Every business has to have a goal. These goals vary widely from business to business, but they all have a number of things in common. One of these is the fact that work is required to reach those goals. All businesses need to be productive, and that productivity does not come solely from having and following goals or a state-of-the-art business process management system. It also comes from the people that do the job of keeping the business running, whether it be through creating things, answering phones, or selling products.
Productivity is the key to growth, and of course, you want to be as productive as possible. Many methods of optimizing the work done come back to the people doing the day-to-day work, in many cases the employees.
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Keep an Open Door
One of the best ways to increase productivity is to foster an air of openness in your company. This means more than allowing employees to talk to management when they feel the need — it means transparency on all levels as well. If your employees have an idea of the company goals and how close the company is to meeting them, they’ll get a better understanding the part they play and the individual goals they’ve been given. They’ll be more motivated to help everyone move forward as a unit.
Set an Internet Policy
Just about everyone has a smartphone these days, and just about everyone who has a smartphone uses social media. Needless to say, this can be a distraction from daily work and a drain on productivity. One study suggests the average person will check his or her smartphone about once every 6 or 7 minutes. That can add up to a lot of wasted time at work. It’s up to you how to deal with it if it’s a problem. Some companies set a strict policy against the usage of smartphones while others merely post a memo. However you deal with it, rules should be set across the board so that everyone is clear on management’s policy when it comes to smartphone use.
Everyone likes to feel that they’re contributing in the workplace. When an employee does not feel like a valuable member of the team, they may feel as if they are just wasting time there. Performance suffers. If someone is being productive, be sure to acknowledge it — every employee should know exactly what they bring to the table. Respect includes respect for the life of the employee outside the workplace. An employee who knows you care about them, their needs, and their accomplishments as a person will work harder.
It’s probably a given that management talks often to their employees, especially in smaller businesses. These days, however, there’s social media, and texting, and all kinds of other ways people keep in touch. Don’t be shy about using email, electronic forums, and other electronic means to pass around suggestions, comments, and other information. With the right system, workers can pass files and collaborate on projects effectively without ever leaving their desks. A central communication system keeps track of deadlines, meetings, and timed goals so that everyone is always on the same page for company-wide or department-wide projects.
Most likely, your employees don’t know just how well they’re doing, at least not until their performance reviews come in. Don’t wait that long. If something’s wrong, let them know respectfully, and offer ways to resolve the problem. After all, if someone doesn’t know what to expect from you, they can’t deliver it. Likewise, if someone is doing a good job, let them know you noticed and appreciate it. Always keep in mind that feedback is just that, and it can go both ways. It’s not a way to chastise or punish.
This is one that’s not feasible for every job, but if it is, you might find it beneficial to test flex hours, or even a work from home program. There are definitely some jobs where working from home is either impossible or greatly counter-productive, or where flex time would never work because of scheduling restrictions.
For everyone else, give flex time or working from home a trial run. It shouldn’t take more than a month to see if productivity has risen or fallen. Share with your employees how you will measure the results, and if it works out, make the time period two months, then six months, then a year. If the numbers start to drop precipitously, you’ll have the data you can show to back up your decision should you find the need to end the program.
Treat Them Well
This, like many of the other suggestions, goes back to respecting your employees. Invest in the things that make people want to come in to work. Ergonomic furniture and keyboards, for instance, will prevent injuries and discomfort that force people to stay home more often or even quit. A well-stocked lunch room that offers better (and cheaper) alternatives than going out to get food every day is another plus. Even the color scheme you choose for the office space can make a difference.
For instance, a small company in Reno, Nevada, when given the choice between a $3,000 bonus and their usual free lunch with their coworkers every Friday, unanimously chose the free lunch. Why? Because they valued the relationships they’d built on the job more than the money. An environment like that will never have trouble motivating productivity. It will just come naturally.