In these times of cut backs, layoffs, and downsizing, I get asked quite a bit about employee productivity. My answer is always the same: “It’s not how many people you have - it’s how you manage them that’s important.”
Your first inclination may be to turn up the heat on your employees when things get tight; however, in reality, you should do just the opposite. When your staff feels appreciated, empowered, and supported, they will be motivated to do amazing things.
If you’re in need of doing more with a shrinking staff, don’t put the pressure on them. Instead, just incorporate the following techniques:
1. Manage Effectively
An effective manager will support, guide, and coach. Determine (translation: ask them) what your staff needs to maintain peak performance and provide it.
2. Cross Train
The more versatile each employee is, the more options you have for getting things done. In addition, employees will understand what the next guy down the line has to do and will keep that in mind when they complete their task. This will not only make it easier for the next guy, it will also improve the efficiency of your processes.
3. Improve Communication
Train your team how to communicate more effectively (listen more than you speak, be empathetic, etc). These techniques will shorten the time to communicate, improve comprehension of those involved, and help avoid misunderstandings.
Also, adopt as many communication tools as possible. Instant messaging, texting, online meetings - the number of options is constantly growing. In today’s world your employees shouldn’t have to wait until you get out of your meeting to talk to you.
4. Use Technology
Implement software and hardware that will streamline tasks, reduce costs, or upgrade performance. Too often we tend to stick with what we have for too long. Make a point to stay abreast of developments in any technology that touches your business.
Use third party vendors to offload specific tasks or even complete job descriptions. From a Virtual Assistant to a Virtual Sales Force, outsourcing can expand your capabilities while reducing your costs.
6. Stay Focused
Give the right things the right amount of attention. Train your staff to understand the difference between urgent and important. Finishing the report before the meeting is important. Answering the phone every time it rings is not.
7. Team Effort
When making decisions include your employees’ input whenever possible. At a minimum, they must be included in any decision that will affect their job. This will empower your employees, encourage further input on additional aspects of your business, and establish a stronger bond between them and your company.
8. Establish Goals
Create short term and long term goals for all aspects of your business. Take care to include your staff in the development of these goals to encourage a personal commitment from each employee.
9. Create a Plan of Action
Your team will need a roadmap to implement processes and obtain goals. It will keep everyone on track, clarify duties, and streamline procedures. And as they say, it’s not a plan unless it’s written down. Therefore, ensure every plan of action is documented.
10. Stay Motivated
When times get tight, people get stressed. To keep the environment positive, eliminate unprofessional, disrespectful, and abrasive behavior. Instead, celebrate accomplishments and focus on what’s going right. Above all else, promote an enjoyable atmosphere.
Increasing productivity with a reduced staff may seem like a daunting task. However, by implementing the techniques above, you will not only increase productivity, you will also create a business environment in which any employee would want to work.