sleep health and lead them to make bad decisions.
6. Essential Tips to Boost Workplace Productivity
It’s good to know all the factors affecting productivity. But they are worth nothing if you don’t do anything about it.
Implementing changes in the workplace is not easy. It takes time and sometimes money to make them happen.
However, it pays-off when you see productivity improvements showing up. That’s why you need to implement, at least, these six productivity tips that are essential for a healthy and efficient work environment.
Tip 1. Provide your team with the right toolkit
Having your team adequately equipped is the only way to unleash their full capacity.
Essentially, you want to invest in software tools that make work easier, faster, or automatic.
Some basic software examples include:
- Knowledge Base tools like Wideo to help employees get instant access to crucial information.
- Content tools like Grammarly to help keep your team’s content in check.
- Automation software to do more in less work time (see automate.io)
- Team communication apps such as Slack to enhance interaction
- Project management and collaboration tools like Monday.com to keep track of the work
- Time tracking apps like Time Doctor to measure how long it takes to complete specific tasks
Don’t leave this for later, though. The sooner you can optimize your team’s toolkit, the sooner you’ll get the results.
Tip 2. Avoid burnout by encouraging self-care and meaningful goals
We’re all victims of burnout—especially you, as a manager.
And when some of your teammates start feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed with tasks, and underperforming — everybody loses.
To prevent this, it is vital to keep an eye on your employee’s physical and mental health. So take the initiative right now, and ask them questions about their health habits, listen to their feedback, and talk with them about how you can improve the work routines and tasks.
For some employees, it’s better to reduce their workload and allow more break time. While for others, you may want to delegate meaningful work that’s challenging and supports career progress.
If your team is small, you can personally talk with each of them and come up with solutions.
If you manage a considerable amount of employees, you can do regular employee surveys to get the desired feedback and implement changes that work for everyone. There’s no excuse for it.
Tip 3. Set communication guidelines
52% of employees say they’ve seen losses in company revenue due to ineffective communication.
Communication is critical to productivity.
Clear and precise communication can save you tons of time in duplicated tasks, unnecessary meetings, and misunderstandings.
To encourage good communication in the workplace, it’s not enough to tell your employees to “speak well!”. Instead, create a guideline accessible for everybody, and encourage your employees to check it whenever they’re going to send an email.
Here are some communication tips to include in your guideline:
- Be concise and use less than 30 words per sentence. The fewer words, the better.
- Replace adjectives with data. “We closed 81 sales today” instead of “we closed tons of sales today” (is 81 sales a ton?).
- Be specific, avoid ambiguous words. No, “almost every customer signs up for the business plan,” but “88% of customers choose the business plan”.
- Your message should have an answer to “so what?”. Why are you saying what you’re saying? Why should people care? So what?
- Be actionable. What should you do with that information? What are the options? What’s the next step?
- Reduce your options. Answer every question with either: “Yes,” “No,” “a number,” “I don’t know, I’ll let you know by [insert date].”
- Leverage visuals: As the saying goings, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, apart from text-based communications, learn to use powerful visuals with your communication strategy.
Once your team starts using your guideline, they’ll eventually become better communicators and make your workplace even more productive.
Apart from communication, consider using an email checklist to help the productivity of your emails (both internal and external).
Tip 4. Add flexibility and autonomy, instead of micromanaging
Having strict work schedules and a challenging managing routine may become a source of stress for your employees.
A PsychCentral study shows that the less you manage, the more you get results due to employees getting more motivated by autonomy over financial compensations — plus, problems related to micromanaging.
So, to ensure that your team has enough flexibility and autonomy in the workplace, it is essential to ask yourself a few questions:
- How much freedom do your workers have over how, when, and where they can operate?
- Do your employees work better when you’re not around?
- Do you trust that your employees will take care of everything on their own?
- How much time are you investing in tracking your employee’s daily tasks and operations, versus the time you invest in strategic work?
When micromanaging, you create a loop where your employees get more uncomfortable with your presence, underperform as a result of the pressure, and then you keep pushing as an effort to try to make things better.
To get out of the loop, you need to stop pushing so employees can perform better. And although this is hard and counterintuitive, it is undoubtedly the best for productivity.
So if you’ve self-diagnosed as a micromanager, it’s time for you to test things out, let your employees do their thing, and spend your time on strategic work.
You’ll eventually feel more productive.
Tip 5. Implement the right training program
Training is beneficial for both employees and employers; it leads to higher productivity and effectiveness, it helps employees progress through their careers, and it takes you a step further to build a cohesive work team.
Yet, most companies don’t approach training well enough.
The rule is simple. A well-trained employee will be a productive employee.
You can either train newcomers as part of an in-house program or outsource this with external classes — whatever work best for your company.
What’s more important here is to follow best practices, like:
- Having a thorough training manual
- Update your training content constantly
- Enhance the training experience with software like ProProfs
- Set goals and achievements to engage employees
- Get feedback and reports from your training program so you can measure its performance and see how to improve it.
But most importantly, it is essential to know the kind of skills your employees want to learn. This will depend on their career goals, their weaknesses, their strengths, and how engaged they’re with the job itself.
Training can be a topic on its own. So evaluate your options and try to iterate until you find what works best for your business and your team.
Tip 6. Measure employee performance and productivity
Productivity isn’t about getting things done. It is about getting the right things done.
If you identify what the “right things” are, you’ll measure employee performance and be aware of whether or not you’re nailing it or failing it.
The fact is: what gets measured gets managed. Thus it is important to know your metrics well!
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
If your workplace isn’t an assembly line with tangible products, you can count on your fingers. Then you’ll have to think twice about your metrics.
Thankfully, there’re many ways to measure your productivity, such as:
- Using the old-school output by input formula. There’s still room for this metric in the knowledge economy, just don’t rely on it as the only metric that matters.
- Go for qualitative metrics. Qualitative measures are better than no measures at all. It may be subjective, but it can give you some orientation over where you’re going. Especially useful to rate the quality of work. I recommend sending out surveys to get this data.
- Invest in productivity tracking software. Using performance management software helps; you can try many alternatives until you find a tool that fits your business well.
- Calculating revenue per employee. Revenue per employee is an excellent way to measure how profitable your business is overall. It also helps you determine if you need to expand your open positions or employing way too many people.
Once you’ve found the metrics that fit best with your business, you’ll be able to manage your productivity and keep track of your progress perfectly.
Get The Right Things Done
In knowledge-based workplaces, getting the right things done is more important than getting everything done.
And when you account for the human aspect of productivity, somehow, everything starts making sense.
Especially when you consider all the factors including the observational, motivational, environmental, procedural, and communication factors previously explained.
So if you’re willing to take action and improve employee productivity in the workplace, it’s time to embrace change and move forward.
Be the leader you have (and want) to be!