The productivity of business operations can make or break your company. High productivity doesn’t happen by itself. However, dramatic improvements are common when you apply correct principles to elevate your people and processes.
Early in my career, and coming as a pleasant surprise, I doubled productivity in a manufacturing environment by applying some of the principles below. At the time, I was amazed by the results. It seemed like a miracle. Now I understand the productivity gains as simple Cause and Effect.
How to Create a Productive Workforce
- Be sure that each employee is a good fit to their work assignment. Keep in mind that people perform at their highest potential only when they are focusing on the most valuable use of their time. Avoid using highly-paid people for lower-value work.
- Invest in the learning and growth of your workforce. Provide clear job descriptions, relevant training (80% hands-on, 20% classroom), and educational activities such as in-house workshops. Tom Peters said, "If your company is doing well, double your training budget; if your company is not doing well, quadruple it!”
- Set performance standards, stretch-goals, and schedules or deadlines that engage workers and give them a target to shoot for. Productivity increases as people get closer to the goal, so make them short-term. Hold workers accountable for their results.
- Develop a business culture where productivity is recognized and rewarded. (This begins by putting people into effective business systems and processes.) Turn work into a game and keep score; people work harder at play than they do at work. Add incentives, fun, team competition, and don’t forget to celebrate victories. “When employees are happy, they are more creative and productive" (Daniel Gilbert, “January-February 2012 Harvard Business Review”).
- Measuring performance drives productivity and improvement. “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (Thomas Monson, business/religious leader). Be sure to identify and carefully monitor your key performance indicators.
- To improve the productivity of any business activity, increase the frequency of performance feedback to those engaged in the activity; the more frequent the feedback, the better the results. It is best when workers know where they stand in relation to goals, without waiting for others to tell them.
- Create small work-group teams that bring added resources, talents, ideas, and energy toward the accomplishment of organizational goals. (The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts!) Teamwork tends to bring the best out in people and is essential in any great human endeavor.
- Focus-Finish-Focus-Finish. Multi-tasking, “wearing multiple hats,” or being “spread too thin” are signs of a start-stop work-flow that destroys continuity, momentum and productivity. When people focus on one task at a time, they are most efficient at getting work done.
- Address negative attitudes or personal issues of employees. For example, take action if they don’t like their job, supervisor, or co-workers, or when they have individual or family problems. Stop excessive chit-chat, personal phone calls, or wasting time on the Internet. These productivity busters will also diminish the effectiveness of co-workers!
- Avoid administrative meetings that kill time for a lot of people. Instead, use email or memos to keep people informed. The meetings that boost productivity include job training and process improvement or business improvement workshops.
Best Productivity Tip of All
Creating a work environment with good business systems and the ten productivity boosters described above will encourage discipline and excellence, and put more money in the pockets of you and your stakeholders—GUARANTEED!
Now, here is a bonus tip: When people enjoy their work and are performing at their best, they will also stay with the company longer. Retention of good people is perhaps the best productivity booster of all.