Productivity is the new currency. For startups and small businesses, especially, resources have to be managed carefully. As such, teams are small and employees are tasked with wearing many different hats.
A high level of employee productivity is perhaps nowhere more needed than in a small business setting where a few key employees are juggling different areas of the business at once.
When it comes to the topic of employee productivity, there is no shortage of information. But not all strategies are created equal. Businesses, regardless of size, need employee productivity strategies that are backed by solid data. Strategies that are supported by science. After all, every smart business owner knows that you never make a decision without the data to back it up.
Here are four data-driven and science-backed ways to increase employee productivity.
1. Bolster employee engagement
Employee engagement and productivity levels are closely linked. An engaged employee is one that is both involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work.
Engaged employees are invested in the future of the company and are willing to put in extra effort beyond what is required.
There is a proven link between employee engagement and not only productivity but also numerous other metrics like profitability, turnover, absenteeism and even safety incidents. When it comes to increasing employee engagement, extensive literature on the topic boils down the holy grails of employee engagement.
Communicate employee value
First, leaders must show that they value their employees. This can be done through a number of different ways, including employee-focused initiatives and programs that promote work-life balance. The important point to note here is that, above all, employee engagement is a reflection of their relationship with their boss.
If that relationship is strained in any way, there is no perk that will motivate employees to become more engaged with the company.
Challenge employees and provide the right tools
Another way to boost employee engagement is to offer challenges for employees and career advancement opportunities. At the same time, leaders must give employees the tools they need in order to meet increased demands.
In short, leaders must clearly outline processes and procedures; expectations must be clear; feedback must also be provided along the way, both positive and constructive. This is what makes employees successful and it is what good leaders do.
Define processes and procedures
Defining processes and procedures can be a challenge for small businesses who may not have the time and employ a small team. It can be a challenge for small businesses who also tend to hire out contractors.
But clear processes ensure employees meet goals. In turn, those employees become more engaged, and more productive, as a result.
Share your vision
Lastly, leaders can also increase employee engagement by explaining their vision for their business in terms of goals, why these goals are important and how they can be achieved.
These things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employee engagement, but they provide a solid foundation for small businesses to work toward.
2. Give your team more autonomy
While leaders must clearly define processes and procedures so employees can meet goals, research has shown there is a positive link between increased autonomy and productivity.
The same study found that not only were employees more productive with increased levels of autonomy, but they were also happier. They were more committed, showed better performance and were less likely to leave their jobs.
The same study found that not only were employees more productive with increased levels of autonomy, but they were also happier.
Autonomy in the workplace means that employees have the ability to make decisions and be accountable for those decisions as well. Autonomy can look different depending on the business. For instance, it may mean employees have the ability to set their own schedules or work from home.
Monitoring employee behavior is, of course, the inverse to autonomy and has the direct opposite effect when it comes to productivity.
3. Nix your employee recognition and award programs
A non-financial employee recognition or award program like “Top Employee of the Month” may seem like a great way to motivate your employees. But the science shows it has the direct opposite effect on productivity – especially for some of your best employees.
There are a surprising number of businesses who use these types of programs in order to motivate employees to improve performance, especially because they are relatively easy to implement and cheap.
But the research speaks for itself.
One study found that after a monthly recognition program to reward employees with perfect attendance (along with the ability to enter a draw for a $75 gift card) was implemented, it actually decreased motivation and productivity for internally motivated employees.
The researchers chopped this up to the fact that employees were unhappy due to issues regarding fairness and equity. As a result, the plant lost 1.4% of daily productivity.
Above all, employees like to work at companies they perceive as fair. Employee recognition programs challenge these perceptions.
4. Adopt green business practices
It has been shown that employees at green companies are 16% more productive than the average employees. 16 percent!
Often, many businesses, especially smaller ones without the resources of bigger companies, tend to view sustainable business practices as an added expense or not necessarily worth their time. The research shows otherwise.
First and foremost, today’s workers tend to have a higher degree of social consciousness than ever before. The reason why green companies have increased productivity levels is that employees appreciate their workplace.
If businesses want to increase employee productivity, implementing green business practices, educating employees on their commitment, and then working together to fulfill those goals can increase workplace appreciation and therefore productivity levels as a result.
Employee productivity isn’t a luxury
Employee productivity should always be something that businesses think about, especially for small businesses who need all of the extra productivity they can get.
The takeaway is that focusing on employee engagement should be the priority; it also happens to be easily within the confines of a small business’s available resources. Increasing employee autonomy is also easily within grasp for a small business.
Lastly, businesses should think twice about any employee recognition program and consider a commitment to eco-friendly business practices instead.
- University of California – Riverside, “Employee recognition programs can reduce firm-level productivity,” Science Daily
- University of California – Los Angeles, “Employees at ‘green’ companies are significantly more productive, study finds,” Science Daily
- Jame K. Harter, PH.D., Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis Report, Gallup
- Gerard H. Seijts and Dan Crim, What engages employees the most or, The Ten C’s of employee engagement, Ivey Business Journal
- Concordia University, “Freedom’s just another word for employee satisfaction,” Science Daily
Arash Asli is at the forefront of business growth helping SMBs grow their businesses, as CEO of Yocale.com, an online scheduling and marketing platform. His thought leadership blog has been featured in major publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Inc. He is honored to have been named the Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 under 40 business executive.