Productivity

4 Methods to Increase Employee Productivity

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Employees are at their desks for an average of about five hours every day, and companies are paying for that time. But often the results of an employee’s work vs. time spent don’t exactly match up. A model employee that seems perfectly productive can turn out to be one of the worst offenders.

I recently came across a survey conducted by Deloitte, which indicates that companies are beginning to realize this and are starting to allocate resources for performance management, which focuses on the performance of employees and ensuring their output aligns with the company's goals. Within the report, analysts explain that last year, only 8 percent of their survey respondents believed their performance management process drove business value. “This year, the importance of performance management rose significantly, with 75 percent of respondents rating it an 'important' or 'very important' issue, up from 68 percent last year.”

Related: 8 Business Practices That Increase Productivity

Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list of steps to help improve efficiency, engagement and productivity in the workplace. Some of them may seem to defy logic but entrepreneurs will find that following them can lead to a happier workplace and an increased ROI.

1.  Relax on Internet restrictions.

Too often, employers overly restrict the use of the Internet. This may be out of fear that company-owned computers might be misused. However, with the amount of resources available online, the truth is that most tasks can be completed more efficiently if employees are allowed to roam freely online in ways not anticipated by the employer.

A perfect example is the growing use of social media, which often times has a legitimate business purpose. Marketing on social media is becoming increasingly important to help businesses and employees grow, and social media can be useful in keeping up to date with competitors’ latest moves.

Yet, there are many employers today who simply do not allow employees to use social platforms at work. It's not always about Facebook; people can have zero productivity without even opening it. On the other hand, some employees can be super-productive social networking gurus.

2. Consistently measure overall employee activity and productivity.

In a way, measuring productivity to increase ROI is similar to sales and marketing data. In order to increase number of leads, you have to start counting those leads. If you want to increase sales, understanding the source of current sales is imperative. Breaking an entire process of working with customers in to steps, measuring every step and experimenting with improvements can lead to an increase in ROI.

Related: 6 Apps to Help You Be a Better Leader

The same can be said about employee-performance management. To improve the structure in general, you have to see the entire picture -- it’s even better if you can have a recorded history to compare. That way, managers can ask, “how are we doing in this April in comparison to April 2014 when we worked from different office?” Or “How many productive hours per day does the financial team have now, compared to last month when we had less on the payroll?”

In other words, in order to improve productivity stats, the reporting numbers must come first to get a clear idea what needs to be improved.

Recording usage of websites and applications can help companies keep track of productivity levels, as long as it’s handled the right way. I’ve typically found that when employers are open about monitoring desktops, it creates a transparent, accountable environment. Managers shouldn’t go into it with a “Gotcha!” attitude but rather with the mindset to identify overall trends and find ways to improve productivity.

3. Set goals and use results to help employees grow.

When establishing a measurement system, managers should understand what their company's current state is and then set up rules and expectations. For example, if someone is spending seven hours on email and office applications, and one hour on personal sites per day, he or she could be considered acceptably productive. Or not. It really depends on the management, which is why these guidelines need to be set within each department or the company as a whole.

Managers should have regular check-ins about goals and progress, just like any other critical KPI. For example, goals could include a 10 percent increase in sales, a 10 percent satisfaction in support and 5 percent less time spent on entertainment websites. There should also be a plan in place for counseling employees who may be falling behind due to unproductivity. An employee’s unproductive hours may result from spending too much time on non-work related sites or too many distractions in the workplace, whether in a traditional or home office. By identifying the areas where an employee is struggling, employers can work to help the individual reach their full potential and grow as a professional rather than letting them go (and paying the cost of turnover).

Furthermore, with certain services, employees are able to keep track of their own individual performance and hold themselves accountable for fixing any problems. When they are able to visualize where wasted time comes from, it becomes much easier to focus on eliminating those distractions. It can also create a gamification effect of sorts – "how productive was I today, and did I beat yesterday’s measurement?"

4. Account for brain breaks.

Although understanding and monitoring employee productivity is critical to the overall health of a company, it is important for managers to acknowledge that everyone is human, and we all need a break from time to time. Short breaks (and vacations) have been proven to help the brain function better. As such, it is perfectly reasonable to allow employees some latitude in conducting personal business while on a work computer.

Related: 21 Apps to Boost Productivity, Accountability and Success