In this article, I’ll show you productivity improvement techniques for individual workers and groups of employees. The 4 key areas apply to any industry and incorporate into the innovation strategy behind your procedures and employee development.
Gaining productivity improvements in the workplace requires analyzing:
- Gaps in employee know-how and knowledge
- Maximizing how employees are being used (i.e. operations)
- Ensuring their environment is conducive to better work
- Using the correct rewards to motivate staff
And please don’t go thinking that there is a silver bullet to this. Strategy, improvement & productivity can only improve when done in a concerted manner, involving analysis of several areas and the application of multiple techniques.
It is fair to say that the more effective training an employee has received the better and more productively they can work. Even if an employee has worked in the same industry previously to joining your company there may still be gaps in their knowledge of the products and equipment being used at your firm.
The key is to provide training or mentoring processes to help accelerate their knowledge right from the start. As profitable business ideas go, investing in staff knowhow is something that can really pay off.
Productivity improvement ideas:
- Establish a new joiner program which trains employees with regard to the processes being used in-house as well as specific products, tools, well-defined product roadmaps and services.
- Provide a mentor program so that workers should buddy up with a colleague in order to provide feedback, a point of contact for many of their questions and instill effective communication in the workplace.
- If your company innovation strategy requires regularly incorporating new technologies then all employees should be given adequate targeted training to get up the speed with these new areas rapidly.
Operational processes and machinery
Workers generally do not work in isolation. Teamwork is a key part in any business. All workers have dependencies on the outputs of other employees in order to get their own work done and it is only by establishing day-to-day operational processes and programs can you help them work together efficiently.
The problems arise within business improvement techniques when programs, processes and machinery do not always be aid the productivity improvements. They could actually be hindering effective work practices of your staff. My post on business process improvement tools goes into further depth and detail about techniques and charts that can be used to resolve process issues.
Productivity improvement techniques:
- Establish communication channels (i.e. a good chain of command) whereby employees can report back flaws they perceive in internal processes/machinery which they feel are having a detrimental effect on their work. Evaluate changes and new programs. Quarterly and annual performance appraisal methodologies constitute formal interactions of these types of communications.
- Collaborate with workers with regard to planning and decision-making procedures. New employees may often bring new concepts which can help improve team performance.
- Investigate what productivity improvement tools could be used for better time management of individual employees. This may relate to specific software tools or procedures (e.g. the Getting Things Done GTD methodology, or website design systems & packages for creating intranet/internet content).
The actual workspace or office environment you work in can play a big part on how you feel about your daily tasks. Working in a dark, cold & unsafe place will actually make workers less effective. The key is to provide a friendly, safe and encouraging environment to gain the very best from your staff.
- Ensure you have a ‘no bullying’ policies in place to ensure friendly stress-free environments.
- Establish health and safety regulations.
- Instigate policies relating to tidy work environments.
- Ensure adequate lighting in all areas (preferably using natural daylight instead of fluorescent cathode lighting).
If you’re working from home and communicating with other team members then you need to establish expectations for team members working from home. This should establish expected work hours, communication expectations & channels (IM, email, phone), task tracking, project management, etc.
Employee happiness and motivation
Finally, a well motivated employee will feel more dedication, loyalty and desire to work. The basic rewards that provide the sort of motivation involve wages and bonuses. However, these benefits can be fleeting with regard to motivation so you also need to consider other financial and non-financial benefits that can be provided to your teams.
Productivity improvement ideas:
- Provide sporadic benefits/rewards to teams for good performance. Try not to single out individual employees as you want to ensure the entire team is being motivated.
- Add a variety of financial benefits including funding for night courses, profit sharing, personal expense accounts, discounts, scholarships, child care and company cars.
- Keep it consistent performance reviews/appraisals on a 6 to 12 month basis. Use performance review phrases that encourage positive attributes and focus on effort versus favoritism.
- Include work-life balance incentives such as flexible work hours and rewarding performance with extra vacation time.
- Make employees feel like they have a greater involvement/responsibility in their work. Allow involvement in planning and decision-making as well as providing two-way communication channels up the chain of command. Also provide a way for employees to broaden their skill set so that they cannot be pigeon-holed in one specific skill.
- Keep job performance standards and bonus reviews as objective and transparent as possible. Make sure reviews are fairly administered (no favoritism).
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