This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Company Culture, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
Companies want machine-like levels of productivity, because they know that the science of productivity -- the ability to output -- can make a significant difference to the bottom line of any company.
However, there is also an art to productivity -- that is, the ability to figure out how to not only do more but to make “more” better at the same time. It’s also important to remember that even machines break down as parts wear out over time without regular maintenance.
The same goes with the talent you have in your workplace. Your employees can be efficient machines when given the right maintenance, the occasional tune-up and some tactics designed to keep fueling their desire to deliver maximum quality output. Since having employees, I’ve learned a lot about ways to continue increasing their productivity at work – even achieving greater output of up to 20 percent.
Here are eight tips you can put to work in your business that are proven ways to drive greater productivity in the workplace.
1. Encourage with words.
When you tell someone what a great job they are doing and recognize that they are already working hard, you will get even more out of them. That’s because you make them feel good when you acknowledge their efforts and that, in turn, makes them want to do more so there is an opportunity for future compliments.
I have found that verbal encouragement goes farther than even money in terms of motivation for employees. I try to always have an actual incident or example where this employee has shown. Even when I have talented people who outside of the office on a remote basis, I regularly thank them for their great work and continually cheer them on. They feel good, and so do I, because it’s positively invigorating for all involved.
2. Reward through healthy competition.
Being highly competitive, I’ve found that the normal rewards and incentives were not enough. Instead, I found value in creating healthy competitions among the staff or teams. For certain projects or targets, I have created competitions to see which team or individual can meet the objectives first or achieve the greatest number of criteria. The person or team that does then receives some type of reward, which has been anything from a paid day off to gift cards to lunch out with me.
3. Drive accountability and sense of ownership.
When my staff knows that “it’s on them,” and they know there are consequences if they don’t get a project done, I find that they pick up the pace more so than if I hadn’t driven the accountability point home. The idea here is not to scare them into thinking they will lose their jobs. When delegating, I don’t lead by fear. Instead, I use these opportunities as a place to illustrate their ownership in the company and that, if they do well and take responsibility for our results, then there will be rewards for them and for everyone.
This doesn't always mean expecting accountability -- it often means allowing accountability. The drivers want the responsibility and accountability. In doing so, I see much more meticulous attention to even the smallest details related to a project, resulting in fewer mistakes -- and more efficient work.
4. Make it fun.
While I do like to work hard, I also like to play hard, so I understand that the rest of the team probably feels similarly. That’s why we have been known to take a break to get out of the office and do a walk or go somewhere to unwind for a bit.
For all of us, this has helped to clear the mind and refocus. The result has been more work completed at a faster, higher quality rate. This also bonds those in the office, and they look out for each other and lift the value of all employees work.
5. Set social media and phone policy.
I’ve had to set some guidelines through a formal social media and phone policy to ensure we (including myself!) are not distracted by electronic devices or social channels. Instead, I have designated certain times of the day for these diversions, because I understand that everyone likes to stay in touch with their friends and family as well as maybe even stay up to date on the latest funny pet videos or their Words with Friends games. However, by setting some boundaries on use, I’ve regained the staff’s attention and channeled that into greater productivity.
There’s nothing like giving workers something new to do outside of their comfort zone. It certainly wakes them up as their existing knowledge and skills go to work to figure out how to tackle a new project -- and do it well. Rather than shutting down out of fear, I have found greater enthusiasm from my staff when I throw them a curve ball like learning new software or tool or maybe even handing them a task well outside anything they have ever done for me before. They are nervous but excited, and that translates into greater productivity, especially as their learning curve catches up.
7. Minimize meetings.
I have found myself rolling my eyes at the thought of another meeting. Let’s face it, no one really likes them, and most people’s minds are somewhere else in the midst of the meeting. That’s why I keep office meetings and conference calls to a bare minimum. Whether it’s setting a timer and encouraging staff to keep it as brief as possible or taking the meeting outdoors and on the urban hiking trail near our office or just simply taking care of many meeting-related tasks through online collaboration tools, I have discovered that the time not in a meeting is being spent on many more productive activities.
8. Go for comfort.
Too hot or too cold or too stuffy or drafty, and a person will find themselves easily distracted. Finding that optimum temperature and airflow for the office may sound trivial, but something this simply and easy to fix can make an extraordinary difference.
When my staff is working in a cool (but not too cold!) office, they are more alert and focused on their projects. However, if the temperature gets too hot and there is no airflow, I immediately see the difference in their demeanor, like they all could use a nap -- although the idea of sleep pods for power naps is still on my list of potential productivity strategies.
I have also see an increase in personal power as I have allowed others to be in charge of their own level of comfort. A small space heater here or there or a fan lets the employees know that I understand there are difference in personal comfort -- and I respect that.
Besides these strategies, research has uncovered additional ways to boost productivity by up to 15 percent while also reducing operating costs, including avoiding the open floor plan concept and removing layers of processes and bureaucracy from the daily work day. The available research has also found that killing the nine-to-five concept and letting people work flexible hours as well as offering more remote work time over the stale work day stuck in a cubicle resulted in happier, motivated employees who churned out higher productivity.
These tactics and tips primarily require making only a few changes to the structure, organization and culture of your company versus a large investment of time and money, making them even easier to implement and realize an immediate return.