Encouraging productivity at your business is important, but what does that really mean? What are you trying to achieve? How do you balance it alongside other values? Prioritizing productivity above everything else can backfire. It’s also important to understand it within the context of the other things your employees do and your expectations for them.
It may seem simple enough that productivity is working efficiently, getting more done in less time. However, it’s worth digging beneath the surface a little bit and considering the implications of increasing it. There are limits to that increase. There’s a point beyond which your employees can’t do any more, but pushing them to that point is likely to result in unhappy workers. It could have other consequences as well, such as more careless work.
Think about what is more important to you, that a customer service representative work with a customer until that person is completely satisfied or that your representatives help a certain number of people each hour, leaving some of them satisfied but others less so? There’s not a right or wrong answer here, as working with one individual until they are happy can mean a considerable investment of time and resources, but it’s important to explore your thoughts about this so that you know what tradeoffs you’re looking at as well as how to communicate your expectations clearly to your staff.
There’s a saying about getting work done that it can be two out of three; fast, cheap, and correct. As a business, you can’t afford to compromise on doing things right, so you’ll need to make a decision about the balance between fast and cheap. Keep in mind as well that what looks like efficiency can be misleading. Sometimes, it’s better to slow down and do something correctly than to deal with the consequences of frequent errors. Checklists might seem like a simplistic solution to doing things right, but they’re so effective that even medical facilities recognize them as an important tool in ensuring accuracy.
When it comes to fleet management, an area where efficiency is especially prized, compliance is also critical. Drivers of non-passenger commercial vehicles with a class A commercial driver’s license must do a pre-trip inspection. A checklist can help them with this inspection check and remind them of the parts that they need to take a look at. While it’s true that this can feel like it slows things down a little bit, it will ensure compliance. Consider what processes you need in your company to balance accuracy with productivity.
Too often, employers assume that the more rigid their practices are, the more employees will produce. In fact, employee satisfaction is correlated with productivity, and flexibility is one of the keys to satisfaction. Not to mention flexibility in the workplace is one of the top ways to deal with stress and anxiety for your employees. Knowing they are not constantly under the thumb of management allows team members to relax and produce. In the past couple of years, with remote work on the rise, a number of employers found that employees who worked from home could be as or more productive than they were in the office. Even if you can’t or don’t want to offer the option of remote work, flexibility in hours can make a big difference to staff and can help in attracting quality employees.
Another thing to consider is how you can cut back on distractions so that your staff can get more done. One helpful thing may be providing an area where they can engage in deep work. A kind of do not disturb area away from their regular desk can prevent interruptions from coworkers. Creating a break room can also help in cutting back on distractions since employees can go here to socialize, reducing noise in work areas. You may also want to consider introducing policies about social media and smartphone usage to remind employees to stay focused on work. However, this is another area where you may want to weigh additional factors besides productivity. Will your employees respond to such policies? Or will you get a more focused staff if they feel as though they are more in charge of their own time?
Ultimately, in order to measure productivity and determine whether various policies and practices are effective, you will need to set some kind of metric. For some positions, this may be fairly easy. You may want a certain number of phone calls, invoices or other specific units completed each hour or each day. For other types of work, the metrics may not be as easy to quantify, but you do need some way to measure productivity. Working with your employees to determine what is reasonable can give you insight into their challenges and allow them to feel ownership about the goals that have been set.