Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid & Boost Employee Productivity [With Tips]

Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid & Boost Employee Productivity [With Tips]

Know the importance of employee productivity & 5 major mistakes made by managers. It also provides some tips to improve productivity.

Low productivity in the workplace has many causes but is not necessarily up to the employee. In the following article, we will explore 5 major employee productivity mistakes made by managers and ways to avoid them. 

Distraction, procrastination, and low productivity in the workplace can be caused by various factors, lots of which often don't depend on the employees. Sometimes team leads, project managers, and executives also affect productivity by recklessly putting pressure on teams when striving to develop their business. 

Before describing the employee productivity killers, let's discuss employee productivity definition and measuring.

What is employee productivity?

Referring to a dry textbook definition, employee productivity is simply the ratio of the outcomes (outputs) to the resources incurred (inputs). 

Employee productivity = Unit of output / Unit of input

Example: 

unit of output per month - $1000 income

unit of input per month - 100 working hours by an employee

employee productivity - $10 per hour

As the business becomes more complex, its practitioners themselves conclude that the blind desire to maximize output does not describe productivity but is its component called ‘efficiency.’

The second component, called ‘effectivity,’ concerns the timing, how well and how smartly the work is done. The complex combination of these factors means a reasonable measurement of productivity.

This leads to the conclusion that there is no single definition of employee productivity due to the specific tasks of each individual. 

Why is employee productivity crucial to your organization?

Employee productivity is an important factor for your organization's growth. The more motivated and productive employees are, the more output and value they bring to the company. With a high productivity level, you stay competitive, visible, and successful. You can win a higher market share with a productive team. 

From above, employee productivity helps assess and forecast the nearest company's prosperity and ways of development. 

The unpredictable nature of employee productivity makes this assessment even more complex and necessary. It implies that monitoring and measuring employee productivity is also valuable for your organization.

Not being able to evaluate how staff will perform their tasks clearly, you still have ways to improve employee productivity and enable the seamless functioning of the company. 

How do you measure employee productivity? 

It all depends on the scope and size of a company, as well as the nature of production. 

In general, if an organization provides services, it's more reasonable to measure the qualitative side: speed of delivery, customer satisfaction, etc. 

If the output is countable, you can shape an average outcome per period (say, a number of leads obtained per month) and evaluate employee productivity based on that standard.

Usually, you'd need to measure both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Based on the tasks, you may decide to measure:

  • the total number of closed tasks per period
  • the ratio between outcome and people involved
  • the quality of the work 
  • the time spent on recurring tasks
  • actual results vs. planned objectives
  • efforts spent vs. value obtained

To monitor and measure employee productivity, you'll need to aggregate raw data from the relevant platforms used by employees and for business operations and probably transform data, too. It can be project management platforms, spreadsheets, accounting software, human resources (HR) and operations software, CRM, CMS, time tracking tools, and so on. You can use data integration tools to extract stories, tasks, and projects from any workspace and then build reports based on the aggregated data.

Having collected and then analyzed data, you have an opportunity to measure the employee productivity of an individual, team, or department since you have performance statistics and other insights.

Also, keep in mind that employee productivity monitoring shouldn't be constant and a surveillance-type activity because employees may stress out, and the effect would deteriorate. Such an assessment is in the employees' interests, provided they want to grow professionally and receive better compensation for their work. 

6 tips to increase employee productivity

Let's view some pillars of team productivity that, if properly applied, will help to solve many employee productivity issues.

Tip #1: Improve workplace and conditions

If employees have no necessary office supplies and uncomfortable furniture, how will they stay productive or even want to work? 

Smart zoning with work-leisure separation, the convenience of physical office location, sufficient lighting, greenery, and oxygen levels are all links for a given report or a closed plan. 

This is not just an assumption but a scientific approach. According to which, a deviation from the optimal 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21℃) in room temperature by even a few points significantly reduces team productivity. 

And as Alan Kohll from Forbes admits, even such an ordinary workplace thing as a lunch break adds mental health, and creativity and allows renewing strength for nearly 90% of employees.

Tip #2: Optimize communication and meetings

The desire of companies to introduce remote work possibilities has led to an increase in online meetings. In this way, work schedule optimization is another key management task to drive productivity.

Anyone who has worked in a team knows how time-consuming, emotionally draining, and sometimes inconclusive online meetings can be. 

A reasonable way out is ordering the rules of communication in the company. Start with three simple steps:

  • schedule only critical meetings
  • have a prepared agenda 
  • gather documents and streamline meeting notes 

And introduce the practice of no-meeting workdays just like Atlassian and many other organizations did. According to a recent MIT study, this simple initiative raises workforce productivity by 75%.

Tip #3: Provide employees with a tech stack

To add to productivity, employees need up-to-date software and hardware.

The variety of apps, platforms, and devices made it much easier to accomplish more tasks in less amount of time. Likewise, executives and managers aren't limited to using advanced tools to monitor and measure employee productivity. 

Tip #4: Emphasize team spirit

A work environment full of positive attitude and respect for the employees transfers into a good mood in the team which impacts productivity and employee satisfaction.

It is worth emphasizing team goals and each member's contribution to accomplishing them. Holding friendly feedback sessions and just saying a few words of gratitude for the work done can be simple yet valuable for employees.

Also, don't forget about informal team activities like team building because they strongly and undeniably impact employee engagement and productivity.

Tip #5: Add to employee flexibility

Look at the results of a recent study by Gartner:

work hours flexibility for increased productivity graph

It's pretty clear that most employees value flexibility and treat it as an essential reason for boosting productivity. 

A monthly survey by the Japanese division of Microsoft shows that employees' productivity with free Fridays increased by 40%, compared to the same period last year. 

Flexible working hours are almost the rule in creative industries, but other sectors are also seeing the benefits. So should you. 

Providing flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely is definitely a good practice to boost employee productivity.

Tip #6: Invest in employee training

For productivity measures and for your company to really increase efficiency, it is worth investing in employee training.

Many employees perceive training as a reward, which increases their motivation. Functional communication and career development training sessions, online courses and webinars often satisfy employees’ needs for self-fulfillment, building paths of their own professional development and productivity growth.

5 mistakes to avoid with employee productivity

Unfortunately, not every virtuous step of executives and managers toward growing company productivity will be equally beneficial. The main reason for that is something is done wrong in parallel.

So it's time to review 5 major employee productivity mistakes to avoid them.

Mistake #1: No goal employee performance

An obvious mistake by executives and team leaders is having no clear team/employee goals or no goals. 

Without setting initial goals in coordination with the overall strategic vision, at one point, the team's performance may not go where it was intended. 

The path of a team to a set aim is akin to a journey, and for the success of any journey, you need to know its ultimate goal, make sure it is realistic, and have a roadmap. Like any traveler, the employee inevitably faces various obstacles along the way. 

Without proper planning, the actions would be chaotic and uncoordinated: employees may contradict each other or perform tasks for the sake of performance. 

Therefore, understanding the strategic goal and personal goals will help employees stay focused and perform better. Combining this with the practice of rewarding and appreciating each employee, you're on the way to boosting employee productivity.

Mistake #2: Pushing results approach

Sometimes, managers and executives focus only on results or stick to the high past results without analyzing the factors influencing them. 

Excessive focus on results and ignorance of steps leading to those results can be detrimental to employee productivity or even lead to quitting – employees feel like the cogs of a big machine.

Considering that a person can be highly productive for a few hours per day, demanding extra output from an employee lowers productivity and affects performance quality.

Respectively, the IZA Institute of Labor Economics warns that overworking leads to the depletion of resources in a progression and every additional hour in the office gradually decreases productivity. 

You can see it on the following graph of overtime work and productivity decline dependence:

graphing productivity and overtime

An excellent solution here is to find the golden mean between the emphasis on results and the individual approach to employees. How? Add to employee flexibility, set realistic goals, and invest in employee personal development.

Mistake #3: Ignoring employee feedback

Among all managerial skills, perhaps the most underestimated is listening. It is not enough to hear but to pay full attention to what your team is expressing, not to mention that 60% of employees are interested in meaningful feedback weekly. 

Meanwhile, ignoring feedback from the employee results in:

  • misunderstandings and tensions within the team 
  • disorganization
  • mistakes and deadline delays
  • rejection of company structure and culture
  • ruins an atmosphere of trust where everyone has the opportunity to express themselves freely

All this affects employee productivity and employee engagement.

To improve employee feedback processing, optimize communication, encourage feedback sessions, realize employee ideas, and work on team spirit. You need to nurture a feedback-friendly corporate culture.

Mistake #4: Not recognizing employees

A bad practice is not recognizing and not appreciating employees' efforts. Humans, unlike machines, must be appreciated for their talents, skills, struggles, successes, etc. 

Employee productivity directly depends on whether a company is interested in employees' engagement in their work and employees' personalities. Combining one with the other, you can develop an ideal plan for an employee's career advancement.

Another dimension of personal attention is work appreciation. Raises, rewards, and acknowledgment of contributions are necessary to keep the employee in the company and express thanks for a well-done job. Besides, there are plenty of other ways to motivate employees.

No matter what method of recognition you choose, it will ensure that 9 of 10 employees will do the same tasks with more attitude and desire.

Consequently, recognize employees for their contribution because recognition is the way to maintain employee productivity.

Mistake #5: Creating, not solving blockers

Managers and team leaders should help employees overcome blockers and existing issues by advising solution steps, dealing with budgets, operational delays, decision-making, and other day-to-day stuff. It doesn't happen that way all the time, unfortunately.

Here are some bad practices that create more blockers and don't help to solve existing ones:

  • being opaque about company performance and priorities
  • not explaining the reasoning behind changes
  • choosing random approaches and tools
  • making solo decisions or decisions not driven by data
  • setting priorities incorrectly
  • shifting responsibilities
  • not considering alternatives
  • ignoring teams' inquiries
  • micromanaging too much

All these activities result in low employee satisfaction, morale, and productivity.

To avoid creating more blockers, a manager should be confident and transparent about existing issues, set correct objectives and realistic deadlines, be helpful to a team, and listen to their inquiries. It's like on a boat where you're a captain, so you must lead people by your own example.

Employee productivity: Highlights

In conclusion, let's memorize a few critical points about employee productivity:

Employee productivity is crucial since it demonstrates your organization's growth potential and impacts its development.

There's no single way to monitor and measure employee productivity, but you should find points to track and improve it individually.

Encourage feedback-oriented and open culture within your organization, listen to employees, and communicate with them.

Be transparent, set clear goals, address existing issues, provide employees with the needed stack, and don't demand.

And the most important point – stay productive foremost. A lead by example is a great thing!

Which of these points do you already follow, and what productivity mistakes did you encounter? Let us know!

Nadia Basaraba is a Marketing Specialist at Coupler.io, a data integration service. She's passionate about content creation and digital marketing. Apart from experimenting with marketing tactics, she's an avid reader and traveler.

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