Productivity is a hot topic these days. Everyone is busy but not a lot of people feel productive. Expectations within the workplace are higher than ever and deadlines are shorter. And with mobile technology most employees are permanently on-demand. How can we turn busy into productive?
But employees want to be productive and not just busy. They feel stressed if they can’t get on top of their ever increasing workload. And employers are frustrated too. Because despite a high investment in technology and supports they are not getting the increase in performance their investment should deliver.
Turn busy into Productive
So it is an attractive goal to be more productive, but it is not always clear how to achieve this. Firstly it is important to make sure that:
- The correct work is done and
- That the outcome of that work leads to the correct results for the business.
But the good news is that by making small changes workplace productivity can be improved quickly . The best way to do this is to encourage staff to develop the solutions themselves by engaging people at all levels within the organisation.
But before we discuss any solutions to workplace productivity let’s make sure we understand what we are trying to improve. What does productivity actually mean in today’s workplace?
The challenge in defining productivity is that it means different things in different businesses, jobs and roles. So lets start with the basics – the dictionary definition of Productivity is “the rate at which employees produce goods or complete work”.
Therefore productivity can be described as a measure of Outputs. In a company that manufactures products, it is clear what this means. The output is a measure of how many products are produced over a given period of time. This is quite simplistic and of course all businesses don’t manufacture products.
But within every role in every business, there are “Outputs” that the person in the role needs to produce. And usually the best people to define those outputs are the employees with experience of the role or the business manager to whom they report.
First of all it is important to clarify and communicate the outputs and the outcomes (i.e. business results) that each employee must work towards. That sounds like a lengthy and complex exercise but it doesn’t have to be.
Start with these questions. How can I define productivity within my business? What is a productive return on each employee’s time? What constitutes valuable work done?
Motivate employees to improve their personal productivity by providing training in the key concepts of how to be productive. This includes techniques on how to efficiently:
And motivate teams to consider what they can do collectively to improve productivity. This can include simple changes such as:
- Adopting a Meetings process to reduce meeting time and improve follow up
- Agreeing best Email practices to reduce the number of internal processing time
- Sharing the weekly workload so that everyone has uninterrupted “deep thinking” time
- Identifying and eliminating the distractions within the office.
Then an organisation needs to ensure that the correct processes are in place to sustain any productivity improvements made. Without this employees efforts will falter and they will become frustrated, stressed and disengaged.
Consequently It is important to also examine what structural or cultural changes may need to happen to support a productive workplace. The following organisational issues prevent people performing at their best .
- Inefficient processes
- Layers of sign-off
- Poor decision making by management
- Shifting priorities and deadlines
- Lacks of clarity
- Poor planning
By removing these barriers there is a higher chance of sustaining an increase in productivity and performance. And employee commitment also improves as people feel they positive in a culture encouraging continuous improvement and engagement.
The measurement of productivity within roles doesn’t have to be complex. Take Email processing as an example. Productivity can be measured as: the number of Emails received each day (Input) versus the number of Emails answered each day (Output). Some other measures could include the numbers of:
- application forms processed
- reports written
- performance reviews completed
- customer problems solved
- social media interactions
- invoices sent
This can be too simplistic because volume measures are seldom sufficient on their own. Output measures must also take into account the quality of the output, its timeliness and its cost. Also how many people were involved. The effectiveness of the outputs is what matters, rather than the efficiency. But these examples are a good starting point when deciding your own business measures.
Productivity within Your Organisation
So embark on a productivity project that engages your employees. Encourage and support them to make small incremental changes with business outcomes and results in mind. Foster a culture of continuous improvement. Add measures so that your return on investment and your employees commitment to the project can be clearly demonstrated.
Moira speaking at last month’s Be Productive Top Tips Seminar in BOI Workbench.
To discuss how to improve productivity in your organisation with a Productivity Seminar, Training session or Productivity Project click here or call Moira on 0868189719.