How to Increase Employee Productivity at Work: Best Practices
In 2019, a Gallup study found that 13% of employees in the U.S. reported feeling actively disengaged in the workplace. This group contributes to nearly $600 billion in lost revenues for companies in the U.S. every year. The same study found that a shocking 52% of employees are described as not engaged, indicating that they have no passion for the work and do the minimum that is required.
Managing employee productivity in the workplace should be a top priority for managers. In the simplest terms, employee productivity is defined as a measure of inputs and outputs. To quantify these elements, many employers view productivity through the lens of how much value the work brings to the organization and how much time it takes to complete it.
For production-based organizations, these metrics may suffice, but for most organizations, a more nuanced approach is required. Ultimately, you want your organization’s performance metrics to reflect what is important to your organization. This may include tracking production based on units per hour, but the bigger picture gets missed by focusing on just this one aspect of productivity.
A more robust approach to enhancing productivity also includes setting goals for soft skills development. By combining your tangible output goals with soft skills development benchmarks, you can drive sustainable change that will transform your organization in the long term.
What role does employee productivity play in organizational resilience?
Building resilience in your organization requires a culture that values both conformity and flexibility. Therefore, your productivity metrics should promote the development of established routines to guide decision-making and the ability to improvise and adapt to changing circumstances.
Investing in high-quality training, promoting a healthy organizational culture, and investing in the well-being of employees – all the elements necessary to improve employee productivity – strengthens the foundation of your business and ensures that your employees are prepared for whatever the future brings.
What causes a lack of productivity?
If you identify performance deficiencies in your organization, it helps to begin by investigating the root causes. Lack of productivity in an organization can occur for many reasons, including lack of training, poor management practices, low morale, workplace stress, and unhealthy organizational culture. By identifying the conditions that caused productivity to decline, you can take the proper steps to get back on track.
Lack of training
Lack of training can negatively impact employee productivity, yet many organizations still don’t adequately address this gap.
In many organizations, employees are discouraged (explicitly and implicitly) from seeking additional help or retraining. In such an environment, employees can languish for months or years without the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their role because they are afraid that asking for help could reflect on them negatively.
To address this problem, organizations should promote a culture of continuous learning, with training opportunities available for all employees. By normalizing the need for ongoing learning and development in soft skills and work-specific functions, you create an environment that destigmatizes retraining and makes it easy for employees to access the help they need to succeed.
Poor management practices
Poor management practices are a common cause of low employee productivity. You can identify poor management practices by looking for ways your managers fail to meet their employees’ needs or expectations. For example, you may find that your manager is not giving your employees the right training to do their jobs properly. Another example would be if a manager doesn’t listen to an employee’s ideas or feedback about the company.
When employees are unhappy in the workplace, productivity suffers. If your organization is suffering from low morale, consider the following questions:
- Do my employees feel valued?
- Do I provide adequate training so my employees can succeed?
- Are my management practices contributing to a healthy work environment?
Stress is a normal part of life, and many things can cause it. However, continual stress in the workplace may lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, or even physical health problems. Therefore, it’s important for you as a manager to understand what causes workplace stress so you can help your employees manage it so they can stay productive on the job.
Unhealthy organizational culture
Organizational culture is the collective beliefs and values that guide how people work together within an organization. Healthy organizational culture means that your workforce feels like they belong; they understand how their job fits into the company’s goals and mission, and they feel supported by leadership when dealing with challenges related to their work.
When an organizational culture is unhealthy, it can make your employees feel disengaged or even unproductive. An unhealthy workplace culture impacts productivity in several ways:
- Unclear expectations about what employees need to do well at work
- Lack of trust between management and direct reports (i.e., micromanagement)
- Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities
Measuring Employee Productivity
To accurately measure productivity in a way that elevates performance, you must develop a measurement strategy that focuses on organizational goals and values. When task-based performance metrics are combined with behavior analytics, you can measure all aspects of employee productivity, from quantifiable units of production to intangibles such as teamwork and time management.
A case study by McKinsey describes a fast food restaurant chain that sought to revamp its performance metrics to improve performance and increase customer satisfaction. To reinvigorate their productivity measurement process, they began with their three organizational goals: average speed of service, average customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.
To measure performance in these areas, they included previously unexplored behavioral data related to personality types and how employees behaved in the stores. From customer interactions to engagement with coworkers and even physical movement around the workplace during work hours, employee behavior was measured.
With this data in hand, this restaurant chain could better understand the role that personality, shift length and time of day, and management practices played in performance. From this knowledge, they could recalibrate their approach to productivity measurement and develop a development strategy that yielded real results.
After only four months, leadership found surprising results. Speed of service increased by 30 seconds, customer satisfaction improved 100%, and revenues per location went up by as much as 5%.
Choosing the right employee productivity metrics
Measure the amount of work completed
As mentioned above, measuring the amount of work completed is common among production-based organizations. Manufacturers may measure employee productivity through the lens of units produced. Call centers may measure productivity according to the number of customers served. For many organizations, evaluating productivity in these terms is a necessary element of their productivity management strategy, but there are other important metrics to consider as well.
Short and long-term goals are essential for managing and measuring employee performance. By working with employees to set expectations and goals, you provide them with a clear articulation of expectations while illuminating the path to success.
In the past, annual reviews have been used to assess employee performance, but to truly measure goal attainment in a way that improves performance, you must engage with the employee regularly. Checking in with employees frequently, whether quarterly or weekly, ensures that employees receive the feedback they need to become more effective.
Measure quality of work
One of the limitations of measuring productivity solely based on work units is that it neglects to consider the importance of quality of work. In the manufacturing example above, evaluating performance simply by production units fails to incentivize or measure how well the work is done. When manufacturing employees are only judged by this measure, they may ultimately sacrifice quality to meet their production goals. When this occurs, manufacturers will realize an immediate positive outcome of more production but see a negative outcome when consumers receive defective products.
Efficiency and effectiveness measurements
Another way to measure performance is to track how quickly the work gets done. As part of a larger set of productivity metrics, efficiency and effectiveness can be useful data points, but relying on these measures alone can create a culture that incentivizes short-cuts and sloppy work.
Subjective and objective measurements
Performance measures can be subjective or objective. A subjective performance measure attempts to quantify an intangible such as in creative or academic fields. Conversely, an objective performance measure quantifies tangible results, such as units produced or customers served.
Benchmarking employee productivity
Productivity measurement is only meaningful if you know what you’re looking for and why. Establishing clear benchmarks for performance clarifies expectations and sets employees up for success.
To identify the right productivity benchmarks, you should consider what is important in your industry and make your benchmarks specific to the type of work your employees do. Remember that what is important to your organization will change over time, and it’s likely that you will need to reassess your productivity benchmarks regularly to ensure that you are still measuring what is most important.
14 ways to increase employee productivity in the workplace
It’s not just about pay raises and pep rallies. There are many ways to elevate workplace performance, and here are just a few:
- Use productivity tracking software
With robust productivity tracking software, you can define employee goals and performance benchmarks. Then, when it’s time to discuss performance with your employees, you can highlight their accomplishments and chart a path forward that leads to success.
- Evaluate performance regularly
Frequent evaluations of performance have greater value than annual reviews. Monthly or quarterly reviews can be used to discuss goals and achievements while offering a clear pathway to success.
- Provide continuous feedback
Increasing employee productivity requires employees and managers to invest in ongoing growth. Offering employees feedback that is timely and constructive supports a culture of continuous improvement.
- Incentivize meeting performance goals
To motivate employees to meet their performance goals, tie incentives to personal achievement. These incentives could be monetary or in the form of privileges such as PTO.
- Set goals for individuals and teams
Employees in your organization should strive towards individual and team goals. By setting these benchmarks for success at the personal and collaborative levels, you show employees how their individual performance contributes to the organization’s broader goals.
- Promote team and individual accomplishments
As teams and individuals reach their performance goals, celebrate them. Some organizations share these achievements in a company newsletter or email blast, while others may hold a pizza party or even arrange for an off-site celebration.
- Encourage employees to try new approaches
Sometimes we can’t be as productive as we’d like because our processes are slowing us down. Encourage employees to share suggestions for how their work could be done more efficiently.
- Change the environment
Evaluate your work environment and consider how it makes employees feel. For example, a dark or cluttered work environment may make employees feel overwhelmed or under-stimulated. Likewise, the right paint color and lights can make a big difference in how your employees feel and perform.
Remote workers can also see their productivity suffer if their home office is not set up properly. Offer remote workers guidance on how to set up their workspace, with suggestions for ergonomics, appropriate lighting, and the right equipment to do their job.
- Create space for collaboration
If you want employees to work together to achieve team goals, you must create space for that collaboration. In the office, this could mean setting aside a meeting room or space in a common area for small team meetings. Online, this could mean using a project management tool that offers virtual breakout rooms or group chats.
- Help employees avoid distractions
Distractions are a productivity-killer. Some organizations use no-meeting Fridays or allow employees to silence email for a couple of hours in the afternoon so that everyone can be more productive. Employee productivity software can also be used to regulate access to social media or other distractions to help employees stay on task.
- Use training to elevate performance and teach new skills
If you truly want to elevate performance in your organization, investing in training is a great place to start. Offer training to employees that helps them develop both soft skills (such as communication, collaboration, resilience, and time management) and hard skills that are relevant to the work they do every day.
- Reduce the number of meetings
One of the easiest ways to improve employee productivity is by limiting the number of meetings they must attend. Before scheduling an informative meeting, consider if an email would suffice. You can also reduce the length of meetings by having all employees submit their status reports via a project management tool, which can then be discussed in an in-person meeting if desired.
- Experiment with different management styles
Getting stuck in one way of doing things can hinder performance and growth. Experimenting with different management styles can be a great way to get unstuck. Your management style should evolve to meet your employees’ needs and motivate high performance.
- Promote the use of scheduled online/offline time
Now that many workers work from home or off-site, the line between work and life is blurred. By encouraging your employees to designate offline times, you can support a better work/life balance.
Five main factors that influence employee productivity
Employees show up to work each day with their own needs, wants, and expectations, all of which can impact their productivity. Employee well-being, management practices, equipment, collaboration tools, and training play a role in driving employee motivation.
Employee well-being plays a major role in workplace productivity. If your employees are not happy and healthy, they will not be productive. Likewise, their performance will suffer if they don’t like their job or feel that it’s too stressful.
Make sure your company has policies in place that encourage both the physical and mental well-being of its workers so they can stay focused on the task at hand.
The right collaboration tools can make all the difference in workplace productivity. However, as workforces become more geographically dispersed, organizations must reconsider how their collaboration tools and methods may speed or impede the flow of work.
Project management tools, learning management systems, and internal chat platforms can all be used to increase employee productivity.
The wrong management strategy can hinder employee productivity and strangle growth. There are several ways of managing employees, each of which can yield different results. For example, some organizational processes may require close supervision, but many others do not. By continuously evaluating your management practices and demonstrating a willingness to evolve, you show employees how to do the same in their daily work.
Equipment can play a big part in employee productivity. The right equipment can help employees do their jobs more efficiently, which means they’ll get done faster and spend less time doing them. First, however, employees must be trained to use them. If you fail to fully train your employees to use the equipment, whether it be a large piece of machinery or project management software, you will never see the full potential of that equipment realized. Instead, your equipment will frustrate your employees and stifle productivity.
Training is the most important factor in employee productivity. A well-trained employee needs less supervision, produces better quality work, makes fewer mistakes, and is more productive.
Training should be ongoing, not just a one-time effort. Everyone needs training on some new skill or information at some point, so it makes sense to ensure everyone has access to resources that can help them learn things on their own time and from anywhere in the company.
Training should be provided in various formats: classroom lectures, hands-on demonstrations, manuals, and tutorials are all effective ways of getting people up to speed quickly and efficiently without spending too much time or money. If you can load your training materials into a learning management system, you can make them available for on-demand learning so employees can review their previous training or develop new skills.
Best employee productivity tracking software
Employee productivity tracking software helps to keep employees on track and on task. These tools are great for tracking progress towards goals and identifying workflow issues. In addition, these apps can help minimize distractions for employees by limiting access to websites and applications that impede productivity.
Teramind is an all-in-one solution for measuring employee productivity via KPIs and tracking progress towards goals. With all of your employee productivity in one place, you can easily identify performance deficiencies and define corrective action targets or close gaps in your workflow.
ActivTrak is another tool used to monitor employee productivity. With ActivTrak, you can identify workload disparities, observe application usage, and measure task efficiency.
Controlio is an employee surveillance tool that is browser-based. With this product, you can actively monitor employee behavior online, seeing every click and keystroke in real-time.
Of the three tools here, Teramind offers the most robust solution, with a full suite of behavior analytics tools to help you measure, track, and improve employee productivity.
Before you can begin improving employee productivity, you must find a way to accurately measure productivity. With behavior analytics tools, like Teramind, you will know that the productivity data you collect is accurate. The valuable data you generate will guide you as you work one-on-one with employees to set goals and track their progress.
Once an employee’s productivity goals have been set, you must provide the conditions for them to succeed. In an environment with a clear vision of expectations and well-defined measures of success, employees have the motivation and resources to become more engaged and productive. Access to on-demand training and development opportunities empowers employees to invest in personal growth. In addition, by promoting individual and team successes, you nurture a culture that rewards effort and achievement.
Track employee productivity then increase it with Teramind