Are your employees getting the most from each work day? Are you getting the best from your employees? Productivity expert and executive coach Jason Womack has some ideas about what it takes for small businesses – and the individuals that can make them thrive – to be at their best.
Here are some ways you can increase employee productivity in the workplace:
1. Delegate effectively
When assigning a project, give the employee a clear statement of the project and your expectations ahead of time, advises Womack. If it’s a large project, check in regularly. It doesn’t have to be a formal request for an update. You can keep track with informal chats or phone calls. Womack says that it’s important to determine the types of milestones and check-ins that are going to be in place. “Setting milestones is freeing,” writes Womack. For a long, multi-step process, though, you might want to include weekly or even twice-weekly check-ins.
When the project is concluded successfully, celebrate completion. It’s important to acknowledge when someone does a good job and even to look ahead at other potential projects.
2. Encourage team members to always be ready
Meetings get canceled. Plans have to be rescheduled on a whim, noted Womack in a recent article on productivity for Entrepreneur.com. “When time like this opens up in our schedule, we suddenly have time in our day we didn’t have before,” he wrote. Instead of wasting this time being upset or feeling let down, use this time for good. See it as a gift.
Managers can use the time to increase employee productivity by encouraging staff to catch up on communications, research and even write thank you notes.
3. Use debriefing to process lessons learned
Holding a debriefing session with your team following the completion of a project helps you identify what went right as well as mistakes that were made or resources that were wasted, notes Womack. “By clarifying the lessons learned, you could save time and money the next time you work on a project even remotely like the one you just finished,” he added.
Following completion of the average project, research shows details are forgotten after only four to six days, Womack points out repeatedly in his seminars and lectures. Debriefing helps your team hold onto and document what works for them and learn best practices for future success and productivity.
4. Help your team remove distractions
During a speech to executives, Womack said that reducing multi-tasking and distractions can increase productivity in the workplace. The average person experiences 180 interruptions per day, he noted.
When someone pops by your office and asks, “Do you have a minute?” how often do they actually take “just a minute” of your time? Womack asked. One solution: Schedule your interruptions. Think about how many times last week someone dropped by and asked, “Do you have a minute?” When that happens you have to switch tasks. First, you stop what you’re doing to start thinking about and problem solving what they’ve brought you. Then, you have to restart whatever it was that you were doing before they interrupted you.
Make a pact with a few of your coworkers to interrupt each other on the hour, every other hour. Womack suggested. See what happens when you reduce the number of interruptions from “constantly” to just four or five per day.
It is a theme that he has echoed throughout his writings and executive coaching work. Doing two or three things at once isn’t the answer to getting more done, he said. It just means you’re doing two or three things less effectively. “Have you ever read an email and listened to a voicemail at the same time and had to go back to one or the other?” he asks.
Look for small ways for you and your team to do things more effectively. Get rid of email “ding” alerts. Take all those materials from past conferences – like that canvas bag full of notes and business cards shoved under your desk – and decide what is reference material to keep and what should become action items. Then take action.
5. Focus to finish
One of Womack’s favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin: “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” By persistently and energetically helping your team adopt a goal-oriented mindset,” by delegating effectively, reducing distractions, making the most of found time and debriefing to learn after each finished project, Womack said, you’ll be on your way to having a more productive workplace, happier employees, and a healthier bottom line.
6. Require employees to track their time
Most people under- or overestimate how much time they spend on specific projects. In particular, they underestimate how much time administrative tasks take or how many hours they spend wasting time on social media.To improve this, encourage team members to track their time in 15-minute increments for an entire week. Time tracking shows you what you are doing with all that time and enlightens you on where you can be more efficient and gain time.
7. Encourage team members to maximize peak energy hours
Some people wake up chipper and ready to start the day, while others ease into the day and do their best work after lunch or late at night.
Help your employees find what time of day works best for them to meet with clients, run efficient staff meetings and tackle tough projects that take brain power and creative energy. Save administrative tasks and answering emails for off-peak times.
8. Suggest tackling email more efficiently
Suggest to employees to give themselves at least an hour to do real work each morning before they open email, suggests Lori Paximadis, owner of Pax Studio. Email is a rabbit hole for most people, she says, often leading to hours spent reacting rather than prioritizing your business’s needs.
Some email systems will allow you to flag emails as “VIP” and receive a phone notification so you don’t have to keep checking your inbox. Paximadis also suggests creating email templates so you aren’t typing the same responses over and over. Set up separate email accounts for “commercial email” — all those newsletters, promos and coupons — and personal email so your business account is strictly for business.
9. Analyze your business inefficiencies
Conduct an 80/20 analysis to discover which 20 percent of people or projects are causing you 80 percent of your stress or problems and which 20 percent are creating 80 percent of your happiness and success. Known as the Pareto Principle, this is a common business efficiency tactic. Take an inventory of how time-intensive and stressful your daily tasks are and strategize ways to streamline tasks that are the most problematic. Can you templatize or automate these tasks in some way? Can you communicate with bosses and/or co-workers to redistribute certain tasks or get help with them? Figuring out which problems to alleviate and which issues to focus on will improve your overall efficiency and productivity
Another way to promote employee productivity and happiness is to provide your team with a good benefits plan. It may seem difficult for many small businesses to provide benefits to employees, but with simple and affordable coverage it might be easier than you think. Find out more about small business employee benefits