Between employees and employers, the conversation about productivity is often delicate. If a boss suggests that more output is needed, it may seem like they are accusing workers of slacking off. If an individual seeks to be more efficient, they may be branded as a complainer who thinks that the company doesn’t given them the necessary tools. Nevertheless, productivity is the fundamental purpose of employment. How should we ask our team members to become better at their jobs?
The usual approach to performance improvement is one of the three T’s: training, tools and teambuilding. You can send employees to offsite education sessions with the hope that they will return more knowledgeable and more conscientious. You can upgrade computer systems, install new office equipment, or give people more comfortable chairs. Finally, many businesses feel that their staff benefit most from learning about cooperation. There is a thriving market for retreats, conferences, ropes courses and other group activities. Any of these techniques might result in a bump in productivity, but we’ve all seen significant investments in these sorts of programs that seem to have no effect whatsoever. Is there any way to reliably increase the quantity and quality of employee work?
The answer is easy to state but extremely difficult to put into practice. We know that individuals accomplish more when they are empowered, respected, and supported. In the entire history of the human resources business, that message has been a constant thread that employers and consultants have long struggled to put into practice. Instead of authoritatively sending people to training, we get more results by asking if they’d like to take any training classes and encouraging them to research and select programs on their own. The same logic applies to tools and teambuilding. If we reach out to employees with ideas and seek their feedback, we’re much more likely to foster a true sense of ownership and camaraderie.
Take a well-known, concrete example: installing dual monitors at employee workstations. Multiple studies have shown that adding a second screen can increase performance by nearly 50% and reduce errors by one-third. The cost of the additional display is easily recovered in a few weeks, if not sooner. Yet forcing employees to use this technology is likely to hurt morale.
Instead, try asking your team if anyone is interested in checking out a new concept that promises to improve workflow. Offer them the chance to report on their findings. This process of reaching out sounds simple, but so often we jump right into distributing assignments and giving directions. Most organizations are built on hierarchy, not on true communications. Being genuinely open to feedback is sometimes the most challenging act of all.
Often, the best way to improve productivity is to grant others a little bit of freedom. Empower them to succeed by giving them the opportunity to explore. Seek their counsel on ways to transform their own work and ask for their guidance on how to make your office more efficient. You just might find ideas tucked away and undiscovered. Sometimes the smartest move of all is simply to listen.
Have we met?
Experience authentic networking in Indianapolis!