The best business leaders understand that the performance of their teams is largely a reflection of their management skills and not just the responsibility of individual employees. Leaders need to keep morale high, refine processes, and remove the barriers to a great performance (such as confusion of expectations). To achieve the best results, leaders need to pay close attention to the productivity of their employees and intervene when it starts to wane. No single solution exists when it comes to driving productivity, but leaders need to understand the needs and motivations of their employees to figure out how best to respond to a lull and, more importantly, how to inspire them to achieve more.
Some key strategies for driving productivity among employees include the following:
1. Give employees ownership over their tasks.
Employees who feel like they have no real influence will quickly lose motivation to excel. As a leader, you can combat this mindset by giving employees ownership over their tasks, which means letting them think up and test out new ideas. While these ideas will not always pan out, the support that your employees receive in the process will encourage them to try even harder next time.
Granting ownership requires that leaders create and maintain an open environment that encourages people to speak up when they have an idea. First, you should resist the urge to micromanage, as you want to demonstrate your trust to your employee. You can also exhibit the behavior you want to see in your employees—for instance, if you take a calculated risk, your employees will realize that they can and should, too. Furthermore, you can show employees how to learn from failure and move on rather than letting it demotivate them.
2. Offer motivational, constructive feedback.
Leaders have a lot of power when it comes to delivering feedback to their employees. While public praise can be very motivating, offering criticism in public is likely to demotivate employees, or even make them feel attacked. As a leader, it is important that you provide constructive feedback in private. Even then, you should focus on what they do well before offering some guidance on how to improve performance.
In general, feedback should be specific and actionable. Generalized, vague feedback will only leave both parties feeling frustrated afterward. You should also approach feedback through the lens of instruction and education. Employees will welcome the chance to learn how to improve, but a laundry list of complaints will likely prove demoralizing.
3. Provide the team with tools for success.
Technology has come a long way in promoting productivity. While not all of these tools will work for every employee, you should have familiarity with the applications available and help employees leverage them to complete their work as efficiently as possible.
Some examples of this technology include communication apps, time-tracking technologies, and collaboration tools. E-mail can be inefficient, so apps like Slack or Twist can help employees stay organized and on top of the tasks that most need their attention. These apps also help streamline the workflow by facilitating the sharing of files and more. Meanwhile, project management tools like Basecamp and Trello make it easy for employees to collaborate on projects while wasting little time. Time-tracking apps can also help people focus and realize which activities take the most time so that they can be mindful of how they might maximize the overall workflow.
4. Create an environment that facilitates work.
If you notice that your team is underperforming, it’s time to think about the office environment and how conducive it is to getting work done. This concept applies to both the physical environment and the administrative one. Great in-office environments have clear spaces for employees to come together and collaborate when needed but also offer a place for individuals to go when they need to focus.
From an administrative perspective, leaders should concentrate on clearing unnecessary and redundant meetings from the calendar. Administrative tasks and duties can consume an incredible amount of an employee’s time—a McKinsey study found that the average employee spends 60 percent of ther time in the office on administrative tasks and only 40 percent on meaningful tasks.
5. Build in a variety of sources of support.
People function optimally when they feel like they have support around them. Leaders, in particular, play an important role in making sure that employees get the support they need to perform at their peak. Sometimes, this means creating mentor programs that pair employees with individuals more advanced in their careers. Other times, support is an open-door policy, or at least a designated period of time in which employees can ask for advice, express concerns, or just talk through the issues they are having with their various projects.
As mental health has become an increasingly important topic in the workplace, leaders can do a lot to encourage wellness among their employees, such as pushing for a healthy work-life balance, hiring mental health advisers, or instituting in-office wellness programs like meditation or fitness boot camps. Employees require support in different areas of their lives, so it is important that leaders pay attention and respond to these different needs.