15 ways to improve employee productivity – Part 2

Poorly trained employees lack the power to out-do competitors even in the face of economic uncertainties.

Developing employee capacity must involve a combination of various activities and practices, including: regular team or in-house training and reviews; external training interventions (local and international); sponsoring employees to attend seminars, conferences, workshops, and networking events; secondments to other companies; granting study or sabbatical leaves; encouraging professional certifications; and volunteering employees for training and education activities; among a host others.

When you fail to develop your employees, you have no moral obligation to demand the best from them.

5. Deploy Appropriately: There is nothing as unproductive as deploying employees to roles or functions where their major strengths cannot be utilized. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and most people perform better in roles where their strengths are most easily deployed to get things done.

For proper deployment of employees, business leaders must ensure adequate interactions with prospective and existing employees in order to better understand their core talents and  competencies as well as their key development areas.

6. Reward Innovatively: In order to drive employee engagement through adequate motivation, organizations must be innovative with their reward systems. While paying competitive salaries and allowances remain a very critical aspect of good employee motivation, smart companies must adopt other uncommon but effective reward systems depending on the culture, personality types and the prevailing needs of their people.

Performance-driven bonuses; surprise bonuses; allowing days off work; sponsoring family trips and holidays; having lunch or dinner with the CEO; appreciation letters; awards and recognitions; as well as sponsorship to foreign seminars, workshops and trainings are all smart new ways to reward today’s employees and enhance productivity.

7.         Create A Friendly Work Environment: People generally spend most of their active days and hours at the workplace. So, fostering a work environment where people feel happy, accepted, safe, inspired and positively challenged helps energize the mind and the heart of employees, and hence, enhance productivity. Teamwork and team spirit are important elements of a friendly work environment. Team leaders must ensure everyone does real work and are held mutually accountable for the collective work product. They must also ensure fair and reasonable distribution of resources in the team.

Team building activities must include ways to make employees bond effectively as well as some family events that enable employees’ families get together in a fun environment. This promotes friendliness amongst team members, reduce conflicts, minimize feelings of vulnerability, and empower employees to be the best they can be at work.

8.         Empower Them: Giving employees the authority or some level of freedom to take certain decisions or actions without management intervention could make all the difference in promoting operational leadership and service excellence – especially in service organizations like hotels, hospitals, financial institutions, restaurants, telecom companies, etc. This does not only reduce unnecessary bureaucracies, redundancies, and delays but also improves the ability to recover bad service situations – allowing responsive approach in dealing with customer issues.

Empowering employees is, however, not a decision that must be taken carelessly. It requires trust, confidence and belief. It must follow a proper selection, orientation, training/coaching, and motivation of employees. An engaged employee who is empowered is a driving force for progress and prosperity of any organization.

9.         Encourage Annual Leaves: Many companies make it difficult for employees to go on their annual leaves, and, in fact, sometimes pay them allowances in lieu of their annual leave days. This is not only a killer of productivity but also a poor risk management practice in organizations.

Human beings are not machines; even machines take time off for maintenance! Working for a long period without leave days or rest is really a sure way to encourage mediocrity and ineffectiveness – stifling innovation and creativity. The human brain needs some recreation and relaxing in order to produce great ideas and solutions.

Smart companies ensure every employee takes his or her annual leave. No carry-overs – except in rare or peculiar circumstances which must really be an exception. Other kinds of leave days (exam leave, sick leave, maternity leave, casual leave, etc), when appropriately used would also enable employees be their best whenever available at work.

10.       Improve Work Style: In pursuit of excellence and market leadership, employees are expected to work hard, no doubts. But working long hours and weekends must not be a regular stuff. Many organizations drive their employees crazy (like slave-drivers) by making them work long hours every day, and even during weekends. This is a recipe for ineffectiveness.

Ironically, various studies and reports have proven that the world’s most productive economies (like Germany) actually work less hours per day than most other economies. The key issue is: how much work is really involved in the working hours? When an employee is at work, they should be doing nothing else apart from their work. And the work being done must be meaningful – connected to the overall business objectives of the firm.

Many organizations where workers “sleep” in the office may be shocked to find out that the work hours are actually seriously interrupted by frivolous activities like facebook and other social media activities, office gossip with co-workers, private stuff, faking work, phone calls, playing of computer or card games, among others. And the work systems are powered at high energy costs while these unproductive activities fester.

Smart organizations and their leaders must encourage employees to have some life outside of their work. Work hours must be work hours, and off hours must be off hours. Adopting flexible work hours is also becoming common as a means of encouraging employee engagement and improving overall productivity.

Orji Udemezue

Orji Udemezue is the CEO of Flame Academy & Consulting Limited.

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