By Candace van Zyl, marketing manager, QuickEasy Software

“Productivity and growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times, not the last. That is the source of technological innovation, jobs and wealth.” ~ William E. Simon
The longer I’ve run my business, the more I see that business owners and managers face the same staffing challenges that we do: How do I keep my employees productive every day? How do I know they are not goofing off on YouTube or Skyping their friends  instead of doing their jobs? Aside from a potentially under-utilised resource, am I paying too much on my salary bill for a team that is not pulling its weight?

Paul J Meyer said, “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.”  In order to be productive we have to deliberately put measures in place to make it happen.

Here are a few tried and trusted tips that massively improved our teams’ productivity and will do the same for you:

1. Hire the right fit first: I wish I’d known this from the beginning, and it might mean a bit of a team shuffle for you, but getting the culture fit right is vital for your team’s wellness and productivity. One bad apple – that negative, lazy and unaccountable team member that you have a problem with – can spoil the batch. Reassign or reallocate them to another position if you can, but your team is your most valuable asset in the business – you need to fight hard to protect it. Employees who are skilled and have the right attitude are often more responsible, communicate better and work faster with fewer mistakes. Spend time and money here to hire the right people, as this is where it all begins (and potentially ends).

2. Use innovation and tech: Technology and gadgets for home are fun, but getting new tech for work can sometimes feel intimidating and make us feel a little out of our comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of this. Giving your teams the right tools to do their jobs fast and efficiently will mean more work gets done and fewer balls get dropped. Just because you’ve done it the same way for the last 20 years doesn’t mean there’s not a better, faster way of doing it now. If there’s a frustration you’re feeling at work, there’s probably a software or hardware solution that’s already been developed for it. We like Slack for internal comms, instead of a steady stream of internal emails.

3. Get organised: Processes and policies give a team structure and a framework for efficiency.  It’s also easier to notice when something or someone is missing the mark.
a. Get the right software to help your team track orders, projects, inventory and invoices.  Once again we like BOS     for this.
b. Put procedures in place that follow best practice for your industry. If this is not something you feel you have     time or the skills for, get the team to brainstorm this – they know your business inside out and are a deep mine of     information. Plus it will boost accountability and the team’s sense of value for being part of this important     project.
c. Additionally, if a team member is doing something better than the others, let them share it with the rest of the     team, and consider making their process a new team process.

4. Set realistic goals: Most people know how demoralising it feels when they have too many things to do, and not enough hours in the day to get them all done. Procrastination and demotivation come all too quickly. Stressed and burnt out employees are the opposite of productive, and is not something to brag about as a sign of being busy. Busy is not the goal – productive is. Set your team targets and tasks that are realistic and achievable within a given period of time. Your team will feel more motivated to achieve these goals, and will enjoy a sense of accomplishment once achieved.

5. Measurement matters: If you cannot measure the financial return on investment of your human capital (your team) you probably have very little insight into the profitability of your business and the productivity of your team.  Knowing the productive hours of each member of staff will greatly influence your decisions on resource allocation and team utilisation.

6. Follow up:  Checking in with your team if there is anything you can help them with or if there are any problems with their tasks is a good way to improve productivity. Please note, this is not micro-management, which is actually detrimental to your team’s progress. Following up with your team’s tasks helps make them feel that their work is important and valuable and that you are interested in what they are doing and have to say. It also helps the team feel more invested in the company’s long term success.

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