Getting the most out of your employees is a core priority for any business leader, but too often these leaders forget their business is full of people, whose skills and motivations can’t be ‘hacked’ into a better bottom line.
It’s the business itself that needs to motivate its staff: your people need to be excited, feel respected, and be clear on how they are contributing to the company for them to do their best work. Here are our top 10 productivity tips to get you there.
Offer flexible working
Flexible working has recently become a bit of a buzzword, but for good reason: giving employees more control over their time has positive impacts on their health, happiness, and motivation. Flexible working simply refers to any working pattern outside of having fixed hours from a set location, five days a week.
A 2009 study found that flexible workers had higher levels of job satisfaction and organisational commitment than their peers, despite their additional efforts causing their workload to intensify.
Don’t encourage a culture of overtime
While you don’t want your staff watching the clock, encouraging a culture where working unreasonably late is the norm will damage their confidence, morale, and productivity. Not to mention their health: studies have shown that overtime and extended work schedules increase the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stress, depression, and more.
In the UK, businesses are legally prevented from forcing employees to work an average of more than 48 hours per week. The average working week in the UK is around 37.5-40 hours.
Be clear with progression and accountability
Adding more structures and processes to your company may feel a bit forced, but if your staff aren’t sure how their work is contributing to the company’s overall direction — or to their own career progression — they’re unlikely to feel inspired or motivated to put in the extra mile. This includes clear personal development plans and training, and regular professional feedback.
According to recruitment firm Robert Walters, career progression is the top priority when choosing a new job for a whopping 91% of Millennials, while just 15% of employers felt personalised training programmes were a priority.
… including your own
As a business leader, you are responsible for setting the company’s direction and leading others in achieving it. If it’s unclear how you’re contributing to the vision of your own company, why would someone be inspired to work their hardest for you?
While there is a limit on how much of yourself, and your company’s information, it’s possible or prudent to give to your employees, they should be able to understand broadly how the business is going and what they are able to expect from you. Status reports and company meetings, along with making time for others to approach you, go a long way in helping people feel that they are a part of something.
More than half (57%) of employees say that food-based perks would make them feel more valued and appreciated by their employers, while one in two think that sharing meals with colleagues creates a better working relationship.
The best part? This can be relatively cheap to implement and fairly straightforward to organise. Whether sorting a weekly fruit and snack delivery or ordering in breakfast, feeding your staff is an instant way to boost morale and show your employees that you appreciate them.
Hire (and train) good managers
Most of your employees are likely to report directly to their line manager, who is the first port of call for their grievances, ambitions, and ideas. A study by the University of Manchester found that people working under ‘toxic’ managers — who lacked empathy and abused their power — had lower job satisfaction and were more likely to be overly critical of other employees.
And then there are managers who simply lack sufficient skills. The Harvard Business Review found there to be a straight-line correlation between the level of employee engagement and the overall effectiveness of their supervisors. Be clear what you expect from your management team and provide the training and development to get them where you’d like them to be.
Encourage inbox-free hours
Reaching ‘inbox zero’ on your Gmail or Outlook account is satisfying, but prioritised too often and you might find yourself wasting time and energy refreshing your inbox. This has become such a ubiquitous part of business culture that there are even think pieces wondering what makes for an appropriate response time to an email.
Constantly checking your inbox has the same effect as continually receiving notifications: it’s distracting, preventing you from going into deep focus: where you’re lost in a task to the point where you’ve lost track of time. This state of mind is best for strategic and creative thinking.
Don’t waste resources on unnecessary admin
Managers in the UK spend almost two days per week on unnecessary day-to-day tasks that are not core to their jobs, with half of those surveyed saying that because of this, they didn’t have time for more strategic work. Time burned on poor workflows, providing excessive status updates, and unnecessarily filling out forms could be significantly holding back your staff from doing what you hired them to.
Luckily, there are a number of cost-effective, third-party solutions that can relieve the pressure on your staff without requiring an expensive restructure. EMMA offers virtual assistant services that can support resources and facilities management, right down to diary management and organising meetings.
Create reward structures that don’t just reward the most visible
Too many good ideas are lost because everyone’s attention is held by the loudest voice in the room. You and your management team are responsible for creating an environment where everyone is able to feel heard and valued.
Take time to get to know different members of your staff and figure out ways of working that play to their strengths. For example, having everyone come up with their own ideas before a creative meeting then giving everyone allocated time to share.
Give your vote of confidence
If your employees feel trusted, they will feel valued and be more confident in their work. Give people the chance to lead projects or meetings, and encourage a culture of pitching ideas and giving constructive feedback both among peers and from top-down. Even something as simple as asking, “What do you think of this?” shows your staff that you value their opinion and that the work they’re doing matters to you.
Fostering an ‘ownership mentality’ pushes people to think in terms of possibility, and nurtures many transferable skills — creative thinking, problem solving, cross-channel mentality, project management — that are hugely useful to any business.