7 Techniques To Increase Employee Productivity
When I was 19 years old, I was a terrible employee. I worked for a dating agency (this was before eHarmony and Match.com, when people were matched by surly teenagers in sweatshop basements instead of by computer algorithms), and I can honestly admit that I spent about 4 hours out of each 8-hour shift actually doing work. The rest of the time I was eating fruitsnacks, chatting with my fellow employees, flipping through magazines, and flirting with the guy in the next cubicle – very ineffectually, because he was extremely gay.
To try to motivate their worthless employees, the dating agency offered a $200 bonus to anyone who hit certain production goals, and week after week I was the only employee to get the bonus. I was the most productive employee, and I only worked half the time. So imagine how much time everybody else was wasting.
I assume your employees are far superior to the miscreants that staffed the dating agency, but in every office in every profession, people are wasting time and failing to live up to their production potential. This costs your business money. So how can you help your employees to be more productive?
1. Front-Load the Work Day
The morning is the mental peak for most employees. Workers are most alert, focused, and motivated when they first arrive. As the day wears on people get tired and start watching the clock and thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner. Unfortunately, those prime morning hours are often wasted. Encourage employees to tackle their biggest and most challenging tasks first thing in the morning. Don’t schedule meetings during this prime time, and if possible, ask employees to delay responding to voicemails and checking email until at least an hour or two later.
2. Provide Healthy Snacks
Too many break rooms are stocked with vending machines and junk food, if they provide anything at all. Employees need to be fueled to stay productive, and the best fuel is light, healthy, and nourishing, not potato chips or chocolate bars or coffee that will cause a crash a few hours later. Offer your employees complimentary yogurt, granola bars, and purified water, or if this is too expensive, try to source vending machines that offer fresh, healthy options.
3. Encourage Exercise
Studies show that employees who exercise before or during the workday have better time-management skills, improved mental sharpness, and are more patient with their peers. Consider adding a free fitness facility to your office building, or providing a morning Pilates, yoga, or spinning class. Or, motivate your employees to take a walk at lunch by providing an extra 10 or 15-minute break to those who participate.
4. Train and Educate
One of the most important ways to help your employees reach their potential is to continually boost their knowledge and skill sets. Continual training and education will help employees expand their capabilities, and motivate them to use their new knowledge to accomplish bigger and more complicated tasks. Training can take the form of workshops, mentoring, coaching, or subsidies for continued education.
5. Recognize Performance and Production
If you pay your employees a set salary and you don’t directly monitor their production in a quantifiable way, they will never work at their full potential. This is human nature – we're not very good at gauging our output unless someone puts in into numbers for us, and we need constant motivation.
Consider instituting an employee reward program that offers regular incentives and gives your employees something to work towards on a daily basis. Points programs are particularly effective at motivating employees – your workers can earn points for a variety of positive behaviors, then trade these points for the reward of their choice.
6. Tailor the Work to Your Employees' Strengths
People will always work harder and more productively when they are interested in the task and the job plays to their strengths. Too often, employees are set in certain departments like “customer service” or “tech support”, and their jobs become repetitive and tedious because they can’t move beyond the boundaries of their department or their additional skill sets aren’t recognized.
For instance, one of your computer techs might have latent design skills that could be put to use designing the graphics for your marketing materials, or one of your customer service reps might have writing skills that could benefit the company blog. The more varied and challenging tasks you give to your employees, the more they'll be motivated to work outside the box and justify your faith in them.
7. Remove Distractions
Generally speaking, the more freedoms you give your employees, the happier and more productive they will be. But sometimes you may find that a particular freedom is negatively impacting productivity, and then you need to cut it. For instance, if you find employees are spending too much time on Twitter or Facebook, don’t be afraid to ban those sites. You may also have to curtail personal calls and texting.
The biggest time waster is smoking. At the dating agency, I was the only one to hit the bonus because I was the only employee that didn’t smoke. My fellow workers spent at least twenty minutes of every hour outside, puffing up. If your office has a problem with smoking, offer programs and incentives to quit, and ensure that employees are not taking additional breaks to feed their habit (this is particularly likely if your managers are smokers too).