Every experienced business owner knows that productivity is the key to a healthy company – we can easily say it’s a defining word of the modern workplace.
Still, while we’re in the middle of an ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) search for ways to increase employee productivity, our employees are becoming less productive. So it is obvious that most of us are doing something wrong.
We certainly can’t blame everything on social media addiction, nor we can push the discipline beyond reasonable limits. We are aware that our employees require proper monitoring, but have you ever asked yourself what proper really means?
While we are searching for various productivity improvement techniques, we fail to notice that different people have different reactions to them.
And where are we searching for those techniques?
Well, where every modern man does his search today – on the Internet. But the Internet is full of business-focused blogs which are, again, full of articles on ‛promising productivity hacks’.
This is where the core of our problems lies – the true increase in your employees’ productivity requires far more than a bunch of superficial hacks.
So save yourself the time to visit a local bookstore and leave all those equally ‛promising’ productivity improvement books on their shelves. In order to do the job right, you need to aim towards the individual needs.
The biggest mistake you can make is to treat your employees as they all think the same, meaning that your approach to their productivity must be easily adaptable.
The measurement of your employees’ output and efficiency must go beyond the key performance indicators (KPIs). You can’t hold your entire team to the same standard, nor measure their productivity only with numbers.
You need to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and tailor your approach according to their individual needs. The business world is not a place where we can leave to much to chance, so all of us need a certain system. That is completely understandable, but what system allows this individual approach?
The one that has been written in the very core of every human being – the one of behavioral psychology which recognizes the individual differences and thus has many ways of adapting to them.
Your employees spend more than 8 hours per day inside a workplace, which is more time than they spend sleeping. This also means that they spend more time with their co-workers than they do with their families.
So, when we’re talking about employees, we’re actually talking about the second family. But this is the one that you can carefully (meaning rationally) choose, so your search for ultimate productivity can begin already in the interview phase, even if that means asking some weird questions.
The fact that we’re talking about a family-like structure means that every employee has the opportunity to affect the mood of the others on daily basis. So we’re not just talking about the individual needs, but also about their interaction.
You can change the complete psyche of your employees with a change in the overall working environment, using deep-rooted psychological principles. This approach doesn’t require taking a psychology course – it is all about the careful observation that leads to a deeper understanding. So keep your eyes (and mind) open as we dive in.
When it comes to your employees’ productivity, the motivation is your foundation. If they lack motivation they’ll become destructive, and you can say goodbye to a positive environment in your workplace.
Furthermore, they’ll become demoralizing and low to none productivity will spread through your entire workforce like a plague.
What you need to do to provide proper motivation is to change their attitude, and to do it quickly. This process has many layers, so we’re gonna uncover them one by one.
The first thing is to establish a positive atmosphere that is family-like. Note that this doesn’t mean you should treat your employees as you would your parents or brothers and sisters.
There’s no room for such intense emotions, so you need to think more like nephews or cousins.
The problem with these extended family members is that we usually can’t stand some of them. There will be similar situations with some of your employees, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to have their best interest in mind at all times.
You may not be blood-related, but you’re success-related, which is pretty much an equivalent in the business world. It’s normal that you won’t like all personality traits in your employees, but you can’t allow others to talk bad about them.
Regardless of how you feel about them, they need to know you always have their backs. In other words, you need to provide every single employee with psychological safety so they’ll be prepared to take risks.
If you want to move the limits of their productivity, you need to make them feel invincible.
We’ve already mentioned that your employees form the second family you can rationally choose. In order to structure a support system that is going to be beneficial for every employee and therefore provide them with proper motivation, you need to know your employee’s background.
The reason is simple – this background clearly shows their motivation to work, which is a huge factor in how they will perform in the workplace. There is a clear difference in motivation between a single mother who has two kids to feed and a student in search for a part-time job during his studies.
In other words, if you wish to motivate your employees you need to be aware of their personal motivation, first.
Although each one of your employees has its own personal goals, that doesn’t mean they don’t need you to show them the way to their achievements. It is hard to be motivated if you don’t know what to do – it will make them confused, lost, and eventually frustrated.
They need to understand what exactly do you expect from them and then receive the proper training for the tasks at hand. This fills them with confidence, and confidence leads to productivity.
But this confidence is not self-preserving and it needs to be maintained all the time. This is where small incentives come in handy.
A 10 bucks gift card is hardly about the monetary value – it is a way to establish clear goals that all employees will be willing to reach. And when they do you need to celebrate their accomplishment no matter how small.
It is mandatory to make every positive contribution to the team acknowledged so your employees will feel that their actions truly count and that they’re actually making the difference. And they do count, so celebrating small wins will make you closer to the accomplishment of bigger goals.
You can lay down the above-described foundation perfectly, but it will mean nothing if you haven’t taken care of what’s underneath – the primal needs of every human being.
Your employees are not just persons who are performing their daily tasks, they are regular people like everybody else. I know this seems obvious, but many business owners tend to forget this fact since the office is the only place in which they make contact with them.
That’s why it’s mandatory to be aware that all your employees have lives outside of the workplace and those lives should always take precedence over work. You can’t personally take care of their primal needs such as the need for food and a sexual one, but you can allow them to take care of them themselves.
And don’t look at those needs too strictly – it’s not always about putting food in their mouths or getting under the sheets with their partners.
That single mother we’ve mentioned above probably doesn’t have a babysitter lined up and that could be an obstacle to the satisfaction of those needs, so you need to be understanding about it.
Same goes for the student who will at some point need to take care of his final in order to graduate.
Life happens to everyone, and you need to respect that if you want to have productive and appreciative employees.
But there is one primal need above all the rest – the need for safety. And this need is not only reserved for life outside the workplace.
The largest motivation for work lies in the search for stability and safety, so naturally, health concerns have an immense impact on the employees’ ability to be productive.
The estimated number of employees between 19 and 64 years of age who are not working due to a chronic disease, disability, or other health reasons has achieved the alarming 20 million.
This leads to a huge problem of absenteeism with an almost incalculable amount of lost time at work, and it’s hard to be productive if you’re actually not there. Your road to providing safety should start with clear safety policy and precautions, keeping away the underqualified employees from hazardous zones.
We don’t need to mention that every employee must go through safety training, but you need to be aware that accidents will still happen, so you need to make sure that every workers injury will be fully compensated.
It is not just about financial compensation in the form of medical bills and lost wages, but about the full rehabilitation that will allow the personal life of every employee to remain intact.
Since they’re in your company in search for safety, if working for you leaves any damage on their lives you can say goodbye to their trust and their productivity with it.
But your employees don’t have to be absent to show the lack of productivity – they can simply experience fatigue which is related to a wide range of mental and physical health problems.
This also leads to the loss of productive time, and it usually happens because they have more tasks on their plates then they can handle. We know that every business owner wants the tasks to be completed as quickly as possible, but the result will suffer if that means your employees won’t be working in their full capacity.
Instead of pushing them above their physical and mental limits, simply consider implementing some time management tools that will actually boost productivity.
Taking care for the primal need for safety will require the investment of time and money, but the return of both is guaranteed.
By providing the motivational foundation and taking care of the primal needs of your employees the largest amount of work is done, but if you want to boost their productivity you need to engage them in the right way.
But first, you need to make sure that everyone has a shared sense of vision and that the relationship between the employees and the management is excellent.
This is why an open communication is of ultimate importance. The communication needs to be open on a number of different levels, closely tied to the things we have already discussed.
We’ve already said that your employees need guidance, but this doesn’t mean you can simply provide them with adequate training.
Every training is just a group of rules, and we’ve already made the point that productivity is closely tied to individual needs. And those individual needs mean questions – questions not only you need to answer but also encourage.
We’ve all been in situations when we’re lost without a proper advice, and your employees are not an exception.
But there is a frequent problem of fear – many employees have various reasons to be scared they’ll show the lack of knowledge that is expected from them, which leaves them paralyzed.
You need to expose and get rid of this reasons, or otherwise, they’ll come to the conclusion that it’s better to do things wrong than asking for guidance. In other words, you need to establish asking questions as a good thing and encourage it to be done in a timely manner.
But not all questions need to be asked before the answers are provided. Even after you encourage questions, your employees will still not be comfortable posing them all the time, and frequency is the mother of all feedback.
Real-time feedback provides you with a performance management and measurement that is objective and transparent, creating a situation where productivity is guaranteed.
In order to accomplish this, you need to gamify your work environment that will create an active feedback mechanism and a rich narrative structure that will be aligned with the objectives and goals of both – the organization and individual.
There are enterprise gamification platforms created for that purpose, such as GamEffective. The point of incorporating this gameplay mechanics is not just in playfulness (although there is some of that), but also in encouraging engagement and driving behavior.
It is all about creating a mechanism that can objectively measure and share accomplishments, which will empower your employees through intrinsic motivation, shifting the focus from simply finishing mundane tasks.
Another important fact about the feedback is that all employees deserve it equally.
If you want to boost overall creativity, you must value all your employees the same. Having a favorite doesn’t mean that the others will try to reach his/her level of productivity, but that they’ll try to sabotage their unique peer in every way possible, especially in these times when competition for work is at its highest.
Your job is not to keep open communication just between you and the employees, but you also need to enhance their mutual communication, and having envy splitting your workforce is not a good start.
The relationship between men and machines has always been a tricky one, especially in these modern and digital times where the boundary between usefulness and addiction has never been thinner. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be nurtured, especially inside a workplace where productivity demands more than a human factor.
You can employ all the feel-good psychological methods, but their effect will be diminished without the right tools. The importance of technology in the workplace is unquestionable, and it’s all about finding the right balance.
Today’s job environment demands to equip your employees with the right gear if you want them to be truly productive. Modern companies can’t even be imagined without the necessary 21st-century tech tools such as cell phones and PCs.
But these necessities won’t take your workforce productivity levels much far, so you’ll need to trust them with an upgrade.
I’ve intentionally used the word ‛trust’ here because that’s exactly where the problem lies. Many business owners are afraid to equip their employees with modern gadgets because they fear that they’ll provide many distractions and therefore have a negative effect on their productivity.
But your employees are able to sense if you look at them as social media addicts, and will be aware of this lack of confidence. Furthermore, sticking to stationary PCs will deprive them of their freedom of movement and diminish their possibility for interaction.
Nobody likes to feel like an animal in the cage and being in that kind of situation they’re unable to control their time which leads to a decrease in productivity.
The simple action of upgrading them to wireless PC notebooks will increase their productivity by up to hundred hours per year. This power of a technical upgrade lies in the change of habits to the ones that are closer to everyday life outside the office.
If you’re worried about the cost of the upgrade, you should know that the increase in their productivity will cover it already during the first year.
Yes, that’s you – the one on whom everything we mentioned above directly depends.
If you want your employees to work, they need to see you working. If you’re slacking off, so will they.
Think of a bodybuilder checking its progress in the mirror – you’re that mirror. There is no chance to improve the productivity of you’re workforce if the boss is not up to the task.
Of course, you can blame everything on the ineffective middle management, but who is responsible for that management? This only means that you don’t have a strong connection with your employees, and their productivity is largely determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor.
This doesn’t mean you need to get rid of your entire HR team, but it means that you need to come closer. If you don’t provide your employees with a direct connection they will quickly lose the interest to make an extra effort and invest additional time to make something right.
Don’t think that providing an occasional tap on the back or a chit-chat forms that direct connection – it is about providing inspiration, motivation, and encouragement by personal example.
To put it simply, you need to give credit in due time, take the blame for your own mistakes, and keep your promises.
As a leader, your biggest power lies in flexibility. It may sound contradictory, but allowing some of your employees to work from home can actually make them more productive.
This is not such a difficult decision to make with all those cloud services that allow them to access the information and provide them with tools they need to perform the tasks from any place with a solid Internet connection.
All the requirements to expand your workforce beyond the boundaries of physical location are already there, which means that sometimes your stubbornness will be the only obstacle to increased productivity.
We’ve already mentioned the problem of fatigue, so you should also encourage breaks – at some point, the efforts of your employees will simply become futile. That’s why being aware of the perfect break formula will certainly lead to better productivity.
Despite the fact there’s a formula, keep in mind that you don’t need to become a stickler about the schedule.
Although you need to have this flexibility, you also need to be able to make your word the final say.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to listen to suggestions and opinions of your employees – listening to them and valuing their words before reaching the decision gives them a sense of their personal contribution and shows them they’re a part of the team.
But the final decision must be yours – they’re in need of the guidance, and that guidance can’t be provided by the person who doesn’t have the final answer.
You’ve noticed that all the things we’ve talked about do form a certain system, but that system is deeply rooted in our consciousness and therefore applicable to every individual.
But the real strength of these psychology methods lies in the flexibility of their applications. After you embrace the differences of your employees, recognize their inner motivations and individual needs, you just need to keep the lines of communication open and the necessary technology close at hand.
The secret is not in a technique but in a way of life. And life can’t be ‛hacked’ – it needs to be observed and understood. And keep in mind that, before you try to make any change, you need to go through it yourself.
About the Author:
Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged on projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business, and marketing resource. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.