Three Simple Ways to Improve Productivity

At The Peak Consultancy, one of the challenges we regularly face is helping clients improve productivity. We have seen all manner of attempts to get people to work harder and have identified three factors that absolutely must be right before anything else will work. If any one of these is wrong, any efforts elsewhere will be wasted.

Working Environment

The working environment plays a huge part in how well your people will perform. This covers many areas of work: working conditions, physical environment, the equipment being used, the technology and the corporate professionalism all make a huge difference. Get these wrong and you will see poor motivation, increased absence and generally poor productivity.

As a very simple guide, think about whether or not the workplace is somewhere you do or would enjoy being. If it is not, chances are the people working around you will feel the same so you need to find out why. It could be something simple like a dingy atmosphere that could be addressed with better lighting or a different color of paint. Alternatively, it may be something more complex like onerous policies and unecessary micro-managing which will need a top-down change to fix.

Fixing the working environment gives a great opportunity for your senior management team to be seen listening to your colleagues and addressing the challenges they raise.

Goals

Knowing what needs to be achieved and how this relates the bigger business picture helps teams concentrate on delivering the right thing. Understanding why something matters can help increase "buy-in" considerably and often makes the difference between a teaming pulling out the stops or clock-watching with the work incomplete.

Poorly defined goals were one of the main causes of the challenges discussed in our case study Recovering a portfolio of used-vehicle websites

This works at both organisational and personal level: at a personal level, it affects how well an individual will function doing their "day job"; at a wider organisational level it affects how willing your people will be to get involved in corporate initiatives and how likely they are to support change. Both are obviously vital for the long term success of a business.

Communication

Poor communication can have an immediate and severe impact on a individual or team morale. This could be as simple as failing to give credit to the right person all the way through to behaviour that counts as abuse.

There is no excuse for getting communication in the workplace wrong as all it takes to is a little thought: remember to praise people publicly; if you need to criticise somebody's work, do it in private (absolutely no public dressing down!); remember basic manners and be courteous; don't bring your personal problems to work and absolutely never take out your own bad day on the people working around you. 

"Please" and "Thank you" go a surprisingly long way!

Conversely, getting these right will make a huge positive impact on your staff. We all appreciate good feedback and natural human behaviour is to try to get more praise by continuing to work well. As a very simple rule, think how you like to be treated and treat your colleagues in the same way.

Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Our conclusions are backed up by Herzberg's Motivation - Hygiene Theory which breaks factors affecting productivity into those affecting Hygiene and those affecting Motivation. Herzberg found that the base level of performance is governed by hygiene factors (environment, company policies, working conditions, salary, job security, etc.) but higher levels of performance also need good motivation factors (responsibility, ability to achieve, recognition and growth).

Factors affecting productivity

Summary

In most cases, the factors affecting productivity in your workplace can be reliably identfied with a careful application of sound principles. Just don't be surprised when that bonus or incentive you offered doesn't get the result you expect.

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