As a manager, you have a duty to help your team achieve peak productivity. You are their "coach" and how well they win or lose is as dependent on you as it is on them. Fortunately, the ways to support your players are proven and well understood.
While every leader has a different style, these 5 techniques are common to the good ones and should be a part of your daily approach.
1. Appreciate Your Employees (And Show It!)
The first of our productivity improvement techniques is simple-- appreciate employees and praise them for their hard work.
Not showing an employee they're appreciated can do some major damage to their psyche. This is especially true in times of change or transition. Even the best players can question their own skills and contributions when organizational or other change is at hand. Make sure you take extra efforts to deliver employee recognition during these times.
If you don't have a formal appreciation / recognition program, consider building one. You don't have to do this alone - involve HR or find a junior manager who's especially good at recognition to help design a world-class program for your team.
2. Provide Meaningful Feedback
Feedback is absolutely essential to your employees - even those who've been in the workforce for many years. While you may believe employees know where they stand, chances are they don't. Don't wait for annual reviews either but deliver feedback throughout the year.
Remember, also, that positive feedback can be provided in public but negative or constructive feedback should almost always be provided in private. No matter how frustrated or irritated you are, there's never any upside to embarrassing an employee in front of their peers. Doing so will have negative impact on the entire team and will drive a wedge between you and the employee that could be very difficult to remove.
3. Show Them (All) The Money
In most organizations, bonuses go to the senior levels of the company (Directors, VPs, and above) or to sales people who are compensated on specific results. Other team members, who also do a lot of "heavy lifting," are left behind.
Consider building incentives for these team members too. It can be especially fun, engaging, and effective to offer surprise incentives to groups. Offer, for example, $100 gift cards to the entire analytics team if they get all monthly reporting completed a week before the big executive review.
For individual accomplishments, leave a thank you note at the employees desk with gift card or other compensation.
4. Take on Big Challenges as a Team
When employees have been doing a task for weeks or months, they know just what to do and because of this, they are fast and efficient. When they are doing a new task, however, or doing a known task under different conditions, productivity can be significantly decreased.
A team environment eliminates some stress associated with new tasks and allows employees to learn from each other. Even if employees have been trained, consider letting them work as teams until the new work becomes "habit." You'll be surprised at how well employees will motivate each other to get the job done.
5. Ensure Your Support is Always Available
The #1 driver to morale and retention is a supportive manager. Whether it is emotional support in the face of stress, support to allow an employee to deal with a personal challenge, or advocacy for an employee's ideas, management support builds employee goodwill and loyalty. Too often, however, managers are inaccessible.
You may be the busiest member of your team but don't let this show. If an employee comes to you for help, chances are it's important. Put your phone down, look the employee in the eye, and be "present." This will have an amazing impact on the employee - they'll know that YOU consider their work and their challenge important.
Bottom line, the fundamentals of productivity improvement are easy to understand but take time and investment. If you aren't using them today because you have too much on your plate, give them a try anyway - we're confident that your life (and your team's) will get easier!