Worker productivity is of ever-increasing importance as the world’s economy moves from producing and manufacturing products and goods to delivering services. Service businesses will know that competitors are always around the corner, and there is pressure on them to deliver as much output as possible while keeping the cost of salaries low. There are several obvious and easy areas where productivity can be improved, but the final stages of attaining peak productivity are trickier to navigate.

Increase personal accountability – and stop micromanaging

Employees do need direction: knowing what is expected of them and being accountable for achieving goals is very important. However, you should be careful not to micromanage your employees, as managers are often not equipped with the knowledge or specific experience to be able to improve on the way employees are going about their tasks.

Onerous reporting obligations and unnecessary meetings can be an obstacle to achieving goals. As an alternative, many companies have adopted the agile approach to work, where small teams of employees work on a “sprint” across a fixed period of a week or two, taking responsibility for their own time management and goals. This blend of autonomy, personal responsibility and teamwork is tracked on a graph that plots what is achieved against the required result.productivity_illustration1

Make the best use of technology

Whether your business operates in a world of physical products, or produces intangible output in the shape of services, technology is a key component to achieving high productivity levels. By far the most obvious area in which technology makes a difference is in giving your employees the ability to communicate more effectively. Almost every business uses email, but service businesses need to make the best use of collaboration software, ranging from document sharing portals to social networks for teams.

Software systems can also significantly reduce the time employees spend on routine tasks. Almost every process in a business can benefit from automation, from acquiring and keeping customers through to managing suppliers and payments to them.

Maintain an optimal physical environment

Often neglected, the physical environment in which your employees operate can have a very big effect on their productivity. Happier employees are inevitably more productive, while taking care of the physical health of your workers will also boost productivity. Quality furniture is a key route to reducing the day-to-day strain workers feel, so don’t economise on items such as chairs and desks.

Managing the impact of the outside environment is also important. Intrusive sunlight can make operating computer systems difficult, so install window shutters if sunlight is a problem during certain hours of the day – this will also help to reduce outside noise. Though it can be difficult to please everyone when it comes to office temperature, you can make sure it is not freezing cold or overly warm, as either extreme will affect productivity.

Auditing and fact-finding

Keeping in close touch with the productivity of your business is key to achieving an improved bottom line. Large corporations all evaluate their efficiency by means of key performance indicators, or KPI’s, which gives them insight into which areas of their business are performing less efficiently than expected. There is no reason why this should be restricted to a large company: even smaller businesses should keep some KPI’s in a spreadsheet and compare these year on year.

Tracking numbers and auditing performance will help reveal business resources that are under-used, or point out to you which customers are more labour intensive to services, compared to the revenue they bring in. Although you should not micromanage your employees, it is always worth measuring their performance on some level – sales teams, for example, should always undergo regular performance reviews.

Improve your worker’s skills through training

Training inevitably involves workers being unable to attend to their duties for a short period, but the benefits of a more qualified workforce can be tremendous and will outweigh any costs associated with training courses or time taken off. Technology advances are often not taken advantage of because of the learning curve involved, but employees who spend even a day or two in training are able to implement the latest technologies to the advantage of their employers.

Workers who are sponsored for training are also happier workers, as they feel their skills are improved on by their employers. If your workers feel that you, as their employer, are taking care of their aspirational needs, they will put additional effort in to making their day-to-day jobs a success.

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