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August 2014

Nine Ways to Boost Staff Productivity

To do anything effectively usually requires hard work. But here are 9 simple ideas to help you increase people productivity. Idea number one: explain clearly what you want from them. One of the biggest problems that obstructs productivity is that people do not know what they're really trying to do, what they're trying to achieve, or even why they are doing what they do. So clarity about what it is they're doing is absolutely essential; therefore, in simple terms, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Point number two sounds quite obvious: if you want staff to be productive, then you need to motivate the leaders, the team leaders. Without the team leaders themselves being motivated it is highly unlikely staff will be. The best way of all of motivating the team leaders is to run a programme initially profiling them using Motivational Maps.

Point number three, and while we're passing the topic of motivating your team leaders, think about the staff themselves and ask them for ideas on improving productivity. If they are asked and their ideas are subsequently implemented, this becomes very motivational as they feel ownership. This makes them more productive. So how effectively are you drawing on the expertise and ideas of your own staff? Could you do more?

Point number four: having explained clearly what you want - in other words, communicated effectively - we need to think about simplifying all processes. That we use complicated processes confuses staff, confuses customers.  How can we simplify them and how can we make them more user friendly? Another way of putting it would be making our processes fit for purpose; people like it and are happy when things work the way they are supposed. That happiness translates into bee-hive hums of productivity!

Another good way of boosting productivity, point number five, is to try to define what your customer needs. This has several benefits. First, it stops what might be called mission creep, which is very demoralising for staff. Staff want to satisfy the customer but with mission creep there is never an end in sight where this might occur! This is very demotivating and leads to a drop in productivity. Furthermore, defining the customer need more exactly also leads to greater profitability for the company as the waste of mission creep is avoided. Finally, the more tightly defined the need is, the clearer the objective, and this allows staff a greater chance to deliver it – hence, to be more productive.

Following on from simplifying all processes, point number six, is to invest in technology, not for the sake of technology, but for the sake of the productivity it can produce. We all know that technology is moving forward a cracking pace, and we’ve all seen organisations using old technology on the unstated premise that they are getting a full return on the initial capital investment. But in getting the most from it, and by carrying on using an old technology, which really doesn't serve the customer or the staff well,  we find customer move away and staff become less productive. A classic example of this occurred to me recently when I entered a shop of a major brand and was kept waiting while my card was being processed – waiting for about 5 minutes. Eventually, the assistant apologised, embarrassed, and informed me that the card processing was still being run on a Windows 95 system even though the company made millions in profits. How did that look? How did he feel?

Another good idea, is to introduce flexitime into the working environment. One of the issues of primary concern to me is the idea that is not the length of time that people work that is really important or measuring how long they spend at the job, rather how productive they are, or what results they achieve. Clearly we have to draw a line here because some jobs do require time duration rather than simple results: people need to be there for example in manning a shop for certain times. However, that said, it is important to understand that we can give people some flexibility in their time commitment to the organisation; this can be extremely motivating for them because it increase their internal locus of control – this is a major contribution to their sense of freedom and well-being and produces greater levels of productivity.

And penultimately, one central issue, is the correlation between pay and performance. I don't wish to be hard-line about this, but it is true that many companies seem to think performance is a secondary reason for why they are paying people; indeed the truth of the matter is that performance is essential. The performance is what drives greater productivity and this, if the strategy is correct, is what leads to enhanced profitability. So the question is: do we have a clear link between pay and performance, one that is fair, equitable, and transparent? Because we need to have.

Finally, point number nine, look at revamping the working environment. This can make such a massive difference to the psychology of people working for you. If your environment is dark, boring, grey, and all these other attributes, then you can only expect non-stimulation in your staff, which creates lacklustre performance, and furthermore, and ultimately, a lack of productivity. Investing in a great working environment is investing in them. What do people like? Nature, art, music, colour and general stimulation  - the lighting, the quality of air, and so on. What is your environment like? What can you do to improve it? You might want to measure the difference it makes – before and after.