What Is Employee Productivity?
Companies need to measure employee productivity to keep their business afloat.
Employee productivity measures the amount of work done by each employee during a given time. Your productivity vision might differ depending on your organization, department, etc. For example, sales teams have different goals than customer service teams.
Workplace productivity needs to be measured in terms of business impact. Busy work is not productivity. Employees should be able to get to a solution quickly without sacrificing their paychecks. Team members who have become adept at their job to find answers quickly save your team more time, sanity, and money than you think. Hold your experienced people closely and show appreciation for them if you want to grow your organization.
23 Ways To Improve Employee Productivity
Now that you understand that employee performance is more than just busy work, it's time to understand what makes employees genuinely productive. How can you go beyond hours worked to find and build a truly effective team?
If you want to create a more productive workplace, let's chat about what that means:
1. Understand Where Your Team Currently Stands When It Comes To Productivity
Before you make any adjustments to productivity, measure your current productivity levels.
You will never understand if you have fixed your productivity issues without first understanding the current output of your team.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was our financial quota for the last year? Did we meet those numbers?
- Did we have any other business goals this year? Are we meeting the goals that we set?
- Is there anyone who struggles to meet their SMART goals consistently? How can we help that person be more productive?
Once you dive deep into your financial and business goals, you should have a baseline of where your organization is. Then, as you utilize the productivity strategies in today's article, you can know how you are improving your organization.
2. Define What Productivity Means To Your Organization
Once you know where you've been, it's time to understand where you are going. Employees need to understand your company's SMART goals, KPIs, core values, and visions to be as productive as possible. If you want a workforce that goes beyond looking busy, focus on your company's purpose.
- Why are your salespeople selling?
- Why do your marketers market your organization?
- Is there a purpose to your customer service professionals helping your customers?
These are the questions that your employees are asking as they go into work every day. If you can't provide a solid answer, employees will leave. We see this consistently in the record number of voluntary separations recorded by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics since August 2021.
Employees want to work diligently for companies that value them while working on a product or service that excites them. Does your company do enough to define what you are working towards?
If not, go back to the drawing board. Create a mission statement, define your company values, and clearly understand your customers' transformation when using your product or service. At Nectar, we take things further and create a manifesto or mission for each department. Outside of the company mission and vision, these department manifestos give each section of the organization deeper meaning.
Once you know this information, share it with your team. Explain your work to define your organization and ensure this information is accessible to your employees long-term.
3. Create Specific Job Descriptions
Next, you need to ensure that your people feel like they have a good handle on the work they do for your organization. You can create this experience by reviewing employee job descriptions with your team:
- What parts of the job description do they enjoy?
- What would they choose to pass on if they could delegate any aspect of their job?
- Is there anything they currently do that's not accurately represented in the job description?
Creating a job that your employees enjoy is a great way to improve employee productivity. If their ideal role makes sense for your organization, get them closer to the position that fits their needs.
On the other hand, if your employee has been given too many responsibilities, it will be challenging to work effectively. Company leaders need to know if someone's time is being fractured by extra work, so employees aren't punished for balancing too many responsibilities.
4. Think About Productivity From The Top Down
Companies typically think about workplace productivity from a bottom-up approach. You might hear business leaders say, "What can we do to make our team members more productive?"
It's essential to flip the script on productivity because management has a massive impact on employees. In a recent study by The Predictive Index, 63% of employees with a bad manager were contemplating leaving their job in the next twelve months.
What does looking at productivity from a top-down approach look like?
- Examining manager competence by understanding their team's goals and their ability to meet or exceed those goals.
- Surveying team members to understand where their managers are failing or succeeding to help them grow.
- Building and executing a plan to improve managerial productivity based on the feedback and information you receive.
When your managers are held accountable, employee morale is lifted, and your team steps up to the plate. As you make adjustments to improve workplace productivity, think about what everyone contributes to this issue.
5. Focus On Employee Health
One of the biggest causes of lost productivity is unplanned time off to handle employee or family sickness.
One of the easiest ways to focus on employee health is through proper health insurance that promotes preventative care appointments. Preventive care is easy for your team to manage and schedule in advance. Emergency room visits at the last minute are not.
"Now is the time to prioritize your employees' mental and physical health," shares Justin Nabity, founder and CEO of Physicians Thrive. "Implement a health-and-wellness program that gets them up and moving. You can organize virtual fitness classes or health education classes for your employees to learn more about improving their health."
Team wellness challenges can be a great way to gamify your company's focus on employee health. For example, Joaquín Roca, Co-Founder and CEO of Minerva, has a fantastic wellness initiative called a mindfulness hour. "Our employees can take this time to journal, meditate, or do whatever they have to do to clear their heads. By ensuring that our employees are in a stable headspace, they will feel well enough to get their work done efficiently and effectively."
Above all else, remember that your staff members are humans. "Employees go through stress, anxiety, and depression that impact their performance and productivity at work," states Kevin Mercer, founder of Kevmrc Travel. You can help your team by understanding their experiences and providing the right tools to help your team cope with these issues.
6. Utilizing Employee Recognition To Encourage Productivity
Have you ever thought about the power of recognition and what that can do to improve workplace productivity?
"I believe that there's a lot you can do as an employer to boost employee productivity, but team members may also help," shares Jonathan Svensson, Co-Founder at Almvest, "Employees may be more motivated to do their share to improve performance if productivity is rewarded."
If you want your team to get more done this year, start by creating a peer-to-peer recognition program. Peers can celebrate productive habits that company managers may overlook.
“So much work by employees happens under the radar causing many to feel that their efforts go unnoticed,” adds Adelle Archer, CEO & Co-Founder of Eterneva, “Businesses are in constant motion, and between meetings, and the segmenting of tasks and departments, it is easy for managers not to take into account all that is required to keep things moving.”
To build on team members' praise, you can attach rewards to these recognition programs and create an experience your team adores.
Are you stuck on how to create a personalized, award-winning recognition strategy? Check out our in-depth post on recognition so you can learn how to rethink your recognition engine.
7. Have Frequent 1:1s With Employees
When was the last time you connected with your team to check in on their projects or life? While 1:1s can feel like another unnecessary meeting, they are essential to keep goals moving forward.
Having a 1:1 with your direct report helps you catch issues like employee burnout, apathy, lack of direction, etc. When you can have a meaningful conversation with a team member, you can unearth what your team is feeling and create a plan to help your reports get back on track.
If you want to make the most out of 1:1 meetings, schedule something weekly with your people. If that's not feasible, try a mix of 1:1s with something asynchronous like a Loom video. Don't be mistaken, check-ins with your team don't haven't be lengthy. A quick ten-minute meeting can be valuable if your team is struggling.
8. Invest In The Right Tools, Technology, And People
Every department in your organization needs specific tools and technology to run efficiently. If you have seen a competitor overtake you in the market, they are likely streamlining their processes and using the right tools to be more productive.
"If a company is looking to increase its employee's productivity and growth, it should implement an interactive digital workplace that enables employees to work together as one,” shares Wendy Makinson, HR Manager at Joloda Hydraroll, “This can be done through implementing apps on different devices such as smartphones or tablets, so workers have access everywhere no matter what type of device they use at any given time.”
If you are worried about affording technology, Bryan Carter, the founder and CEO of ResumeBuilderPro, adds. "With the growth of Cloud computing and mobile devices, which minimize capital expenditures and allow instant access to information and data, the dilemma of organizations being able to finance new technology and equipment is becoming less of a concern."
As you are investing in better tools, sit down with each department and discuss the following questions:
- What tools would make their lives easier?
- Can they share the results they can expect by investing in these tools?
- When do they expect the results will be most visible?
- Are there any discounts offered to make investing easier?
- How many licenses does the team need to use the technology effectively?
Make sure that each team has a plan for adopting new technology and using it efficiently. Then, once you feel comfortable with the investment, spend the money, and track the benefits.
9. Create A Task Delegation Procedure
Are your tasks slipping through the cracks? Delegation is a fantastic way to improve employee productivity, but it doesn't always go as planned. Productive companies have a task delegation procedure.
Here's a simple trick to make delegation more effective: don't assume a task has been delegated until you receive confirmation from the person handling the job.
When you follow this necessary rule, you save yourself a lot of missed deadlines, late assignments, and headaches.
10. Keep Tabs On Employee Engagement And Morale
Company morale and job satisfaction are essential for employers to keep tabs on. Are your staff members excited to go to work, or are they secretly looking for another opportunity? When your team has happier employees, they go to work and accomplish great things. Conversely, unhappy employees aren't productive, and they can actively push more employees to do the same.
One of the most important ways to keep tabs on employee engagement is by frequently surveying your employees.
One of the easiest surveys to deploy is a quarterly survey by Gallup called Q12. This survey asks employees a series of quick questions about their employee experience. Once the survey is complete, you should have a clear picture of where your employees stand regarding topics like having friends at work, progression talks, work expectations, and so much more.
Surveys give you a chance to see what's happening in the workplace and fix it before it gets too late. Don't let problems fester. Address problems before they become issues.
11. Offer Flexible Work Hours And Locations
Does your team need to work 9-5 to be productive?
Some of your team members are certified night owls, and others love waking up at the crack of dawn.
"Flexible work arrangements have helped drive employee productivity by giving employees more time to focus on what matters most," shares Jeremy Ellis, the co-founder and Chief Innovator of Launchpad CoWorking. "Employees can complete their tasks more efficiently without being constrained by a schedule."
Allowing employees to be flexible, where possible, can build a better work environment for your team members.
Set some boundaries around flexible work hours such as:
- We have meetings during a specific time every week/month. All employees are expected to attend.
- Our goal is to respect our customers, so all communication to customers must be scheduled during these specific hours.
- Respect the unique work style of all of our employees. Don't expect an immediate response if you choose to work outside typical business hours. Schedule messages during standard business hours unless an employee has given you permission to connect outside of those hours.
Another thing companies must consider is work location. Do you need an office to be productive? Are you wasting valuable money funding a large office when many employees need more flexibility?
Take a cue from Dror Zaifman, Director Of Digital Marketing at iCASH, who has seen a lot of benefits from work from home arrangements, "Work from home policies have helped us cut back on a number of unnecessary costs, such as office space and utilities. This not only helps productivity because our employees can better manage their own schedules and time but also allows us to recruit the top talent in our industry and acquire and retain the best employees."
There is a way for companies to respect the needs of team members while being productive.
12. Limit Unnecessary Meetings
Meetings break up the day and can become a time suck for employees. Often, employees feel like their presence isn't essential at a meeting, and it can pull their focus off projects that will benefit the organization. No one enjoys doing unnecessary tasks.
You should examine the mandatory or highly-encouraged meetings on your team's schedule. What is truly necessary? What can be consolidated or moved to an asynchronous mode of communication? If you currently have meetings like this on your roster, reimagine those gatherings so your team can spend more time working on projects that advance their career.
“Sometimes meetings are necessary to make decisions and align, but often teams get stuck in hour-long meetings that could really be a quick 15-minute update,” shares Ed Stevens, Founder & CEO of Preciate, “Take a look at the collective number of hours your team is wasting on internal meetings every week, and see if you can reduce it, either by reducing the number of people involved or the frequency.”
Pro-Tip: Meetings can be productive, even if they don't address work the entire time. Your team needs to find ways to bond, especially if you work remotely. Effective companies understand the value of activities like happy hours, lunch and learns, and game nights for staff members.
13. Take Necessary Action To Increase Productive Employees On Your Roster
Do you want to take your employee productivity level up a notch? One of the best things you can do is increase the number of productive workers. You can do that by:
- Reducing the number of unproductive employees on your roster.
- Increasing the number of productive employees on your roster.
But, how does that work in reality? What does HR need to do to create an engaged workforce?
- Fire unproductive employees who have a track record of underperforming.
- Turn unproductive employees into productive employees.
- Hire employees that you think will be productive.
- Rinse and repeat.
Creating a productive workplace puts a lot of strain on human resources. Focus on building a stellar process for conducting company performance reviews. Having documented proof of lackluster staff members and what you did to improve their performance will help you create cause when you need to let go of someone.
14. Use Pomodoro Timer Apps
Breaks are a healthy part of working, but most employees aren't taking breaks efficiently or effectively. The Pomodoro Technique is one way to train employees to be more productive while taking impactful mental health breaks.
“Providing your team with these handy tools can help employees hone their self-discipline and better manage their workflows. Best of all, many of these apps are free,” adds Michael Alexis, the CEO of TeamBuilding, “You could even turn the practice into a team-building activity by hosting group Pomodoro working sessions on Slack or in an office conference room.”
Unfortunately, The Pomodoro Technique won't work for every type of worker. For example, factory workers may not find value in this technique. However, this technique can allow workers to get more work done daily for most office work.
15. Encourage Camaraderie to Build Stronger Bonds
Having friends at work opens up a world of possibilities. Generally, people have a better time at work when they enjoy who they work with. If your company requires a lot of collaboration between employees and departments, you must focus on building camaraderie. This is even more important for remote workers.
“Many employees out there choose a positive and friendly environment over the relatively aloof work environment that exists in some companies, helping employee-oriented companies to hold on to their workers for longer,” shares Riley Beam, Managing Attorney of Douglas R. Beam, P.A.
It's important to realize that you don't have to like everyone you work with. But, at the very least, you should be able to have a rapport with everyone you work with, even if the conversations aren't profound.
16. Facilitate Two-Way Communication
Have you ever had a question and wondered, “I wonder who I talk to about this issue?" Unfortunately, too many employees have wondered who to turn to when a difficult situation arises.
“With two-way communication being a critical component of efficient and productive workplaces, employees can rely on these channels to reach out to their managers and leaders for issues and concerns they can find solutions to and address together,” adds Nunzio Ross, Owner and Head Director of Majesty Coffee.
Here are a few ways you can facilitate two-way communication:
- Build an organizational chart that shows employees and their responsibilities.
- Create a company-wide policy regarding response times and appropriate communication venues.
- Respond to any messages you get in a timely manner.
17. Recognize the Importance of Individual-Level Stress
If you talk to most employees about the last few years, most will share stories about how trialing the world around them and their own lives have been. There's a lot to worry about right now. Unfortunately, stress isn't a blanket you can throw on to everyone.
“Generalizing stress and trauma in the workplace is a mishandling of the matter. Each person faces different types of stress. This is the moment for managers to spend more one-on-one time with their employees and get to know their needs,” contends Ryan Warner, Team Wellness Expert & Clinical Psychologist at 1AND1 Life.
18. Create a Genuinely Enjoyable Working Environment
Think about a space you've been in that was truly motivating and encouraging. Chances are, the design was a massive reason you gravitated toward a space. We want to work in places that inspire us, no matter where we work.
“One of the most straightforward tips for improving employee productivity is to create a genuinely enjoyable working environment,” shares Tracey Beveridge, HR Director at Personnel Checks, "If that's in the office, think outside the norm about how your space reflects both your business values and can be utilized to resonate with and motivate your staff. If you're a remote business, look for ways to support your staff with their home working environment. For example, you could send out standing desks or gifts to liven up a workspace at home."
Creating a fun space for your employees to work and collaborate is easier than you think. Invest in art, decor, natural light, and comfortable office furniture. Ask employees if they have what they need to work best and order specifics (within reason.)
19. Encourage Agile Working
Each of your employees will have unique things that make them more productive. It can be scary to let employees have autonomy because their version of productivity doesn't look like yours. However, as your team grows, it's more important to be open to agile working.
"Agile working, when combined with flexible working, has proven to be effective in increasing productivity," adds Simon Bacher, CEO and Co-founder of Simya Solutions, "A way to do this is to get to know your employees and what motivates them to be at their highest peak. It may be that they love to be in a quiet place when working, switching working desks daily, meditating before work, or even playing some video games at work."
20. Make Goal-Setting a Daily Task
Productivity isn't always an easy default for team members. Often your team needs the structure to help set up their daily task and ensure these tasks move the organization forward.
“I believe that goal-setting should be one of the daily tasks in a well-functioning organization,” shares Max Hauer, Founder and CEO of Goflow, “When employees feel that their task is done for a greater goal, you'll observe a noticeably increase in productivity among them.”
One simple way to make goal-setting a daily task is to do a morning huddle or check in via Slack. Keep it short if it's a meeting (10-15 minutes.) During this time, you can go over everyone's daily priorities. You can do the same with a Slack or Microsoft Teams thread.
21. Stop Micromanaging and Start Empowering Your Employees
While it's vital to ensure employees set goals and move forward daily, it's important to avoid micromanaging. Micromanagers tend to get involved in every aspect of the work they delegate while making their team feel untrusted.
“A company should encourage employee empowerment & trust them to manage their own tasks and everyday activities at work,” comments Sandeep Kashyap, founder of ProofHub, “You can only achieve this by striking a balance between being a hands-on manager (you have to oversee the project's progress) and keeping an open mind and putting your employees in the driver's seat.”
Kashyap suggests the following tips for micromanagers:
- Hire people you believe in for their abilities, wisdom, and professionalism.
- Give directions that are simple to understand and follow.
- Plan regular check-ins.
- Don't strive for perfection.
- Ask your employees how they would want to be managed.
22. Maintain Workplace Hygiene
It can be difficult for employees to work in an unclean environment. In addition, being sick can lead to considerable losses in employee productivity.
“Having a clean and hygienic workplace environment is extremely important for the proper development of employees’ work,” adds Amit Prasad, CEO of QuickFMS, “This is especially true after the pandemic, where it is recommended to keep your surroundings clean.”
It's important to keep any shared workspaces clean and tidy. Workers should be responsible for reducing clutter and light cleaning daily. At the company level, organizations should hire cleaners to deep clean the office regularly.
23. Improve Employee Compensation
Pay has an enormous impact on employee productivity. Workers who are paid well can avoid taking on extra jobs, allowing them to fully rest and decompress after work. Productivity is improved when employees can spend their creative, mental, and physical energy on their day job instead of working on other projects.
Asker Ahmed, Director & Founder at iProcess, adds, “My team also researches pay rates regularly to ensure our people are getting the most competitive compensation out there. We listen to employees who make a case for salary increases, and if it makes sense to accommodate them, we do.”
Conclusion: Creating A Productive Work Environment One Step At A Time
Productivity is hard to maintain. As we discussed previously, 100% team member productivity is not attainable. Employees need to be able to connect with their team and take breaks throughout the day. We highlight these strategies to make creating a productive workplace a little bit easier for employers as they grow their businesses. Implement one or several of the ideas at your company, and you will begin to see a positive uptick in productivity at work.