Productivity
Employee Productivity 101: Essential Strategies for Success

Employee Productivity 101: Essential Strategies for Success

Every company must maximize its talent if it wants to be as efficient as possible. Employee productivity plays a crucial role in achieving positive business outcomes.

Business success is tied to productivity, but myriad internal and external factors can impact employee productivity. Therein lie several challenges for businesses, as companies must balance operational goals and limitations with company culture initiatives, finances, and many more variables that can hinder (or improve) productivity. Still, regardless of your organization’s objectives, optimizing employee productivity should be an ongoing investment.

In this article, we’ll examine the business case for prioritizing productivity and several critical strategies for measuring and improving employee productivity.

What is Employee Productivity?

Employee productivity is the amount of work a single employee can do within a period of company time. This umbrella employee output metric gauges how efficiently and effectively employees operate, providing insights into how quickly they can do high-quality, error-free work. Expanding outward, each employee’s productivity contributes to the organization’s overall workforce productivity.

The Productivity Spectrum

Every employee’s work exists on a spectrum. There are high, average, and low performers, all contributing to your organization’s overall business success. Understanding where employees fit within this spectrum is crucial, however, as it will help business leaders develop programs to reward and encourage high performance, incentivize high-potential employees who aren’t quite performing yet, and identify employees who may need a performance plan.

Whether you manage a remote team or office workers, reaching peak workplace productivity requires understanding employees’ efficiency so you can develop strategies to maximize everyone’s talents and skill sets.

You can use data-driven insights to scientifically promote employee productivity by identifying patterns and trends in your organization.

The Business Case for Prioritizing Productivity

From 1970 to 2020, productivity in the US workforce has grown by 61.8%. The economy’s historic growth during that timeframe is no surprise. Productivity is intricately tied to positive business outcomes.

The Financial Impact

Productivity has a direct, massive impact on profitability and growth. One Gallup study found that highly engaged, productive employees led to a 21% increase in profit. Another Gallup study reported that disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually.

The financial impact of employee productivity is stark. Highly engaged, productive employees push profits higher; disengaged employees who are not productive lead to higher economic costs for an organization.

The Competitive Advantage

High-performing, efficient teams spend less time on everyday administrative tasks and can devote more productive time to creative thinking. As such, high productivity can often drive innovation and creativity in employees, yielding novel solutions to complex problems. From reducing waste to generating better customer experiences, high-performing teams gain the flexibility to experiment, innovate, and develop better business solutions.

Productivity can give organizations a competitive advantage in several ways. Productive customer service teams can resolve more queries, raise customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, and offer better customer experiences. Productive engineering teams can ship and debug more updates and deployments faster. Productive marketing teams can reach larger audiences with more relevant targeting. The examples go on and on.

Diagnosing Productivity Pain Points

Different organizations have different approaches to productivity, and teams within an organization probably do, too. Every company, however, must be able to diagnose pain points that prevent teams and individuals from reaching peak productivity.

Common Productivity Killers

At a personal level, the average worker has bad habits or quirks that may hurt employee productivity. Some of us procrastinate when we have to take on new projects or avoid finishing tedious daily tasks because we’re not excited to do them. Other office workers struggle with distractions or struggle to multitask effectively.

Some common productivity killers include:

  • Procrastination
  • Social media and other time-wasting sites
  • YouTube
  • Personal conversations
  • In-person, intraoffice touch bases that could be done online
  • Long lunches or frequent snack/water breaks
  • Getting stuck on a work-related task without asking for help
  • Stress, burnout, or a lack of employee motivation

It’s important to note that final bullet point. 41% of workers say stress and burnout make them less productive, so organizations must find ways to reach disengaged or overwhelmed employees. They may just be running on an empty tank and need a break or some recognition of their work to help them feel re-energized.

Organizational Obstacles

Individuals may struggle with self-motivation, but many organizations don’t help themselves either. A company may have dozens of daily processes, communication protocols, and work policies, and they are likely not all conducive to the most productive environment possible.

Company leadership is responsible for identifying bottlenecks in processes and communication that add unnecessary steps, waste productive time, or impact productivity in other ways. If, for instance, you have a process for approving vendor invoices that requires two or three individuals to sign off, you can probably cut someone out of the process. 

Finding ways to improve resource allocation, streamline decision-making, and reduce time spent on individual tasks will help the organization reach higher productivity levels.

Organizations can do this using employee monitoring software. Digital tools can analyze employee productivity levels and produce statistics that paint a complete picture of high and low performance, productive hours, and other key insights into employee time and productivity.

One thing most organizations should do is have fewer and faster meetings. 89% of workers feel most of their meetings are “ineffective or poorly structured,” and 50% believe meetings are an outright waste of time.

Strategies for Boosting Individual Productivity

Team productivity begins with individual employees tapping into better productivity strategies. Employees should be encouraged to make personal choices to boost their productivity.

Mastering Time Management

Time management is challenging for everyone. At work, there are many digital tools to help you work more productively and manage your time more effectively. Time-tracking tools like a Pomodoro timer or project management tools like Asana or Trello can be valuable assets in helping employees better optimize their focus time.

Individuals should also be encouraged to explore proven time management techniques like Eisenhower Matrices, Pareto Analysis (the 80/20 rule), or time blocking. Each technique may have pros and cons depending on an employee’s role and daily goals. The ultimate goal is to help individuals prioritize, plan, and focus in ways that make the most sense for their workflows.

Highly motivated employees may even utilize their productivity monitoring tools to assess themselves and their productive hours.

Enhancing Personal Effectiveness

Organizations can and should invest in high-performing employees, but employees also must invest in themselves. Devoting oneself to continuous learning and skill development will help employees future-proof their roles and adapt to changes in the marketplace and technology. 

Innovation is never-ending, so employees devoted to learning new skills always have a leg up on more static employees who will experience productivity loss. Organizations that help motivated employees commit to continuous learning by offering training or degree programs stand to gain from those employees’ gained knowledge and skills.

Your organization should also encourage employees to explore strategies for improving their concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Some valuable ways employees can improve their concentration and creativity include:

  • Reframing problems as questions
  • Balance divergent and convergent thinking
  • Creative tools
  • Positive thinking
  • Brain games
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet

Building High-Performance Teams

Teams comprising high-performers will naturally be more productive, but organizations can also take steps to build more productive teams. It all comes down to creating a strong culture where everyone is excited to contribute.

Fostering a Culture of Productivity

You may be surprised to learn that 73% of American employees say their company culture impacts their ability to do their best work. Workplace culture is crucial, and companies that make productivity a core tenet of their culture should cultivate more motivated, productive employees.

A culture that values efficiency, innovation, and results communicates to employees that so long as they show up and work hard, they’ll be valued and respected in their work community.

By promoting collaboration and accountability, organizations can help break down silos and encourage cross-departmental work that adds a range of expertise to every project. Each individual and team should feel accountable to everyone else in the organization and motivated to do their best work, even if they wouldn’t socialize in their personal lives.

Most importantly, a productive culture values work-life balance. Stressed or burned-out employees struggle with productivity, so it’s important to preach a work hard, play hard ethos and show that you value employees’ personal time and mental health.

Empowering Employees

A vital component of a productivity culture is ensuring employees feel individually motivated to grow and achieve more within the organization. Great teams are made up of great individuals who feel empowered and confident in doing not just their everyday work but contributing to new initiatives, experimenting with new ideas, and more. They should be encouraged to carve their development opportunities for growth by seizing them when they arise.

Company leadership can support individual growth with strong employee feedback loops and performance review schedules. Employees should know how they’re performing in the eyes of their superiors and feel comfortable asking for constructive feedback, help setting practical goals for career opportunities and growth, and support in reaching those goals. 

Moreover, an organization should have recognition practices to reward high performers and incentivize all employees to take it up a notch. (This is an item that HR or employee recognition software can help with.)

Measuring and Sustaining Productivity Gains

Just because company productivity seems to be improving doesn’t mean it is. You need scientific data to fully understand your organization’s productivity standard and ability to maintain that standard.

Metrics That Matter

Data rules everything in business. Productivity goals must be supported by primary productivity metrics that illustrate the success of your project. 

Your organization will first have to determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that represent your team’s primary productivity metrics. You might choose the number of projects completed, duration to complete projects, production volume output, or a wide range of other potentially relevant metrics. Determining your primary productivity metrics will allow you to make data-driven decisions to improve productivity and reduce waste.

Quantitative data is invaluable and will help your company leadership make informed decisions regarding productivity, but you should also assess decisions through a qualitative lens. Data can’t capture the complete picture, especially when it comes to employee morale or employee well-being. For instance, while the key metrics may show you’re spending too much on labor, a qualitative assessment shows a team of happy employees who like each other and work well together. 

Engaged employees are an invaluable asset, so business leaders may be more willing to accept a little more expense for a highly engaged team. Employee engagement is always a top priority.

Continuous Improvement

The value of continuous improvement can’t be overstated. All people and companies owe it to themselves to keep getting better. Management teams must prioritize improvement and innovation in a highly competitive business landscape to create engaged employees and incentivize their productivity.

Committing to continuous improvement means regularly assessing and optimizing productivity strategies based on new processes, data, or other variables. Your organization should maintain current productivity levels but also seek to set a new standard. If a factory adds a new machine to double the volume output of rubber chickens, it must assess how that new machine impacts productivity and efficiency throughout the organization.

No company simply gets it perfect and operates at peak productivity in perpetuity. It’s a continuous process of auditing, assessing, and improving. Remember to celebrate the successes when you hit KPIs and learn from the setbacks when you fall short of benchmarks.

Productivity in the Future of Work

A decade ago, most people would likely expect that working remotely or from home would negatively impact productivity. Today, remote workers are showing that the opposite is true. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the working world to grapple with new challenges of remote work, a productive new future has emerged.

A staggering 77% of remote workers say they’re more productive working from home, and just one day of remote work per month makes 24% of employees happier and more engaged. Surprisingly, 52% of employees are less likely to take time off of work for sickness or vacations. All of these statistics paint a fascinating picture: Without a commute or the distractions of an office, many employees are more productive, work more hours, and are happier with their work-life balance.

Organizations and remote employees adapting to a hybrid or remote work model exemplify the growing importance of flexibility and resilience in a rapidly changing world. While remote work has done wonders for productivity, so has technology, as automation tools and artifical intelligence continue to make work more impersonal and efficient. 

Streamlining production and performance with AI is a cost-saving benefit for organizations, but it can also raise complicated ethical questions and HR issues.

In this article, we’ve discussed the importance of building a strong company culture of productivity. However, building a strong culture is harder when your workforce is distributed and bots perform many of the routine work-related tasks. Organizations that emphasize team collaboration, personal accountability, and a 360º commitment to continually improving productivity will find that the future of work is bright. Preparing your organization for the productivity demands of tomorrow means remaining adaptable and resilient.

FAQs

How do you measure employee productivity?

Organizations can measure employee productivity using key performance indicators (KPIs) such as input/output ratios, sales metrics, customer satisfaction ratings, and project completion rates. Time-tracking software and employee feedback surveys can also provide valuable insights into individual and team productivity levels.

What is productivity in a workplace?

Workplace productivity refers to the level of efficiency and effectiveness in which employees complete tasks and achieve goals within a specified time frame. It can be measured through various metrics, such as output quantity, quality, timeliness, and employee engagement.

How important is employee productivity?

Employee productivity is crucial for any organization’s success. It directly impacts profitability, efficiency, and overall performance. Organizations can achieve their goals more effectively by prioritizing and enhancing employee productivity and staying competitive in today’s fast-paced business landscape.

How do you achieve employee productivity?

To achieve employee productivity, organizations can implement strategies such as setting clear goals and expectations, providing the necessary resources and tools, fostering a positive work environment, offering opportunities for professional development, and promoting work-life balance. Organizations can create a motivated and productive workforce by prioritizing employee well-being and providing the support they need.

What are three ways to increase productivity?

Three ways to increase productivity are:

  1. Streamline processes and eliminate any unnecessary tasks or inefficiencies.
  2. Provide regular feedback and recognition to employees to keep them motivated and engaged.
  3. Encourage a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout and promote overall well-being.

Conclusion

Every organization aims to improve productivity. After all, productivity is a core component of that ever-elusive organizational goal: operational efficiency. Incorporating strategies to increase personal productivity is just one step that organizations can take to raise their profit and efficiency potential.