Even though the Bureau of Labor and Statistics claims that overall employee productivity has increased by three percent over the last five years, there are still a lot of companies out there that fail to get the most out of their talent.
As a seasoned digital marketer, I constantly come into contact with companies that struggle to keep their staff inspired and happy. The biggest reason why this continues to be a challenge is because they don't really work on rationalizing time and optimizing their company processes.
A couple of years ago, one of my former clients faced extreme difficulties with employee retention, precisely due to such issues. Even though the company offered decent salaries and numerous employee benefits and bonuses - employees kept leaving. They were constantly understaffed and forced to work with independent contractors who were quite costly for them.
As soon as the company finished molding new recruits to their needs and standards, older employees would leave. Not because they would get more money or a better offer from someone else, but because they felt annoyed with the amount of trivial work they were doing. That was the most common reason people kept repeating in their exit interview.
This was not really a shocker for me. It's a well-known fact that employees who exercise their strengths, develop new skills, and test their limits on a daily basis are eight percent more productive than those who spend their time doing the same mind-numbing work over and over again.
Anyone who has any real entrepreneurial experience will tell you that productivity is the backbone of every successful business, and rationalizing time and every process is the only thing that has the actual power to improve the overall quality of work.
Regardless of what you do or sell, you always need to maintain a high level of productivity at your company. Your job is to make sure that your employees are constantly motivated and engaged at their workplace. If that isn't the case, if your employees feel overworked, uninspired or overall uninterested in what they do they'll stop performing at the desired levels. They'll start slacking off, missing deadlines or, even worse, calling in sick simply to avoid coming to work.
The key is to keep your workforce's mind constantly stimulated. If you want to get the most out of your talent, you need to make your employees see that they are more than just tools for you. You need to make them see that the company cares for them on a deeper level and values their opinions and expertise.
And how are you going to do that? By providing everything they need to work smarter, not harder.
"Doing more for less and doing better for less" should be your mantra. You don't want to see your top talent wasting time on trivial activities that are not really worth their attention. At a time when so many companies are struggling with growth, as a leader, you must step forward and think of ways to bring productivity to your business and remove all organizational obstacles that have a negative effect on your workforce.
Having said that, in the following segments of this post, I'm going to cover some of the more common organizational obstacles that butcher the productivity of wholesome companies and how to fix them:
If you Google the word "efficiency," the search engine will feed you a lot of different definitions, the most common of them being: "the number of hours required to complete a specific task, when compared with the standard of that particular industry."
This is not what labor efficiency is about.
Thanks to that, most business owners believe that efficiency is basically a synonym for delivery. As long as your workers are meeting their deadlines, they can be considered efficient/productive employees. It doesn't really matter if they're stressed, over-worked or just bored out of their minds; they're making the most of their time and making money for the company. If the industry standard for a particular task is 20 minutes, and your workers do it in 15, that means that you run a tight ship, right?
Efficiency is about reaching your goals with less effort/time/manpower. In order to improve the overall efficiency of their work, most successful companies do their best to reduce the number of hours needed for producing the same level of output.
To the modern successful businessman, efficiency sounds more like a synonym for saving, because (thanks to different shortcuts) the company spends less resources on wages, labor-related costs, employee time, etc.
The first step to increasing your overall company productivity should be to understand what efficiency is really about. Once you do that, once you figure out what really fuels your business machine, you can start adopting different strategies that optimize your work processes.
Now that we understand what being efficient really means, it's imperative to single out your slowest and most complex processes, and think of different ways to make them easier for your talent.
Processes are supposed to help companies improve efficiency for new and older staff, but they often become the very reason why people abandon their positions. If you, like me, work in marketing, you're probably familiar with all the trivial tasks that come with the job. For me, nothing sucks up more time than client reporting.
I really hate doing it; I'm not the only one, I bet.
In my previous company, client reporting was the number one reason why people kept quitting. When you work in an agency that regularly serves 300 or more clients, reporting becomes a task that's constantly on your mind.
It's a slow, boring process that needs to be executed perfectly.
Every single month, I spend five or more hours on reporting for a single client. Gather all the data, analyze it, copy-paste it into an Excel sheet, work on its design, add comments, and the list goes on and on. It's a mind-numbing and extremely detail-oriented activity that just cannot be done in five minutes. That is if you want to do it right, of course.
Reporting is extremely important for client retention. If you don't do a good enough job of demonstrating to your clients where their money is being spent and what they're getting in return, chances are that they're going to take their business elsewhere.
This is just one of the scenarios in business where investing in the right tool can help you save time, while preserving the overall quality of work. There are numerous different reporting marketing utilities out there that could really help you accomplish your client duties in literally a few minutes. The only trick is to find the one that suits you best. Personally, I use a tool simply called Reportz (see image). I like it because it allows me to automate reporting for my regular clients. Thanks to this tool, I don't have to create the same report every month. Once I set it, the client gets a link, where he can check the data whenever he pleases, all in real time. This functionality has saved me tons and tons of hours.
Of course, this is just for reporting. I use other tools as well to optimize different processes, like Evernote for organizing content, ActiveCollab for collaboration, Grammarly for proofreading; the list is endless. The idea here is to remove all the unnecessary complexities and time suckers from your busy day, so you can really focus on the things that demand your undivided attention.
It's important to remember that tools don't guarantee success, but they surely do help with optimizing long and boring processes.
Statistics say that an average worker spends 13 hours a week on emails alone. When you remember that a typical work week totals 40 hours, this means that your standard employee spends almost 30 percent of their time on reading and responding to emails.
This is a problem. If you want to lower these numbers, you need to prioritize your emails. It is of great importance to separate what is email-worthy, and what's not.
A lot of companies still communicate solely via email, which naturally has a negative effect on the flow of information and overall company productivity.
The solution to this problem can be found in adopting a custom email filing system and using a tool like Slack for company communication. Email should only be used for important messages and announcements, and it should demand urgent reactions. Your emails should be filed according to importance. Everything else, all the small talk and brainstorming, should be moved to Slack.
Another area that you can improve in order to stimulate better productivity concerns company meetings. Numerous companies are over-dependent on meetings today.
Even though they are often masked by corporate buzzwords like "collaborative" and "inclusive," most meetings are often completely worthless. Publications like Forbes, Inc, and The Wall Street Journal have reported that there are more than 35 million meetings happening each day in the U.S. alone, and that 50 percent of them are a total waste of time, costing U.S. companies ridiculous amounts of money.
There is no need to have a meeting for every decision a certain manager or employee wants to make. People become annoyed and ineffective when they are forced to sit through meetings that don't really demand their attention or input.
The key to fixing this issue lies in developing a checklist so every agenda is clear, before it becomes the topic for a meeting:
If your topic ticks all the boxes on this list and you really need to have a meeting - before it happens, make sure to really work on your agenda and attendee list, and compress your story so that the meeting lasts half the time you originally intended it to.
Another way to cut down on meetings and unnecessary communication is to empower your workers with the luxury to make and deploy their own decisions. Sure, this approach requires you to trust your talent, but it certainly helps speed things up. You can do it with a senior worker, whom you're certain knows what they're doing. Obtaining an unreasonable number of approvals will surely have a negative effect on your company productivity. Make sure to give your top talent a more engaging role and provide them the freedom to put their ideas into action.
You know the old saying, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day"?
While it is probable that not all of your workers are in love with their professions, you can help them fall in love with their workplaces. Surprisingly enough, not hating Mondays and enjoying the atmosphere at work has proven to be a huge productivity boost.
In addition to equipping your employees with the right set of tools, you have to work on building a positive culture within your company. Even though we often think great relationships at work happen spontaneously, investing an effort in creating a great atmosphere is the cornerstone of every healthy business.
So, how do you get there?
The first thing is kicking out stress from the equation. According to the American Institute of Stress, around $300 billion is lost due to workplace-related stress. The reasons behind stress are various: it could be caused by an overwhelming amount of work, tight deadlines, poor processes and management, bad relationships with colleagues, financial dissatisfaction, ill-positioned communication or even verbal abuse coming from the superiors and other team members.
It's not that rare for employees to feel like they are just meaningless minions in the big machinery of a certain business, and that type of position risks triggering the feeling of being dehumanized. This is especially true for larger companies where the work dynamic is stressful and all the attention is devoted to satisfying the clients, not the employees. But remember: great relationships at work come from empathy and assertiveness.
Need some ideas how to establish and foster a warmer atmosphere at work? Here are a few great examples.
Vodafone has found a way to engage their employees and help them understand they are a valuable part of the company. They have established an employee advocacy program. Firstly, they've organized an internal survey to see how familiar the employees are with the company's social media policy. It turned out employees wanted to share something online about Vodafone, but were uncertain if they were allowed to do so.
When the External Communications Team of Vodafone noticed there was an honest desire among employees to positively promote the company, they came up with an idea to provide them with a single outlet where they could share company news and the content they wanted. This way, everyone felt included and the company benefited by driving over 30,000,000 impressions.
Another praise-worthy practice comes from Humana, which has truly made an effort to think outside the box. Knowing employee well-being should be treated holistically and kept in mind outside the office too, Humana inspired its workers to share their personal healthy lifestyle stories. This turned employees into influencers of sort within the healthcare industry and created a win-win situation for all the parties involved.
The ultimate lesson? Caring for your employees and nurturing a genuine interest in their needs creates a welcoming workplace and removes the burden of feeling trapped inside the office. On the contrary, by treating them with dignity, as human beings as well as respecting their free time, hobbies and passions you are creating a productive and healthy workforce.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post from top to bottom. I hope it has helped you locate all the problem areas that are killing your overall company productivity. I also hope that my tips have provided enough information to overcome these issues.
If you've read the article carefully, you have probably noticed that productivity and employee engagement are basically two sides of the same coin. In this day and age, there are still a lot of businesses that don't really focus on the people, and because of that they stagnate. They look at processes, instead of their employees to help them solve their company-related issues. They don't really put any effort into sanitizing complex and outdated operations, and that is why they fail to grow.
Great companies need a great vision and important goals, and they need to make their employees part of their mission. The only way they can develop loyalty, genuine respect for the company among their employees, and increase productivity, is to actually listen to their staff and rationalize and optimize their work.