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Smarten Your Employees' Work Styles -- 5 Ways to Coax Productivity

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One of the greatest battles waged by managers each day is trying to boost the productivity of their employees. Whether it’s because of a lack of or engagement, procrastination and inefficiency can often get the best of employees.

According to research by Microsoft, people in the United States on average work 45 hours a week on average, yet they deem about 16 of those hours as unproductive. Needless to say, that means more than a third of their time is wasted.

For employers in pursuit of more efficient work habits for their employees, here are five ideas to help their staff work smarter:

Related: Let It Flow: Unleash Hidden Streams of Productivity

1. Create timely objectives. Helping employees stay focused on tasks is essential. A great way to do this is to set SMART goals -- meaning specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound goals -- and break them down into manageable objectives.

For example, a goal to spur staffers to raise the amount of sales might be for each person to procure two new clients a month.

2. Foster weekly goal sharing. Encourage employees to communicate their goals each week via a brief email or by posting them on a social sharing platform.

Some of the platforms available are the following:

SpeakUp is a web-based platform designed to let employees share their best ideas and for their highlighting problems and discover solutions. Managers can solicit feedback from employees and uncover new ideas quickly.

Impraise is a social talent-management app that managers can use to motivate team members. Through this app, individuals can easily ask for feedback and uncover learning opportunities at work.

Namely is a cloud-based people-management platform that provides tools for setting goals, team planning and reporting as well as performance reviews. It grants organizations real-time data on staff performance, letting managers keep track of productivity.

Related: Building a Culture and Teams for the Long Haul

3. Inspire employees. Sometimes managers push their employees to work harder, but this discourages them from producing quality work. Plus, a few forms of workplace employee motivation end up in staffers feeling driven to do things only because they feel they should.

But shifting to an inspiration model will result in staffers' feeling motivated from within. With this approach, employees will truly want to accomplish a goal and will feel fulfilled after completing a task. They will work smarter and accomplish more. To inspire employees, paint a vision for employees and connect it to their work. Or the vision can be tied to the company's overall future or simply the department's outlook.

Managers can also inspire employees by acknowledging their successes and thanking them for their hard work.

Related: How Successful Entrepreneurs Confront Failure

4. Let employees fail. In the workplace, a failure is often deemed unacceptable. Yet it may emerge as part of the process of tackling issues to achieve success.

When employees constantly work in fear of failure, they’ll be afraid to try new ideas or implement fresh strategies. But if managers create room for failure, their employees won’t be intimidated by new approaches and will have more opportunities to learn.

5. Shorten the workweek. 2012 survey by revealed that 34 percent of employees waste time at work because their hours are too long. In fact, when employees work longer days, productivity is inversely affected. 

Although many employers are skeptical about shortening the hours worked in a week, Treehouse, an online education company, has four-day workweeks and provides the same salaries as most tech companies. 37Signals, a software company that produces Basecamp, also creates comfortable 32-hour workweeks for their employees. 

Some employers are providing their staff flexibility to accomplish their work over four days but not necessarily for just 32 hours. A 2012 study by the Families and Work Institute revealed that 36 percent of companies allow their employees to have four-day workweeks -- achieved by lengthening the workdays. The study found that from 2005 to 2012 "flexibility that enhances an employee’s ability to decide when and where they accomplish their work tasks is on the rise" yet "flexibility around reduced time, caregiving leaves and flex careers has declined."

By creating a goal-oriented culture and focusing more on quality work, employers will help their staff save time and money while increasing results.

What are your best tips for improving employee productivity?

Related: 31 Tips for Perfecting Your Productivity

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