How can you increase productivity in your small business without substantially increasing spending? It's important, first of all, to recognize that even your best employees may get in a slump from time to time. But following these five low or no-cost tips can help generate new enthusiasm and keep slow, unproductive days to a minimum.
- Align individual goals with company goals. Sometimes, employees don't see how the work they do every day is linked to the overall growth strategy of the business. Their motivation — and subsequently, the amount of quality work they do — may increase after you clarify how important their contributions are. Work together with the employee to set performance goals that demonstrate a direct connection to where the business is headed.
- Reduce or eliminate workplace distractions. Hard-working employees are as susceptible to distractions as anyone else. Take a closer look at the workplace environment. Is the noise level constantly high? Do you get reports of particular employees spending an inordinate amount of time chatting or texting? Look for ways to modify the environment so the focus remains on individual and team productivity.
- Allow "free technology time." Employees will take time here and there throughout the day to check personal email, social media and other favorite sites. You can try to block this activity, but that often drives people "underground" — breaking firewalls, using smartphones or other sneaky methods of accessing the Internet. Instead, carve out short "free technology times" during the day for employees to indulge this activity. Most will do so anyway, and directly managing free Internet time generally demonstrates that management understands and will accommodate it to a degree.
- Create an environment in which feedback travels both directions. Taking time to provide meaningful feedback demonstrates your commitment to helping employees become better at what they do. In the same respect, you may increase productivity by taking in their feedback. They might have some great ideas on how to improve your product or service, and they'll likely feel more connected to the organization if you act on their suggestions.
- Interact with employees. Some managers and business owners mistakenly believe that things will improve if they "make friends" with low-performing employees. What's more helpful is simply getting to know them a little better. From time to time, ask about their lives away from the workplace, including family, hobbies or travel. Employees typically care less about their jobs if you are distant, whereas a friendly boss can naturally encourage hard work and commitment.
Motivating employees to be more productive doesn't require costly training sessions or expensive new equipment. A closer look at the environment in which they work — or don't work — can help achieve this goal, too.
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