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7 Insights From Psychology Known to Boost Workplace Productivity The more you can see the job from the employee's perspective, the better you'll understand how to get more done.

By Adam Toren

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It's no longer practical for any organization to measure productivity simply with numbers or to hold everyone on the team to the same standard. Behavioral economics and psychology tell us that people react differently to situations and have different approaches to getting things done.

Thus, it is important to understand individuals' needs to promote productivity. If you're using a one-size-fits all approach, you're making a mistake. Tailoring your approach, on the other hand, makes it easier to keep everyone happy as they reach for and attain their goals.

Businesses have mostly been hung up on key performance indicators (KPIs) when measuring output and efficiency. Thus, focusing on psychology can be a tough adjustment, leaving too much to chance. If you're worried about being too qualitative with your productivity tweaks, these tips can help you keep your eye on the ball, while keeping your employees happy.

1. Mind your demographic.

Learn the differences across the various age groups and other groups within your organization. The reality is that what works for one group of employees probably isn't going to work for another. Considering millennials now represent the largest portion of the workplace, outpacing Generation X and Baby Boomers, it's important to establish the workplace setting accordingly.

For example, Millennials are considered to be digital natives, and they are more attuned to using technology-based tools and platforms for getting things done. This should mean a reduced reliance on office desks and even emails, in favor of remote or co-working setups and instant messaging.

Related: When Marketing to Men, Keep These 10 Stats in Mind (Infographic)

2. Focus on accomplishments instead of tasks.

Accomplishments matter more to your employees rather than simply finishing daily tasks and assignments. These should matter to you, too. A 2013 survey showed 83 percent of respondents thought recognition for their contributions to the company was a more fulfilling reward than any other kind of gift. Think you pay your employees with a bonus and that's enough? While it certainly helps, 70 percent of respondents said the most meaningful recognition has no monetary value.

Gallup revealed that employees who received praise and recognition regularly boosted individual productivity and engagement among their fellow coworkers. Plus, they were less likely to leave their job, had fewer accidents while on the clock and had higher customer satisfaction scores.

Task completion is easy enough to measure, especially if the outputs are concrete and quantifiable. Accomplishments require an altogether different means of measurement, however, especially when we consider the objective vis-à-vis the subjective sense of performance and accomplishment. Perhaps the best way to measure accomplishment is by gaging how employees are progressing in terms of meeting an organization's bigger-picture goals.

3. Provide real-time feedback.

In relation to accomplishments, a gamified environment, such performance measurement and management becomes transparent and objective, especially when such evaluations happen in real time. GamEffective, an enterprise gamification platform, promotes performance gains through an environment with a rich narrative structure and active feedback mechanism, all aligned with the goals and objectives of both the organization and individual.

The essence of gamification is not "play" per se, but rather to incorporate gameplay mechanics into the workplace in order to drive behavior and encourage engagement. The idea here is that providing a mechanism to objectively measure (and share) accomplishments can empower employees through intrinsic motivation, instead of just focusing on finishing mundane tasks.

Related: 5 Ways HR Technology Can Improve Performance Reviews

4. Make work meaningful.

Monetary compensation is no longer the primary motivation among workers today. The human need for survival and for material possessions has been overtaken by the desire to make a difference in the world. Even workplace perks are no longer as important as the sense of achievement. This means you will have to foster a sense of mission, in order to motivate your team and keep them engaged.

Deloitte University Press' Global Human Capital Trends 2016 has determined that meaningful work is a big driver of engagement and productivity, especially considering diversity in the work environment. "Today's workers place a higher premium on flexibility, creativity, and purpose at work," it says. "[R]researched clearly shows that when employees feel empowered and have a sense of ownership for their jobs, their engagement is significantly higher."

According to the Deloitte study, workplace benefits like free food and ping-pong tables are fun perks, but businesses should go beyond just the perks. "[C]companied that succeed in having highly engaged employees focus intently on driving meaning, purpose, and passion among workers."

5. Foster the right kind of engagement.

Employee engagement is critical to productivity. Dale Carnegie research shows engagement matters – particularly the "emotional and functional commitment an employee has to his or her organization." Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent. Sounds great, right? Well, considering 71 percent of employees are not fully engaged, and $11 billion a year is lost because of employee turnover, businesses that aren't focusing on engagement are doing themselves a great disservice.

For any organization, the best kind of engagement involves encouraging a culture of open communication, which promotes the idea that employees can make a significant influence on the company's vision and direction with their input. Needless to say, you will need to make sure you have a clear vision for your business, and that all employees are aligned with this vision, so that they can positively contribute.

6. Be flexible.

Telecommuting, remote working arrangements and even co-working are emerging as effective means of improving productivity while at the same time reducing the cost of running an office infrastructure.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, studies show employees who work from home are in fact more productive than their office counterparts. How much more? Thirteen percent more productive. That may not sound like much, but it equates to an additional work day of productivity per week.

With the prevalence of cloud-based services, employees can access the information and tools they need from anywhere with a solid Internet connection – even on mobile devices. This means you can expand your workforce beyond the boundaries of physical location.

Related: Why You Should Encourage Your Team to Take Even Decaf Coffee Breaks

7. Encourage breaks.

The brain can only do so much before continuing efforts becomes futile. Like working from home, taking breaks can sound counterintuitive, but it's really the key to better productivity. Studies show the "perfect" formula is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17. You don't have to set timers and become a stickler about the schedule – just get up and move, or move on to another task for a few minutes to "reset" the brain and come back to the original task refreshed.

When employees feel included and valued, they're more inclined to putting more effort into their work. When everyone is more productive and more invested in the company, they will look beyond the paycheck. Better productivity translates to more than just increased profits, but also enhanced brand equity, improved goodwill and an overall positive work environment.

Adam Toren

Serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of

Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Phoenix, Ariz.

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