8 reasons why employee productivity may suffer (by Insperity)

Your business is only as good as your employees. If they’re not performing to expectations, productivity — and the bottom line — are destined to suffer.

But people aren’t robots and recognizing that is key to optimizing productivity. If you want to be sure your employees deliver their personal best, take a close look at your company’s environment and stamp out these productivity killers.

1. Lack of big-picture view

To feel that what they do is important, employees need to know how their work contributes to the overall success of the company.

Every company should identify components called key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate success for each employee’s position. Show team members how their piece of the puzzle fits into the organization’s goals.

For instance, if a call center needs to handle 100 calls an hour to make corporate customer service goals, each of the call center’s 10 employees will need to handle 10 calls an hour.

Once KPIs are identified, monitor them and measure compliance. Without using scare tactics, let employees know the risks of not meeting goals, such as downsizing or losing market share.

2. Poor supervision

If a group’s productivity is lagging, consider a closer look at the supervisor. Managers sometimes miss the mark by:

  • Not being consistent or transparent
  • Micromanaging or not giving enough supervision
  • Not providing enough time to complete tasks
  • Playing favorites

Carefully read employee reviews of managers for potential problems. If you see recurring themes, reach out to the manager to find out if there are ways the company can help make them more effective.

Be proactive to include managers in decision-making and help them feel supported. Meet with them consistently and encourage open communication to be sure KPIs are on target.

3. Poor communication

Communication is a two-way street. You need to communicate with employees, but you also need to provide opportunities for employees to voice opinions and concerns.

Let people know the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your business. If they know the business’s goals, they can better see how they fit in with them.

For instance, if you know downsizing is on the horizon, but you’re afraid to tell your employees, rest assured they will find out. Rumors will fly and fear will set in. It’s much better to level with them.

Feeling like management doesn’t listen is a common reason employees don’t feel engaged. It’s important to create a safe place for employees to vent their opinions — good, bad or indifferent — and be sure the venting doesn’t show up in their reviews. This may be a manager with an open door policy, human resources or an employee assistance program.

Be sure your company has a formal, documented grievance policy to ensure all complaints are handled fairly and consistently. Detail the process in your employee handbook, complete with clear instructions of whom to contact with issues.

4. Lack of delegation

 Leaders are notorious for not being able to delegate because they don’t want to cede control of their baby. This results in an overworked leader as well as a workforce with low self-esteem and team buy-in.

If a supervisor continually leans on one person, that person becomes overloaded, and the rest of the team becomes disengaged. The overloaded employee burns out, eventually joining the ranks of the disengaged.

5. Inconsistency 

When a work group constantly changes direction or doesn’t value consistent processes, it’s often because those at the top don’t have a clear understanding of the group’s role or the company’s goals and vision.

If the rules are always changing, employees may be too distracted to get the work done or, worse yet, just give up.

Inconsistency at the top has a downstream impact on every department, and consequently on the client. Work to:

  • Set a clear vision and objectives for the company and each work group
  • Monitor and measure KPIs for all positions
  • Be transparent and communicate the company and team goals at regular meetings

6. Inappropriate behavior 

Actions that violate company policy or corporate integrity, including sexual harassment, discrimination, stealing, breaking the dress code, and even coming to work late or starting rumors, can cause discomfort and distraction.

Employees may suffer anxiety and sleepless nights wondering if they should say something and risk getting caught in the middle. You can help mitigate this by providing a risk-free environment for expressing concerns, without the fear of retaliation.

Be sure behavior expectations are documented in the employee handbook. Address any issues early, before they have a chance to spread contagion.

7. Inadequate technologies

Technology changes quickly, and if your employees are working with old tools they will not be as effective as they could be. Stay up with the trends used by your customers and competitors.

Ask your employees what they need to be more effective and efficient. They likely have a better idea than you do, and they’ll appreciate your interest.

You don’t need to make any commitments. Just listen. Maybe you can say, “I can’t make any promises, but I’d like to get your suggestions.”

8. Lack of acknowledgement

When one member of a team goes above and beyond, co-workers see that. They also see if it isn’t acknowledged and figure, “Why bother?”

The stellar employee feels it, too, and most likely will be sending out resumes soon.

We all like a pat on the back when we’re doing a good job. A casual “Well done!” in the hall or calling the person out in a meeting is sometimes all it takes.

If you’re thinking of starting a recognition program, it has to mean something — or it’s just white noise. When an employee excels, document the incident and put it in their file for consideration at their annual review.

Since preferred methods of recognition are different for each person and work group, consider a survey to identify what employees prefer.

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