By: Liz Sheffield
Any CEO will tell you that workplace productivity is a requirement for their organization to succeed. Many leaders routinely emphasize the need to “do more with less”. At the same time, employees everywhere are adamant that they have more to do, but too little time to do it. Water cooler discussions in many organizations revolve around competing priorities, limited bandwidth, and a need to streamline processes.
We also see the negative impact when employees can’t overcome these challenges. The quality of the work they produce starts to decline. Teams lose focus. Projects seem to last forever. Customer service suffers. Organizations take a hit to the bottom line when employees aren’t productive with increased turnover, higher rates of absenteeism, and low morale.
To increase workplace productivity, start with a communication strategy that improves your employee experience. A successful communication strategy is one that begins with onboarding, continues to align company goals to individual goals, and does so in an engaging and informative way throughout an employee’s career. Then look at how you can establish an efficient work environment, empower employees to be productive, and reinforce employees’ well-being through the programs and services you offer.
How To Increase Workplace Productivity
Onboard effectively to set up for success
Imagine showing up for the first day of work and you don’t know where to go. You don’t have any sense of welcome from your new employer. You’re unsure of where to look for help. That’s not a positive onboarding scenario.
In contrast, communicating effectively during onboarding puts employees on a path of workplace productivity from the first moment they start working for an organization. Effective communication during onboarding can set the tone for the employee’s entire career.
“Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged,” an HR consultant told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”
Effective onboarding also increases the chances that an employee will stay with the organization. SHRM reports that when they experience great onboarding, 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization for three years.
Using an employee communication software or other preferred system to communicate roles, responsibilities, and critical organizational information during the onboarding process has the potential to make a difference in workplace productivity immediately and for the employee’s entire tenure with an organization.
Align and communicate company goals to individual goals and outcomes
Communication can’t stop after onboarding.
“Staff sometimes feel separated from senior management, but they must work together to pursue common goals that align with the mission of the company,” the founder of WebFX wrote in Forbes.
To avoid a feeling of separation or disengagement, it’s imperative that organizations continue to connect with employees.
Alignment around organizational goals encourages employees to develop a sense of ownership and support for those goals that can:
- Reinforce accountability
- Identify gaps to address
- Support a culture driven by teamwork
With the value that aligning goals brings to an organization, the focus should be for employees, leaders, and managers to regularly receive updates and communicate with each other around how their personal goals contribute to company goals. Actively talk about how broader outcomes and initiatives are supported and impacted by each person’s contributions. Ideally, organizations should have an employee engagement program in place to make it easy for the organization to communicate consistently to all employees in a way that not only informs them, but inspires them as well.
Inform employees in engaging ways
Today’s workforce is more diverse, dispersed, and discerning than ever before. Inside and outside of work, employees are engaging and communicating in much different ways than previous generations.
The influence of social media platforms alone, illustrates the varied communication experiences available today:
- Around the globe, there are more than 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook.
- Snapchat users spend an average of 34.5 minutes on the app
- The most common hashtags used in Instagram stories in 2018 were #GOODMORNING, #WORK, #GOODNIGHT
Hashtags illustrate the importance of delivering information in ways that engage today’s employees. Today hashtags—a word or words with a # symbol in front related to the same topic—are used to link that comment with a larger conversation about that subject. Before 2007, when the use of hashtags on social media came to be, who would have guessed the “pound sign” would become a powerful way to highlight communications about a given topic?
The hashtag reinforces the importance of continuing to engage with employees in new and innovative ways. With the advent of instant ways to communicate, employees have different expectations from their employers when it comes to communication.
To deliver content that engages employees and drives action, innovative organizations are communicating in many ways. They’re using online, mobile, and print formats to connect with employees. These varied methods of delivery help them reach a dispersed workforce with the information they need, and when they need it.
Establish a Work Environment That Supports Efficiency
The work environment you create should support efficient processes which lead to improved workplace productivity. Think about the environment in terms of several factors:
- Physical environment: It’s a common assumption that employees who are more satisfied with the physical environment in which they’re working are more likely to produce better work outcomes. Think about the environment in terms of comfort: is it clean, appealing, and comfortable? At the most basic level, are employees’ physical needs met with easy access to store their lunch, access water, and use the restroom? Do they have access to current equipment and systems that make it easy to be productive, or are they stuck with outdated programs that require workarounds and create frustration?
- Psychological environment: Just as the physical environment impacts productivity, so does the psychological environment. It’s important to assess how engaged employees are with their colleagues. Do they have people with whom they feel a genuine sense of connection at work? Is teamwork and cross-functional projects a way that work gets done, or are business units working in silos? If the psychological environment doesn’t meet employee needs, it’s much more difficult for them to be effective and efficient which makes workplace productivity suffer.
The workplace environment isn’t just about having comfortable chairs or a space that has plenty of light—although that doesn’t hurt—it’s about reviewing employee needs and adjusting the environment to support those needs.
Empower Employees to be Productive
Employees working in an organization in which mistakes are not allowed are often overly cautious. They don’t want to risk making a mistake that could bring ridicule or embarrassment. When employees hold back in this way, their potential is also limited. That’s why in recent years there’s been a lot of discussion around giving employees permission to fail.
In one study from Georgetown University, researchers found that embracing failure improved employee confidence and increased organizational success, including improved sales.
“When we punish failure, we dis-incentivize exploring new ideas, which can stymie creativity and limit success,” said one of the study’s authors.
The study found that, on average, organizations which help workers shift their beliefs about failure experience employees who are 30 percent more confident, which improves performance and productivity.
In addition to allowing people to make mistakes, employers must listen to employee comments about getting work done. When they routinely complain of not enough time in the day to get their work done, it’s a sign that unproductive practices may have become the norm.
Organizations should put in extra effort to limit practices such as micromanagement, endless meetings, and ineffective email communications. Individually these distractors may seem insignificant, but combined they represent hundreds or even thousands of hours in lost productivity.
Invest in Well-being During Work Hours
Unhealthy, exhausted employees are in no position to be productive. While you can’t force healthy habits on anyone, you can do your part to make investments that help employees. If you’re not already offering well-being programs, or if you’re looking for something new, consider these options:
- Access to an onsite gym, or local fitness facility
- Lactation rooms for new mothers
- Vending machines with healthy snack and beverage choices
- Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness workshop offerings
- Private wellness rooms where employees can recharge by taking a nap or just take a break
- Flexible work arrangements such as flex days or telecommuting
If you’re in search of data as to why things like naps might be important at work, it’s worth noting that the Center for Disease estimates that the US loses “an equivalent of about 1.23 million working days due to insufficient sleep.”
Make sure supervisors and managers also establish reasonable standards for their teams when it comes to well-being. These leaders not only set the expectations for productivity, they also serve as role models for what’s required to get work done. Make sure employees are allowed sufficient time to disconnect from work. On a regular basis, review time off records to ensure employees are using their paid time off to take a break. When people take time away they return to the job ready to contribute and produce what’s needed.
Productivity means an increase in output. If employees’ well-being is suffering, it’s next to impossible for them to produce more for your organization. Help them prioritize their well-being and you’ll boost productivity, too.
As you focus on how to increase workplace productivity, also be aware of motivation killers. A lack of organizational vision and focus, poor communication, rigid hierarchies, and a lack of appreciation for one’s work all serve to decrease motivation. Furthermore, if employees face toxic people, managers, or customers when they arrive at work, their productivity will also suffer.
Organizations that are successfully tackling workplace productivity challenges have realized that the employee communication strategies and workplace practices of the past don’t work today. If workplace productivity is your goal, you must inform and educate employees with engaging, interactive, and consistent content from day one.
For employees to be productive, employers must enable workers with the resources and tools they require. Similarly, they must create an environment that motivates people to work hard because it supports their physical needs and emotional well-being.