How to Improve Employee Productivity According to Research

Improving employee productivity is arguably the most effective way to reach your business’s growth goals. Not only do highly productive employees accomplish a lot of work every day, they also:

  • Solve problems faster
  • Come up with more innovative ideas
  • Identify ways to streamline existing processes
  • Make fewer errors

All of these characteristics make productive employees key drivers of business success. Thus, strategically investing in your team will enable you to achieve your organization’s goals. However, there’s a fine line between enabling your team to be more productive and causing them to burnout.

This article contains actionable tips that increase your employees’ productivity by empowering them to stay motivated and work as efficiently as possible.

1Foster Employee Happiness

To boost your employees’ productivity, you need to start by making your office a great place to work. Studies show that happy employees are significantly more productive than those who aren’t. Since happiness is strongly tied to company culture, managers have a lot of power to influence it.

Here are a few simple but highly effective ways to boost your employees’ happiness:

Be Abundantly Transparent

Research shows that transparency is the greatest predictor of employee happiness. Unlike common motivational tactics like bonuses, employee recognition, free food, etc. that give employees a temporary boost of happiness, transparency impacts your team’s overall psychological well-being. Here’s why:

According to the NeuroLeadership Institute, access to information plays a powerful role in employees’ perceived status, their ability to understand and influence what happens to them at work, and their perception of fairness within their organization.

The more transparent leaders are, the more employees feel included, appreciated and empowered to do their jobs well. Thus, to boost your team’s productivity, give them access to all information that doesn’t have to be strictly confidential. You can also consider hosting monthly Q & A sessions where employees are invited to ask questions about anything that interests them.

Read More: Want Employees to Embrace Feedback? Improve Psychological Safety

Recognize Their Achievements

The traditional method of recognizing employees when they reach major milestones isn’t enough to keep them satisfied. The Mercer Global Talent Trends Study found that 97% of employees want to be recognized more frequently and for a wider range of contributions.

To keep your employees happy and productive, privately and publicly celebrate them for reasons including when they:

  • Solve a problem your team has been struggling with for a few months
  • Improve one of their metrics
  • Complete a major project
  • Have a work anniversary
  • Receive great feedback from a client
  • Plus other achievements

Providing these kinds of ongoing recognition ensures that all of your employees feel like valued members of your team and are motivated to be productive at work each day.

Encourage Employees to Take Breaks

Research shows that taking breaks boosts employee productivity, motivation, and creativity. Despite this, a survey from Tork found that nearly 40% of employees feel like they would be negatively judged for just taking lunch breaks.

To ensure your employees have the mental stamina to sustain their productivity, you need to make them feel comfortable taking breaks. Here’s how:

  • If you notice that one of your direct reports is stressed out, encourage them to take a break.
  • Have leaders at your company set a positive example by occasionally spending their lunch breaks in shared spaces around the office.
  • Create comfortable spaces in your office where employees can take breaks away from their desks.

Though empowering your employees to take regular breaks reduces the amount of time they work, they’ll accomplish more since they’re able to complete work faster and more accurately.

2Set Clear, Individual Goals with All Your Employees

A Gallup report found that only about half of employees fully understand what’s expected of them at work. This stat is surprising given how performance-oriented most business are. However, only 12% of managers helps employees set individual work priorities and only 13% help them set performance goals.

Read More: 4 Goals Every Growth-Driven Manager Should Have

As a result, the majority of employees don’t know if they’re focused on the right things and it’s negatively impacting their productivity by 5%-10%.

To maximize your team’s efficiency, you need to set clear, individual goals for everyone on your team. Here’s how:

  • Create a set of quarterly and annual goals for your team. They should be objective, action-oriented, and tied to your company’s overall goals.
  • Break your team’s objectives into individual goals. As you’re creating the goals, consider each of your employees’ strengths and interests. This will allow you to assign priorities to the people who are most likely to succeed at them.
  • Share the goals with your team. Give every employee a clear outline of the projects and metrics they’re responsible for achieving.
  • Review your employees’ goal progress on a monthly basis. These meetings give you an opportunity to assess your team’s performance and clear up any confusion or other issues they’re having.

Giving your employees greater clarity about their goals will immediately boost their productivity by ensuring they’re focused on the tasks that drive their success.

3Provide Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities

Studies show that providing ongoing professional development opportunities improves employee productivity, loyalty, and engagement.

Now more than ever, employees want and need to be constantly learning to be able to do their jobs effectively. To sustain a productive workforce, you need to invest in ongoing skills training.

If your organization doesn’t have the time or financial resources to create professional development programs, you can leverage existing courses on e-learning sites such as UdemyLinkedIn LearningSkillsSoft, and Coursera.

To get a greater ROI from those programs, curate courses that are directly aligned with the skills your employees need to improve and sustain their productivity.

Read more: 4 Strategies to Ignite a Culture of Continuous Improvement

4Empower Your Employees to Adopt the Productivity Habits that Work Best for Them

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when trying to improve workforce productivity is creating a culture where everyone feels forced to conform to a strict ideal of what being productive looks like.

For some organizations, this means having frequent business lunches, attending as many meetings as possible, and constantly collaborating with others – regardless of if people actually need their help for their projects.

For others, being productive means eating lunch at your desk, working long hours, and constantly striving to ensure your work stands out from the rest of the team rather than collaborating with colleagues to ensure everyone succeeds.

Regardless of what the cultural productivity standards are, they hinder the performance of a large portion of your workforce whose natural work styles don’t fit your expectations.

To increase employee productivity, you need to empower your team to develop productivity habits that are best suited for their personality and energy rhythms.

Often, employees have spent most of their careers adapting to their environments so, at first, they may not know what works for them. Here are some questions you can ask in your one-on-ones to help your direct reports figure out how to work most productively:

  • What time of day do you have the most energy? Do your most challenging work then.
  • Do you prefer working alone or in groups? To the greatest extent possible, empower your employees to change how frequently they collaborate with others.
  • Do prefer taking several short breaks or one to two long breaks throughout the day? Encourage them to do whatever works best.
  • Do you resonate with a particular productivity system? Tell your employees to research various methods and consider adopting one that’s a good fit for their personality.

As a leader, you should engage in an ongoing dialogue with your employees about what you can both do to maximize their productivity.

5Maximize Your Team’s Productivity

Your team’s productivity matters now more than ever. Empower them to focus on building your business by letting them offload all of their tedious, non-strategic tasks. Learn how by checking out our free guide How to Give Your Team Leverage with Virtual Assistants. In it, you’ll learn: 

  • What kinds of time-saving tasks your team can offload
  • How we work with you to maximize the ROI of our service
  • Our process for securely leveraging your systems