You want your employees to do more in less time, don't you?. Also, you would like them to give their best every working day?. Right?. Well, that's what every employer wants. So, here I'm with this post that talks about how to improve staff performance and productivity.

Managing people is "complex". There're so many variables involved – anger, fear, dreams, thoughts, feelings etc. Every individual employee is different. Some can handle work well but not their emotions. While others can handle emotions but not a pile of workload. That's the reason why people management skill is important for every entrepreneur. If you can't handle people, you won't be able to run even a mom-and-pop store.

With the 20 tips listed here, you'll not only be able to improve performance but also productivity of your employees. With more productivity & better performance, your business will reach new heights. Ready?. Let's go.

20 STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE STAFF PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY IN AN ORGANIZATION

1. Create SOPs For All Staff Activities

SOPs stand for Standard Operating Procedures. They're nothing but procedures documented for each activity of your business.

Example: An expense transaction will have a SOP like the following:

Raising a manual expense voucher by a requisitioner > Approval of the voucher by the manager of accounts > Disbursing petty cash by cashier > Attaching expense proof with the voucher & submitting to the accounts executive > Passing of the expense entry in the books on accounts by accounts executive.

Each part of a SOP is called a process. And, each process has got a process owner. Like in the aforesaid example: The requisitioner, the manager, the cashier & the accounts executive are the process owners of their respective processes.

Similarly you can have SOPs for any activity of your business like – sales, purchases, admin, legal, HR, etc.

Real-Life Examples of SOPs:

Have you been to McDonald's, Dominos or KFC?. Of course, you must have. No, I'm not going to talk about their food. Yes, they taste good. But, here in this post, I want you to focus on their SOPs. Remember?. They've a SOP for each for their activities. Have you noticed how your order flows automatically from billing to the kitchen?

The best part?. The employees of these food chains are extremely productive. Aren't they?. That's the magic of their well-documented SOPs.

To brief, following are the advantages of SOPs:

  • Employees know what, when & how to do. They don't wait for instructions
  • Increased productivity
  • Less workload on employees
  • Streamlined workflow
  • Great for project management

Now that you know what SOPs are all about, let's learn how to create SOPs.

I recommend you to use a brilliant process management app called Process Street. It's an all-in-one app that helps you to manage everyting relating to SOPs – templates, checklists, documents, approvals, etc.

To create SOPs in Process Street, follow these steps:

Step 1: Sign up with Process Street (FREE trial available)

Step 2: Invite employees by entering their work emails

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Step 3: Create a SOP template. This template will have processes that you need to assign to process owners. And, then you need to create checklist for every instance you run the SOP template.

Example: If you're preparing a SOP template for employee onboarding then you can use this template to create checklists for each new employee. If one of your onboarding employee name is John Kesler then you need to prepare a checklist for John by clicking on "Run Checklist" button.

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Here's a video that will help you better understand how to create templates & checklists in Process Street:

Click here to take a virtual tour of Process Street.

Using SOPs, you can have direct control over the processes of your organization.

2. Assign Work Using A Productivity App

Assigning work to employees is a common practice among entrepreneurs & managers.

The issue, however, is that we don't assign work in a streamlined manner. Most of the times, assigning happens orally or even over phone. There isn't any documentation, flow or timeline involved.

Wouldn't it be great if you've a tool using which you can assign tasks to your employees & manage the same seamlessly?. That'll result in massive productivity boost at your workplace. Imagine a workplace where everybody knows what tasks to complete & by when. Making sense?

Enter Wrike.

Wrike is my favorite productivity app that helps to increase your team's efficiency by assigning & managing tasks from one dashboard. They count companies like Google, L'Oreal & Hootsuite as their clients.

Here's how Wrike works:

Step 1: Sign up & create an account with Wrike. During the account set-up  process, you'll be given an option to invite your employees to use Wrike. Do the needful there.

Step 2: On the dashboard, click on the '+' icon available at the top left corner. And, then click on 'Task' since you would be creating a new task.

Step 3: Create the task by entering details like title, description, assignee (employee who'll be executing the task), due date, approvers, sub-tasks & dependency (other tasks depending on this task).

The assignee(s) can complete the task & mark the same as complete. You can also check the tasks assigned to you by clicking on the 'My To-Do' link on the home page.

Yes, Wrike can also help you to create SOPs (in that case, you can avoid using Process Street).

Here's a video that can help you further understand the working of Wrike app:

Click here to take a virtual tour of Wrike.

That's it. Using these simple steps, you'll be able to streamline the assigning process that you may be doing till now in a manual way (using white board, chat messages, voice recording, etc.).

Following are the advantages of assigning work using Wrike:

  • Streamlined way of doing work
  • Easier to manage a large team
  • Boost in staff productivity because tasks are assigned automatically
  • Lesser stress for employees
  • Better planning for employees (they can plan their days as per the workload)
  • A great tool or proof for performance review or appraisal

Example: Imagine yourself as a marketing head leading a team of 10 marketers. Your company is about to launch a new product & your team is planning for a launch event. Here's where you can use a productivity app to manage the complete launch event. All you need to do is create & assign tasks like venue, speakers, tickets, catering, advertising, sound & lighting, etc. Each of these tasks can be divided in sub-tasks. Makes sense?

3. Conduct Daily & Weekly Meetings

Recently, I read a book called Scaling Up, written by an acclaimed business coach - Verne Harnish. It's a book based on business habits practiced by John D. Rockefeller, an entrepreneur who's considered as the wealthiest American of all time.

One of Rockefeller's habits was to conduct daily & weekly meetings. In these meetings, Rockefeller used to seek feedback from the team & plan for the coming day(s) or weeks. These meetings helped Rockefeller & his company to stay productive by focusing on the bigger goal, vision & misson. Every employee working with Rockefeller exactly knew how & where the organization is heading towards. And, what she needs to do to help her company reach there.

That's the beauty of meetings. It's easy-peasy. And, still comes with tremendous benefits like:

  • Brings all employees on the same page
  • Improves productivity & reduces communication gap
  • Helps to sync a company's vision, mission & plans with employees' daily tasks
  • Instill's a team spirit

Now, you must be wondering what should be the agendas of these meetings. The answer is simple – You don't need agendas. Your meetings should be round-up of what your employees have been upto & what they're planning to do next. That's it.

It would even be awesome if you can sync the Wrike app with your meetings. Meaning, the outcome of the meetings should result in creating & assigning tasks in the Wrike app. Makes sense?

Therefore, I recommend you to start conducting daily & weekly meetings in your organization. I bet you'll be surprised with the outcome.

4. Delegate With Care

In college, we're taught that "Management is all about getting things through others". That's indeed true. There's no management without delegation. It's an integral management principle that holds true even for modern organizations.

However, if you delegate without proper care, you may end up wasting time in micro-managing the work & rectifying errors. Here's an example to help you understand this better:

Example 1: Imagine yourself as a head of HR dept. leading a team of 10 HR employees. You delegate the employee onboarding tasks to a senior HR executive for 5 new joinees. She marks the task as complete. Everything done & dusted. But, how do you ensure that the onboarding really went well as per your company's policy?. That's where you need to tweak your delegation process. Instead of simply delegating work, you should also open a feedback loop with the delegatee. In this case, you should ask the senior HR executive to submit a report after each successful onboarding. That report needs to cross-checked by you.

Example 2: A CFO delegating the cash flow management to a senior accounts executive should seek a daily cash flow summary report. That'll help the CFO avoid micro-managing the cash flow & at the same time allow the team to focus on their work.

In Wrike, you can assign approver for each tasks & also attach documents. Those'll really help you to open that feedback loop with the delegatees.

5. Set A Fixed Time For eMails

As per a stat, 25% of employees think that email is the biggest productivity killer.

But, why this fuss about email? They're supposed to help us communicate better. Isn't it?

Here's the thing:

Emails constantly break our focus from work. Imagine yourself working on a key project & suddenly an email lands in your inbox asking for a document. Isn't it frustrating?. And, what if the same intrusion happens 10-15 times a day?. Yes, that results in wastage of your precious time. The same happens with your employees.

So, what's the solution?

I recently read The Ultimate Sales Machine written by Chet Holmes. In that book, the author describes a unique way to become more productive at workplace. He says that you need to plan your day & allocate two fixed time slots for emails.

While scheduling & delegating work in Wrike, you should allow two time slots for emails.

Example: If your working hours is from 9 to 5 then you can allocate two fixed time slots like 9:00 to 9:30 AM & 3:00 to 3:30 PM for reading & replying to emails.

Chet also suggests to change email subject lines while replying. That'll help the receiver guess the content of the email without opening the same.

6. Train While Onboarding Employees

If you want your employees to be more productive & perform at their maximum potential, you need to train them.

No, this isn't the same as subject training (I'll talk about this later). Here, I'm talking about training your employees during onboarding itself.

During onboarding, you need to train & frame your new employees with the following:

  • Organization culture
  • Productivity best practices
  • Handling work pressure
  • Managing time efficiently
  • Giving the best performance

This onboard training will go a long way in improving the staff productivity & performance. So, start implementing this practice now. Change your onboarding process in Process Street/Wrike & you'll see a difference in the coming months.

Yes, this kind of training can also be given to your existing employees.

7. Balance Internal Control With Productivity

Internal control means internal approvals & checks to reduce error or fraud.

Example: A sale transaction may be created by an sales executive, checked by an account executive & approved by the sales manager. This process is part of the internal control system.

Internal control is a must for all organizations. However, there's a big demerit of an internal control system – It eats up time & affects productivity directly.

Therefore, you need to balance internal control with productivity. Here's how to do it:

You need to trim down your internal control processes to an extent that it doesn't impact the it's purpose (prevention of error or fraud).

Example: If your present internal control system for sales is:

Sales order created by sales executive > Sales order approved by sales manager > Invoice raised by accounts executive > Invoice approved by accounts manager.

You should change the process to:

Sales order created by sales executive > Invoice raised & checked by accounts executive > Invoice approved by sales manager.

Makes sense?

8. Simplify The Management Structure

Many companies fancy a complex management structure. May be because that helps them to look more corporate. There's no problem in looking corporate but not at the cost of productivity.

Multiple management tiers often delay communication flow & disrupt the movement of critical information. That, of course, results in wastage of time & hence lower productivity.

Following are the benefits of simplifying the management structure:

  • Quick flow of communication & information
  • Improved productivity
  • Better employee morale

To simply your management structure, you need to chart down your organization in the form of a flowchart. Then, study each block to see if removing the same will improve communication flow.

Example: Imagine your company has the following organization structure for the sales department:

Chairman --> Sales vice-president --> Sales deputy manager --> Sales senior manager --> Sales manager --> Sales executives

Now, to simply this, you may have the following structure:

Chairman --> Sales vice president --> Sales managers --> Sales executives

No, you don't need to fire people for this. Simply shift employees to other roles without impacting their pay.

9. Help Employees Relocate

As per a statistics, employees who work remotely save travelling time that's equivalent to 22 days a year!

No, I'm not saying that you should hire remote workers. Instead, you should relocate your staff to nearer (to your office) locations. That'll reduce travel time to a minimum & help workers to devote more time to work.

Following are advantages of relocating employees:

  • Reduces travelling time
  • Reduces travel fatigue
  • Reduces stress & also helps employees spend more time with their families

The best time to relocate is when your new employees onboard your company. So, start this practice with new joinees first. And, then gradually shift your focus towards existing staff members.

10. Start A Group Commute Service

Group commute helps employees to reduce their travel time & also instills a discipline culture. Just like how they've in schools.

Many companies are already following this group commute practice because of the following advantages:

  • Fosters a disciple culture
  • Encourages team work
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves productivity
  • Good for environment as well

Imagine a scenario:

There're 5 employees in your accounts department. All travel on their own cars. On a particular day, the accounts executive comes to office at 9:00 AM & needs an urgent approval of the accounts manager who comes at 9:20 AM. Here we've wasted 20 minutes. Since, the amount of the transaction is more than what the accounts manager is authorized to sanction, approval of the accounts vice-president is also needed who comes at 9:40 AM. What a mess!. We've wasted 40 minutes for a simple approval.

That's where a group commute service becomes significant.

11. Take Employee Feedback (Anonymously)

What's the easiest way to improve your employees' performance?

That's just by listening to them. Yes, it's that simple.

Listen to what your staff has to say about you, your company, culture & practices. If your people are happy with your company, they'll most likely give their best performance.

Sometimes, a bunch of employees may simply be unhappy because of a rude manager. Yes, there're various variables that you need to look into.

I also suggest you to ask for anonymous feedback. That'll help your employees to share feedback in a transparent way.

You can use a simple tool like Google Forms to create a feedback form. Share the link with your employees. And, make sure that you don't include fields like email address, name or employee number in the form.

Essentially, I want you to include the following questions in the form?

  • What's the best thing(s) you like about [your company name]?
  • What's the thing(s) you hate the most here?
  • Is your manager or superior collaborative?
  • What's killing your performance at [your company name]?
  • What's killing your productivity at [your company name]?
  • Do you like the company's work atmosphere?. Anything that makes you uncomfortable?

12. Replace Criticism With Encouragement

As per a statistic, only 14% of the employees feel that performance reviews inspire them to do better. This clearly means that our performance review system is broken. We need to work on it.

Criticism doesn't work because it lowers the morale of employees. And, morale, when it comes to people & relationship, can be a make or break factor.

Therefore, I suggest you to replace criticism with encouragement.

Following are the advantages of encouragement:

  • Boosts morale
  • Makes employees cheerful
  • Gives a small ego-boost
  • Motivates employees to work harder

Example: Imagine a sales professional working in your company who hasn't done so well in the past one month. Instead of criticizing, can you not simply encourage by saying: " I absolutely believe in your abilities & talent. You're one of the best sales persons we've. I know you can do better. What's stopping you to give your 100%?. Be free. Is there something that's bothering you?. "

The aforesaid simple encouragement will help the sales professional talk & grow as a consequence.

Dale Carnegie in his classic book How To Influence People & Win Friends has advocated employee encouragement as a tool to boost employee performance.

13. Celebrate Team Performances

Instead of celebrating individual performances, you should celebrate team performances.

Why?. Because it again boils down to morale. If you celebrate the success of a particular employee & denounce a failed employee, then in fact you're doing more harm by reducing the morale of a failed employee further.

When does a team win?. That's when the company is showing strong signs of growth. Simple. If your business is doing well, that's a tremendous team performance. Isn't it? Celebrate then.

There're a variety of ways to celebrate like:

  • Team outings
  • Dinner
  • Getaway at a foreign location
  • An outdoor game, etc.

Example: If your company's sales has improved as compared to the last month's then have a special reserved day for treating your employees with pizzas. Let's call it a "Pizza Day".

14. Help Employees Get Rid of Stress

As per a recent survey, 40% of employees agreed that their job is very stressful. This is no surprise. In today's competitive business environment, it's natural for managers to expect & demand more from their employees. That leads to work pressure which in turn creates stress.

And, the worst part?. Stress is two dimensional. One originating from the workplace & another from relationships. If an employee is going through a rough marriage, she or he may be stressed even though the workload is fine.

Needless to say, any kind of stress directly impacts the performance of an employee.

Unfortunately, not many businesses are helping their people battle stress. Therefore, I recommend you to take this tip seriously & eliminate stress from an employee's worklife with these tips:

  • Arrange one-to-one stress counselling sessions at the workplace (preferably once a month) for interested employees
  • Arrange for motivational lectures
  • Keep a fixed slot everyday for yoga & meditation
  • Celebrate occassions like birthdays, festivals, etc.

It's very important to spot behaviour changes of employees & take immediate remedial action.

Example: One of your employees has suddently stopped talking to her colleagues. She's smiling less & trying to avoid people. That's a sign of stress & you need to speak to her regarding it.

15. Introduce A Variable Pay Policy

Variable pay is something which is paid over & above a fixed pay.

Following are the benefits of variable pay:

  • Improved employee morale
  • Positive impact on sales & profit
  • Only becomes payable when an employee does well (no commitment)

Variable pay may be paid on the following basis:

  • Sales
  • Savings in cost
  • Profit
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Attendance, etc.

Example: A customer care executive may be awarded variable pay on the basis of customer satisfaction. Such customer satisfaction is recorded in the form of a survey when a customer ends online live chat with a customer care executive. Several leading companies like Microsoft & Siteground run a customer satisfaction survey after the customer has ended a chat.

16. Enhance Employees' Subject Skills

Subject skills are core technical skill possessed by an employee. Example: An IT engineer's core skill is coding & IT programming.

Employees prefer companies that not only pay & treat them well but also enhance their subject skills. In fact as per a survey, 70% of employees feel that subject skills training influence their decisions to stay at their job or company.

Following are the benefits of subject skills training:

  • Professional growth of the employees
  • Helps employee to do their work accurately
  • Keeps the employee updated with the latest developments in their subject fields
  • Motivates employees to do more for the company
  • Allows employees to innovate & bring new ideas
  • Helps companies to attract & retain best talent

Subject skills training can be conducted by any of the following ways:

  • Classroom training
  • Online training
  • Events/Seminars
  • On-the-job training
  • One-to-one coaching
  • One-to-group lectures/coaching, etc.

Example: The legal team should be encouraged to participate in events & seminars conducted by local legal bodies. Also, they must be provided with latest books, circular & issues pertaining to the latest changes in law.

17. Don't Set Individual or Group Targets

I hate targets. In my company, there's no place for individual or group targets. What I've found is that these targets often mislead employees & they in turn commit errors in the race to meet those targets.

Example: If you set a group target for your sales team like $ 100K  a month, you may find that your sales people are actually focussing only on sales figure & ignoring other important factors aspects like the quality or the credit-worthiness of the clients. The result?. You may touch the sales target but will struggle to recover cash from those clients.

Therefore, I don't like fixing individual or group targets. The better way?. Focus on continuous improvement.

Example: Instead of setting a sales target of $100K  a month, simply make sure that your team is visiting or cold calling at least 20 clients or probable clients a day. If they're hitting that 20 clients benchmark successfully then raise the bar & tell them to aim for 30 client callings or visits a day. That's what I mean by continuous improvement. It works like charm. Give it a try!

18. Discourage Workplace Politics

As per a stat, 53% of the employees feel that office politics can help them get promoted. That means more than half of the employees look at politics as a medium to grow their position. A sad state-of-affairs indeed.

Performance should be only medium to get promotion or pay increment. Anything over & beyond that should be eliminated right away. Why?. Because that discourages the genuine hard-working people in your company.

Let's understand this with an example:

Example: X & Y are the two employees in your company. X thinks workplace politics can take her far & therefore doesn't care about improving her work performance. Y, on the other hand, is a top performer who believes that good work performance will hand her a raise or promotion in the upcoming annual appraisal. Surprisingly, in the annual appraisal, X got promoted & Y fell behind. What signal will that send to Y?. Will it uplift the morale of Y?. Won't it impact performance of many hard-working employees like Y?.

Following are the ways you can get rid of the workplace politics:

  • Inform all employees that strict actions will be taken against those who're found to be a part of workplace politics
  • Ask employees(through feedback form we discussed at point #11) if they feel they're being targeted by a cartel of employees
  • Appraisal reports should be thoroughly checked & verified
  • Conduct an interview with all outgoing employees. They're the ones who can shed lights on workplace politics fearlessly
  • Formulate a whistle-blowing policy & award whistle-blowers accordingly

Office politics, if left unchecked, can also spoil your reputation as an employer.

19. Encourage Employees To Take A Break

Break is important. For everyone, including your employees. All work & no break can impact performance of some of your best people.

Science has proved it again & again that overwork can lead to burnout which impacts a person's ability to give her  best.

In fact, as per a stat, more than 23% of the employees reported to be feeling burned out regularly during work.

Of course, these breaks should be within the leave policy of your company. Example: You checked records & found that one of your employees, despite having 21 days paid-leave credits, hasn't taken a leave since the past 6 months. Approach that employee & request her to take a leave. She'll feel rejuvenated during the break & come back with fresh energy.

In long-term, these little breaks will help improve the staff performance by avoiding burnout.

A special attention should be given to the workholics. They're the ones who don't care about taking leave despite getting burned out frequently.

20. Create A Healthy Atmosphere For Focused Work

A healthy workplace atmosphere is a must to help employees deeply focus on their work.

So, what makes a worplace healthy?. Here're a few things:

  • Free from distractions like noise
  • Clean air (avoid odour)
  • Well-groomed colleagues
  • Clean desk stations, floor mats & organized files
  • Recreation facilities like pantry, cafeteria, games, lounge, gym etc.
  • Colorful walls & cabins, etc.

The aforesaid tips will not only help your staff to focus on their work but also help them feel good about their workplace. Those'll help them improve their performance & productivity.

Conclusion

I understand. It's not easy to motivate & influence employees to do better. As I said at the start, every employee is different. There isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of solution for people related issues.

However, with the aforesaid 20 tips, you should be able to improve the performance and productivity of most of your employees. Note down these tips, start with the tip#1 & thereby keep implementing one tip after another (one at a time). You'll be surprised with the results. The difference in behaviour of your employees will clearly be visible in a few days.

The improvement in staff performance & productivity will also impact your sales & profit figures positively. So, it'll be a win-win-win result.

Manage. Improve. Grow.

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What do you think of the aforesaid tips to improve staff performance & productivity?. Please share your thoughts & experience by commenting below.