The Complete Guide To Improving Employee Productivity

Productivity is a key metric in any business situation.  When you and your employees are productive you reap these benefits:

  • Cut payroll costs by getting more done in less time
  • Make more money by increasing profit margins
  • Enthuse customers by staying on track, on time, and on budget
  • Have more time for expansion, growth, and internal revisions

… And much more!

But improving productivity can be a hard thing to do (especially if you’re coming into an already existing work dynamic).  Employees—people in general—are resistant to change and you’ll be slapped with the old “if it ain’t broke” adage more times than you’d like.

Managers need to embrace change if it means increasing productivity. However, there are a few common management practices that get in the way of this.

Rethink Your Management Practices

Employee productivity crashes when management works against them. Such a simple thing–good management–goes a long way to increase employee productivity. How you manage people is so crucial to your business that we created a handbook about the topic. When it comes to employee productivity, management is tied right into it.

What kind of management kills employee productivity?

  • Indecisive leadership. Management must be willing to listen to employees, but at some point they must make a decision and stick to it. Employees who never know which way the wind blows, or whether yesterday’s management decision will still be in force today, are employees who aren’t productive. They are, instead, uneasy and unsure, and they don’t trust their leadership. Gather input, make a decision, communicate the what and why of the decision, and stick with it.
  • Disrespectful leadership. Most managers don’t think they’re disrespectful, but disrespect takes many forms. You can disrespect your employee’s time, wasting it with pointless meetings, unnecessary paperwork, or giving them more work than they can handle. You can disrespect the work they do by not acknowledging its importance and value periodically and sincerely. You can disrespect your employees ideas by not giving them a chance to share and having no track record of ever attempting to try an employee idea.
  • Untrustworthy leadership. Employees follow as they are led, and if management isn’t trustworthy or ethical, employees will follow suit. If management says things they don’t believe, employees can see through it. If management doesn’t take responsibility for their mistakes, employees won’t either.
  • Lazy leadership. Managers that aren’t productive and aren’t willing to work hard have employees that do the same. There are few worse things than a manager who feels her job is merely to delegate work to others and sit in the office and do very little.
  • Confused leadership. Employees with multiple bosses or levels of management above them cannot be productive if each boss is communicating a different message.

If this management style describes you or other company leadership, don’t worry. All of these ineffective management practices are reversible and can be replaced by better habits that will increase efficiency. Try these helpful tips to improve employee productivity:

Keep Employees Focused

Focus is a key component of productivity.  If your employees are constantly distracted by intra-office politics, their personal lives, or even clingy and annoying customers, it’s hard for them to stay on task and get their job done.  Therefore, it’s essential that you do what you can to eliminate any unnecessary distractions without becoming a draconian manager that nobody likes.

Start small by eliminating or better managing personal phone calls.  Build up with intra-office policies about gossip and “smack talk.”  Analyze the time spent on project and (especially) the time spent on non-productive behaviors in order to weed the latter out.  You may even want to cut ties with customers and clients (even long-time ones) when their value is overshadowed by the burden they place on your employees.

Additionally, you should constantly be on the lookout for solutions (such as upgraded software) that will allow your employees to get more done in the same amount of time.  By giving your workers the tools they need to get the job done, you’re not only improving effectiveness, you’re building their own sense of self-esteem and job satisfaction.

Keep Employees Loyal

Employees are people. Their personal lives probably carry more weight than their dedication to work. However, you should expect a certain level of loyalty from every employee.  While they’re on the clock, they should be working for you—not simply sucking up the hours to earn a paycheck.

Employee loyalty isn’t something you can mandate in a memo or write into the company’s employee handbook.  You have to earn that loyalty.  How do you do that?

You can increase employee loyalty in a number of ways:

1)    Become a Better Manager—by increasing the confidence your employees have in your ability to lead, you’ll not only become a solid role model but will create a sense that you’re working for them.  Encourage feedback (and act upon it), take advantage of ongoing education, analyze the effect of every action, and use this input to make yourself better at what you do.

2)    Improve Company Culture—your employees won’t give their all if they feel like their job is simply a job.  Worse yet, they won’t even bother engaging fully if they feel that their workplace is hostile or the least bit offensive.  That’s why it’s important that you use your influence to create the best environment possible.  Minimize the nay-sayers, give employees the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, nip problems in the bud before they can fester.

3)    Maintain Neutrality—your employees shouldn’t see you as an equal—no matter how much you want to be their friend.  You should always be in charge but that doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant.  By giving everyone the same respect and attention you can maintain neutrality and avoid creating a situation where employees feel like they’re outsiders.

And if necessary, cull the herd to get rid of the bad employees.

Keep Employees Happy

A happy employee is a productive employee.  It’s simple as that. Here are some ways to keep your best employees happy at work and beyond:

  • Promote a solid work/life balance and streamlining their work experience
  • Listen and respond to feedback about the company, their day-to-day tasks, and any interpersonal conflicts
  • Create a company culture through the use of team building, tradition, and mutual respect
  • Reward outstanding behavior and remember special occasions
  • Give them an outlet to vent their frustrations (anonymously if necessary)
  • Give them the responsibility they crave and the guidance they need
  • Showcase and celebrate personal success—it goes so far beyond employee of the month.
  • Schedule them according to their needs without sacrificing yours

Your employee’s happiness really does rest in your hands.  While there are some individuals out there who aren’t a good fit for your business, most of the people on your payroll actually want to be there—take advantage of that.

Be The Boss People Want to Work For

The number one way you can increase employee productivity is to increase your own.  By modeling excellent behavior, managing your expectations, and leveraging the emotional intelligence you either inherently possess or work hard to cultivate you can be the manager your employees want to work for rather than just their boss.

If you can achieve that, the hard work is already done.  The rest is just housekeeping.

Embrace Tools & Tech

Mobile technology solutions like employee scheduling software by When I Work have streamlined the workplace.  If you’re not taking full advantage of this new wave of simplistic technology, you’re wasting valuable time and resources.  By reinvesting in your business’s infrastructure, you’ll reap rewards in no time.  Not to mention your employees will come away with a better impression if your company keeps up with trends instead of stagnating in the past.  

Revisit Internal Operations

It may be your internal operations that are holding you back.  Are you still relying on processes that were devised a decade ago?  Are your employees still inventorying by hand?  Do you still require paper documentation (in triplicate)?  Do you use filing cabinets?  Are most of your sales people cold calling?  Take a real hard look at how your business runs on a daily basis and try to spot the processes that really slow you down.


Don’t be afraid to tweak things.  Even if your new ideas don’t work, trial and error is an excellent way to grow, improve, and be more productive.  You can’t simply expect your employees to work harder.  That only gets you so far (and can lead to hard feelings, burnout, and bad situations).  You have to take an active approach toward improving efficiency and effectiveness if you ever want to really improve your productivity.

Read Between the Lines

One of the most effective skills you can develop as a manager is reading between the lines of the feedback your employees give you.  First, they should feel free to speak candidly with you or through an anonymous medium such as an online forum.  Next, you have to actively listen to that feedback.  Lastly, see if you can spot the underlying problem behind the feedback.  For instance, if an employee is complaining about the new production goals you’ve set forth, the real issue may not be the goals but the manner in which you expect them to be met.

Employee Productivity Starts at the Top

When it comes to increasing employee productivity, get management right before you start working on employees. If it’s wrong at the top, it won’t work down the ladder no matter how hard you try. We hope these productivity tips will help your company’s leadership keep your employees happy, loyal, and efficient.

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