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Employee Productivity:
A Modern Approach

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Learn how to combine employee empowerment, successful processes, and innovative technology to boost employee satisfaction and productivity. 

The past few years have seen some major shifts when it comes to the way employees work. While it may have once seemed outlandish to think that employees could work anywhere other than a corporate workspace, the exponentially growing trendline of remote work proves otherwise. With all the changes to the ways we work, it’s natural to wonder whether employee productivity might be suffering in the face of these new challenges.

Before we can start digging into any of your burning questions about how to increase employee productivity, we have to address one central question first: how do you define employee productivity?

Choose where to start:


What is employee productivity?

Employee productivity is the degree to which outputs are efficiently achieved through maximizing inputs in a given amount of time. Outputs are unique to each enterprise , but they can include any service or product you provide to the market. Inputs or “productivity enablers” tend to be similar across enterprises, encompassing things like teamwork, tools efficiency, workflows and innovation.

In this playbook, we will help you discover a better approach to employee productivity, one that focuses on employee wellbeing, engagement and satisfaction in addition to output. We will also share some of ActivTrak’s proven workforce productivity tips that will bring your employees, workflows, and technologies together to create a better work environment where employee morale and employee productivity go hand-in-hand.

No matter what kind of business you work for, we know these tips can help you succeed!


Why It’s Time to Start Talking About Employee Productivity

Woman researching employee productivity

From telecommuting to hot desks and flex-time, the typical workday looks very different than it did even a few years ago. These changes to the standard working environment come with a lot of benefits, however. From a human resources standpoint, remote work increases the available talent pool to include potential team members from across the globe. Numerous studies have also shown that remote work improves work-life balance for employees.

For instance, a FlexJobs survey found that 86% of remote workers felt that working remotely reduces their stress and that 21% of workers would even give up their vacation time if it meant they could have more flexible remote work options. Remote work also helps enterprises boost employee retention rates and lower operating costs. According to Forbes’ research, 54% of employees say they would leave their current jobs for one that offered remote flexibility, which translates to an average turnover reduction rate of 12%. Also, enterprises can save an average of $11,000 per year per part-time remote worker.

Of course, these shifting approaches to how we work — especially the increased adoption of remote work — come with their own difficulties. For all the conveniences that come with flexible schedules, employees are also forced to navigate a wide variety of new challenges as well.

These include dealing with unconventional work environments, relying more on virtual collaboration, managing increased control over their work hours, and handling unprecedented focus challenges that make sitting at a desk and staying on task more difficult than ever. Plus, while many in-office processes have been adapted to fit remote work setups, some are not as effective as they once were. That adds yet another challenge for employees trying to maintain their team’s productivity while managing these new circumstances.


The Importance of Employee Productivity

Here are a few reasons why organizations both big and small are looking to improve employee productivity:

Improves overall profits

When an employee’s time increases to perform a specific task or provide a service this indicates inefficiency. Addressing the problem quickly and improving employee productivity will then improve profitability. An organization’s staff is an asset and an investment, with the aim of earning a return. If your staff is productive, then in time they should produce a strong return on investment for their time and expenses.

Increases employee motivation

When employees feel productive and have the opportunity to better contribute to an organization they gain a sense of purpose and can feel more motivated. When employees feel like they are making a difference this leads to a happier and more effective workplace overall.

Helps identify the most valuable employees

Productive employees are most likely more engaged. When productivity improves, you can truly see who is committed to achieving the business’ goals and who contributes to the business beyond their mandate. Engagement is often linked to leadership, and the amount of autonomy an individual feels and the degree to which they feel in control of their work and workload.

Improves customer service

When your organization has high levels of productivity it can improve customer service through better employee – customer interactions. When employees are working well, they are undertaking the right activities to provide a better experience for each of their customers. When different teams in the organization are in sync and coordinated, processes run more smoothly and there is less of a chance for customer neglect. This also results in proactive and immediate support for all customers.

Creates healthier work relationships

As mentioned above, when everyone in the organization is being productive and properly coordinated then processes can run much more smoothly. A good work relationship requires trust, respect, self-awareness, inclusion, and open communication. When everyone sees one another being productive this can lead to improved work relationships overall.


The Face of Employee Productivity Is Changing: It’s OK to Ask Questions!

Venn diagram showing that peak employee productivity is is when people are engaged, technology is maximized and processes are optimized.

In light of all the changes that came with the meteoric rise of remote work, it’s natural for managers to wonder how their team’s productivity compares to what it looked like back when everyone was in the office.

  • Are my team members operating more efficiently, less efficiently, or the same?
  • How can I support increasingly flexible remote work environments without compromising productivity levels?
  • Are processes being followed even though I can’t see them?
  • How much of the workday is actually productive time, and how much is responding to Slack message after Slack message?

These are all great questions to ask in the current landscape, and they’re more common than you might think. The only way to answer these questions — and answer them without educated guessing — is to use intelligent workforce productivity technology to uncover what productivity means in your enterprise and measure employee productivity accurately.


What factors affect employee productivity?

It’s understood that employee productivity is an important part of any business. There are several factors that play a significant role in employee productivity and, in turn, business results.

Company culture

According to The Alternative Board (TAB), 86% of respondents believe company culture helps their organization’s productivity. Organizations need to clearly define their goals and direction, as do managers and leaders to ensure each employee understands the organization’s goals and the steps they must take to achieve them. Lack of direction negatively impacts productivity levels and can cost organizations a lot of money in the long run.

Workplace and WFH ergonomics

Individual productivity may also be impacted by the temperature at home or in the workplace, poor lighting, hydration, and pain caused by poor posture. How is your organization supporting employees to improve their environment at home or in the workplace?

Diversity within the workplace

When your team is made up of a group of people of different backgrounds, it allows your organization to benefit from a variety of perspectives and skill sets. Does your workplace foster diversity and inclusion?

Training

A survey found that 74% of employees feel they aren’t reaching full potential due to lack of training and developmental opportunities. Are your employees receiving a good onboarding experience and understand how to perform their job’s requirements? Do they need additional training in order to keep their skills up to date?

Employees health and wellness

According to The Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment survey, 68% of senior HR leaders rated employee well-being and mental health as top priorities. Furthermore,  ActivTrak believes that employee health (along with engagement) is main driver for optimal employee productivity. How is your organization prioritizing your employees’ wellbeing?

Equipment and technology

The proper equipment and technology can empower employees to make the most out of their work day and work more efficiently. Do your employees have access to the right equipment? Have they been trained on how to use the equipment?

 


When is employee productivity at its best?

Workforce productivity is at its best when three things happen:

  • People are empowered at an individual level
  • Processes and workflows are optimized at higher levels
  • Technology is maximized in your working environment

Each of these components is equally important. One of the most common misconceptions about employee productivity — especially in the discourse surrounding remote work — is that your team’s productivity is entirely dependent on the motivation and drive of each individual employee. In reality, employee satisfaction, employee engagement and employee productivity all go hand-in-hand. You also need to ensure that your workflows allow your employees to do their best work and that your technology empowers your teams to work efficiently. This is critical to boosting employee morale and, in turn, boosting productivity (but more on that later).


How to Measure Employee Productivity

Understanding and measuring employee productivity allows businesses to gauge overall efficiency. Companies need to know how productive operations are to make better investment decisions. There are a variety of ways to measure employee productivity. 

One of the most widely-used ways of measuring the success of an organization, a team, or an employee is using the classic employee productivity formula. The idea is to compare the input to the output.

The classic productivity formula is: output unit / input unit = productivity

However, businesses must look deeper into the best method for measuring employee productivity depending on their structure and focus. Here are some traditional methods:

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative methods can be simple and are based on measuring productivity by the number of products an employee makes during a particular period of time. In the quantitative method, businesses need to know their normal operational output, average it and then divide it by the total number of employees in your entire business or in a certain department. Once you have this number, you can use it as a basis for weighing your employees’ productivity level. When a business uses this method they must include uncontrollable factors like training and equipment or material waiting times. Businesses calculate productivity by using productivity software, revealing the number of products an employee makes in a given time period. It measures the output by the volume or the quantity of products, or by the financial value of the products produced in a given period.

 Objectives Method

The ‘objectives’ method evaluates productivity based on how well employees are able to meet set objectives. Being objective means using data to measure performance. Not general impressions, or assumptions, but predefined metrics that are automatically and consistently tracked. For businesses to objectively measure productivity, they need a baseline set for each role in the company. Businesses must set clear and individual goals for their employees, and provide all the resources and tools needed to complete these goals. When a business measures their employees’ work efforts objectively, and communicates this information correctly, they improve the productivity of their employees and profitability of the organization.

Daily Standups

For many companies, daily stand-up meetings have become an essential tool to help teams unite and prioritize work. Different teams throughout the company will have organized stand-ups so that each employee can give an update on the tasks they are currently working on, completed and upcoming. The advantage of the stand-up meeting is that there is transparency of a team’s workload and productivity. Especially if you have a distributed team, it can be a way of keeping everyone accountable and on track to meet goals and deadlines.

Service Productivity

To measure service productivity, businesses need to know how to quantify service output and measure productivity as accurately as possible. One way to do this is to keep a log of how many tasks are done or how many customers are served in a given amount of time. You can also take note of how fast service delivery is or how satisfied your customers are.

Task Tracking

Many organizations believe that rather than counting the hours spent at the office, leaders should calculate employee productivity by measuring the number of tasks they complete. Tracking tasks can sometimes be more difficult than simply tracking hours worked.

Time Tracking

Tracking an employee’s hours is a typical technique of measuring productivity, because hours can be tracked easily by using time tracking. Time tracking software allows employees to record time spent on tasks or projects. Employee hours time tracking can also be undertaken by team leaders so they can figure out where an employee’s individual strengths and weaknesses lie and delegate them tasks accordingly.

There are solutions that make productivity management and measurement much easier and efficient. This kind of software can help businesses spot patterns across employees, processes and technology that fuel businesses success so businesses can optimize teams and boost productivity. These tools help businesses gain visibility into key productivity metrics for continuous improvement. Improving organization-wide productivity starts with collecting the right data and understanding how that data relates to metrics across the business. Tools like ActivTrak’s Productivity Management software provide visibility to analyze and customize productivity objectives to individuals, teams, and departments as needed for each unique business case. So even the most complex businesses with multiple definitions of employee productivity can have measurement and actionable insights.


Strategies to Improve Employee Productivity

Clearly, productivity is a critical goal for today’s corporations. Here are some strategies, processes, and motivational tactics employers can use to boost productivity:

Give people some downtime

The savviest business people know that downtime is a key part of maintaining an achievement-oriented culture. The right amount of downtime can increase productivity rather than reducing it. Some types of downtime that employers can suggest to increase productivity include; encouraging vacations, lunch breaks, and technological downtime. When employees are encouraged to utilize downtime, organizations are able to get the best and the most out of their employees.

Promote self-care and health

Encouraging employees to take care of themselves is vital to workforce productivity. Workplace health programs that improve employee health by reducing, preventing or controlling diseases can positively improve worker productivity. According to the CDC, “Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.” Promoting self-care can go a long way when it comes to improving employee productivity overall.

Create friendly competition

Bringing competition into the office can increase engagement, team member growth and productivity. By developing challenges or tasks that require teamwork, team members are given the opportunity to turn to each other as a resource. Friendly competition can help light a fire under a workforce. Plus, in an effort to be more productive, employees find ways to be more efficient in their work processes.

Incentivize employees

Rewarding employees when they’ve done a good job can oftentimes inspire them to work even harder and to be more productive. Research found that incentive programs can increase interest in work. When programs are first offered for completing a task, a 15 percent increase in performance occurs. Asked to persist toward a goal, people increase their performance by 27 percent when motivated by incentive programs. When incentive programs are used to encourage “thinking smarter,” performance increases by 26 percent.

Improve workplace conditions

Temperature, air quality, lighting and noise conditions in the office affect the work concentration and productivity. When the physical office environment is improved this can have a significant effect on behavior, perceptions and productivity of employees. When employees become more satisfied with their physical environment they are more likely to produce better work outcomes, this also applies to work-from-home setups. Adding plants, natural lights and artwork to a space can help employees feel more comfortable and increase productivity.

Optimize meetings and emails

Employees often spend a significant amount of time answering emails and attending meetings. And, late-night emails can cause extra stress on employees, and even increase anxiety. This inturn can cause a decrease in performance and productivity. When organizations find ways to optimize these daily work tasks, they can improve productivity because their employees are able to focus on the main priorities with little interruption.

Provide better employee training

How companies on-board their new employees sets the tone for their long-term productivity. Properly training new employees gets them off on the right foot by giving them a good sense of the business and job expectations. Ongoing employee training is also important because it helps cultivate talent from within a business. By retraining employees on current skills, you can increase productivity by preventing small, basic mistakes. When employees have a mastery of the knowledge and skills for their job this increases their satisfaction and confidence and, as a result, productivity.

Allow flexible schedules

Different people are more productive at different times of the day. A typical work day may not be what is best for each of your employees. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting enabled them to be more productive.

Opportunities for career development

Effective career development programs and strategies can not only help reduce turnover but they can also increase productivity and profits. Employees who pursue professional development in their careers tend to have higher productivity and job satisfaction. Some ways organizations can support employee career development include; courses, workshops, seminars, individual coaching, shadowing or increasing responsibilities. Offering these opportunities can give employees additional skills that allow them to improve their efficiency and productivity.


Continued Improvements for Employee Productivity

Employee productivity isn’t a one-off project and it’s not something managers should only look into when they suspect their team’s productivity levels have suffered. To truly empower your employees and set them up for success, you have to strive for a continuous productivity improvement culture.

Visual flow defining how to continuous improve employee productivity

We define that as an ethos and environment in which employee productivity naturally flourishes, employees at all levels feel engaged and empowered, and managers proactively seek out opportunities to help their teams thrive. Here’s how to create this culture in your enterprise:

Regularly reinforce your vision

Productivity means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and your employees must be clear on what they’re being asked to work toward. State your department’s employee productivity goals clearly and state them often. When employees understand and believe in your vision, they’re more likely to stay committed.

Talk openly about employee productivity

Some team members might associate efforts to increase employee productivity with time tracking or monitoring. It’s your job to fight back against these notions! Start an honest conversation about what everyone stands to gain from measuring productivity regularly, and encourage your team to voice their concerns freely.

Set employee productivity goals

Without defined goals, your efforts to increase employee productivity could lose valuable momentum. Use a workplace productivity analytics tool to help you establish productivity metrics first, then use those same metrics to inform your goals and think about how you can go about achieving them.

Identify areas where friction exists and take steps to address roadblocks

All it takes is one distraction to undo an hour of hard work! Pinging notifications, email alerts, and excessive multitasking eat away at your team’s productive time. Check in with your employees to talk about any points of friction that prevent them from staying on task and ask them what kind of support they need.

Encourage ownership of individual work and productivity levels

Workforce productivity is about giving employees the tools they need to be successful, not blaming employees for how they spend their work hours. Praise productive employees for their effective time management and tell them to keep up the great work! If there’s room for improvement when it comes to an employee’s productivity, empower and encourage them to view their own productivity levels as a baseline from which to grow.


Employee Engagement and Productivity

It’s important that your focus is not on simply increasing overall productivity, but also improving employee engagement so that your team members are more satisfied at work and, in turn, naturally work more productively. Technology — particularly workforce productivity analytics technology — is one of the best ways to do this, though it is only one component of a larger cultural shift. With technology that focuses on employee productivity, you can get data-driven insights into employee engagement, workloads (including potential burnout risks), and more. You can then leverage that real-time data in numerous ways — from hiring to scheduling meetings to giving recognition to employees who deserve it, but whose efforts may otherwise go unnoticed.


Taking a Modern Approach to Employee Productivity

At ActivTrak we believe the future of work is all about open communication, transparency, and inspiring change from the top down. That is particularly true when it comes to promoting employee productivity and ensuring that your entire team feels supported and empowered to succeed no matter where they are working.

We’ll leave you with a few pro tips for boosting employee productivity:

Top 3 best tips for improving employee productivity

  1. Remember your goal — making sure your employees are happy, fulfilled, and engaged. Taking employee morale seriously is one of the best ways to improve employee satisfaction and employee performance, which in turn boosts productivity.
  2. Cultivate a continuous productivity improvement culture that focuses on transparency, open conversation, and ownership.
  3. Use technology that fosters efficiency and produces actionable insights that you can leverage to boost productivity, reduce burnout, and more.

 

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