Smarter, not harder: 3 simple ways to boost employee productivity

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You could have the million-dollar idea, the perfect business plan, and a pool of early investors eagerly awaiting to fund your venture — but if your employees aren’t pulling their weight, your empire could still come tumbling down.

In the age of remote working and sky-high rates of employee disengagement, building and sustaining a productive workforce is any employer’s top challenge. Performance managers might recommend that you assess output daily and dangle non-existent promotions in front of your staff — but there are ways to boost employee productivity that won’t cause burnout or earn you a seat at an employment tribunal.

Instead, you can make simple, effective adjustments to work your staff smarter, not harder. Here are our top three recommendations:

1. Streamline your software use

Nowadays, the average business uses as many as 110 different software tools to get the day’s work done — streamlining every business function from sales to HR. And while SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions are deployed to boost productivity, there’s a growing school of thought that too many apps can actually have a negative effect on employee working rates. One report by Personio found that 36% of workers feel that an unmanageably large suite of software tools disrupts their overall workflow.

As a result, cutting back on your SaaS reliance and trimming redundancies may help to restore the benefits that companies enjoy when they first begin their digital transformation. You might find that within your company’s stack, data is sprawled across several different ecosystems and toolsets — and this is hardly conducive to efficient working.

Software management platform Vertice sheds light on the benefits of cutting back, explaining that this “can help to reduce the amount of time and effort employees divert to context switching between apps. Instead, they can focus and learn their way around the best tools for the job, rather than a sprawl of several that might each serve similar purposes”.

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2. Introduce recognition programs

Productivity rates are intrinsically linked to worker morale. If you aren’t investing in your staff’s satisfaction just as much as their tools, then productivity could suffer. We only have to look at the recent occupational trend of ‘quiet quitting’ as a testament to the dangers of dissatisfaction — it’s not enough to provide your staff with a job, you need to make it worth their while.

And while there’s no denying that financial incentives can be encouraging, these will only become possible once you have a fruitful staff working behind the scenes to increase your business’ value. Thankfully, there are simple measures that you can take in the meantime to raise employee morale, even if you can’t yet afford to dole out pay raises hand over fist.

Employee recognition programs to reward everyday successes have proven successful. Managers may publicly express gratitude, provide benefits, and offer opportunities for personal development to high-achieving workers. And these programs produce fast results — according to Officevibe, 78% of employees feel more motivated in their roles when their efforts are recognized.

3. Optimize internal communications

Communication has always been at the heart of a productive work environment, be it a physical workplace or virtual setting. But given the newfound popularity of remote working, management needs to understand when a situation calls for an email, instant message, or meeting — and have optimized systems in place to facilitate each kind of communication.

For example, it pays to know when a meeting is necessary and when, as the saying goes, “this could have been an email”. Meetings, even virtual, are a massive drain on corporate time, resources, and social batteries. You can boost employee productivity just by being careful with everyone’s time. Surveys from career advice firm Zippia estimate that of the 15% of organizations’ time spent in meetings, around 71% are unproductive.

However, emails aren’t a silver bullet. One study by Clockify found that the average employee spends 13 hours per week just on emails — and if you think your staff are coming close to this benchmark, it may be time to streamline your comms. To prevent distraction from deep work, we recommend blocking set times for emails and teaching concise writing skills. There are even handy workshops available to improve abilities, taught by comms specialists like Laurie Brown and Baker Communications.

Ultimately, improving your staff’s productivity doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. When you make small adjustments to improve the use of systems, recognize employee successes and optimize your company comms, you can reap the benefits for productivity. As always, work smarter — never harder.

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Brenda Coles
I'm an elementary school teacher who became a stay-at-home mother when my first child was born. I love to write about lifestyle, education, and news-related topics.