One of the biggest lingering topics of discussion in the business world, from manufacturing to customer service, is increasing team productivity. How do we make our teams more productive? While there are no doubt unique instances within every organization, there are two common factors that impact productivity: Motivation and Direction.
The Two Main Productivity Factors: Motivation and Direction
Increase Team Productivity Through Motivation
Let’s be honest, without some sort of driver, motivator, inspiration or reason why, productivity drops. No one wants to perform monotonous tasks day in and out with no purpose. People want to know that the effort they’re putting in is making a difference in the world. This can be on a global scale or more localized. In any case it must not only be present but refreshed on a regular basis.
Example: Consider the custodial worker of a hospital. Their job could be considered tedious by many. But should they choose to not do their job to the best of their ability, there can be severe consequences (disease, infection, etc.). If positioned correctly the custodian can derive value and motivation from their duties vs going through the motions for their allotted shift.
Scheduled interval sessions
As a leader, take the time to remind your teammates of the impact their efforts has on others (again, can be global or local). The benefit of a team “rally” is to get everyone on board and have them feed off of each other’s energy to build up the perception of the collective impact.
How you organize these meetings is up to your unique organization, though it is highly suggested that the focus has a range from the entire organization down to team designations and individuals. By doing this, you’re ensuring that everyone is seeing the big picture and then understanding the importance of their contribution.
In addition to your scheduled sessions, be sure to engage with your teammates when they’re actually doing their work (unless it’s a safety concern of course).
If you’ve ever been to a motivational seminar, you may have noted that there’s a common trend with the audience. It starts with an inspirational speaker talking about the power of “x” and how applying that to your life will make it better. Most people leave the session with a brand new lease on life, ready to tackle whatever the world throws at them. But then life shows up, optimism dwindles, and too many people go back into default mode. It’s rough.
Don’t let your team fall into this cycle. Instead make it a point to regularly visit with your team(s) and remind them of the importance of their work AND the impact it has on others.
But this is only part of the equation!
Increase Team Productivity Through PROPER Direction
Seems like a pretty straight forward suggestion right? You may be surprised to hear how many times directions are vague or non-encompassing. Either way, we can all agree that without the proper direction, productivity drops.
Before we get in too deep, let’s consider the problems that arise when directions aren’t specific
- The team member has to seek out assistance from another team member. Productivity not only drops for the information seeker but also for the referenced team member.
- The team member completes the task based off of presumption. A dangerous, even potentially fatal, endeavor. In addition, productivity drops as a result of figuring out the right way, fixing mistakes, etc.
- The team member hits a standstill and can’t complete the task. Productivity suffers yet again.
So how do I provide proper direction?
For starters, every organization is unique, therefore a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t very likely to be the best. That being said, there are some general touchpoints that apply universally.
Train From Day One
Walking into a new position is no easy task for anyone. There’s so much to learn and adapt to, without proper orientation team members can become overwhelmed easily. Facilitate a pathway to success.
Before a rookie team member even walks through your door they should have a good idea of what their expectations are. This can include everything from break times and designated locations to job responsibilities. But just because they know that, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to hit the floor. Have the resources ready to prep your newcomers from day one. Keep it focused on the essentials at first and build from there.
- HR policy information and procedures (entering time off requests, how much time off they get, 401K documentation, issue reporting)
- Important area locations (restrooms, breakrooms, walking pathways, department layouts)
- Safety information (Severe weather procedures, safe walking pathways, fire routes)
- Job/task specifics (what to do, why it matters, how to do it, where to find the tools/inputs necessary to do it, troubleshooting references)
This list is only a small snippet of what could be valuable to your team members. Be sure to craft your own set, unique to the respective position, and of course continually update the list to meet evolving needs.
Provide Reference Materials That Can Actually Be Referenced
Keep in mind that no one can remember everything. Even if you’ve taken the time to create an out of this world training program, chances are your team members are going to forget some of it…and that’s a serious problem (review the non-specific directions list above for reasons why).
So how do you handle this?
- Document as much information as you can. From HR policies to job tasks, the more information you have documented, the less chance you’ll have of answering repetitive questions that your team should already have the answers to.
- Document with extreme clarity. This is a big one. Documentation can’t simply be a brief Word doc with vague details about a process. The best information includes images, videos, reference guides, explanations and so on. The information should provide extreme, but relevant, clarity on the task to be done or reference to be made. When done properly, you again minimize the chances of repetitive questions.
- Put that documentation where relevant team members can find it. A reference guide that lives in a long lost filing cabinet does little good for anyone. Additionally, a customer service guide provides almost no value for the manufacturing team. When creating documentation, be sure to consider who the intended audience is and get it into their hands. Don’t overwhelm anyone with information they don’t need and don’t limit anyone by not providing the information they do need.
Constantly Improve Documentation
You’ve developed your training program and your documentation is a definitive guide for all. Nice work! But it’s not over. In order to improve you must actively update. After all, your processes may not change drastically every day but they are changing. The same is true with your policies, products, team members, legislation and so on.
Be sure to keep up with these changes, document them accordingly and please don’t forget about distribution!