It is easy for us to complain about how our employees don’t live up to our expectations. Yet, how often do we ask ourselves if we are enabling our employees to be effective and productive? I would say, not often enough.
Effectiveness and productivity are important because an employee can effectively execute his job duties, but if his job description isn’t tightly aligned to our expectations, we may not consider him to be a productive employee. In the same way, a productive employee may crank out work and get things done quickly, but if his work isn’t being used then you may not consider him an effective employee.
The word effective is defined as “producing a desired result, or ready for service or action.” If our employees produce work that is aligned with expectations and strategy, and they do it in a timely and efficient manner, then we’ve hit a gold mine. Making employees both productive and effective is easier said than done, but there are six ways to marry the two.
- Create a clearly defined strategy that is easily communicated and understood. A strategy must originate from upper management, and then cascade into a properly designed organization. Encourage this process by investing in information and tools to help front-line managers better understand their people, so that they can form and maintain cohesive, stellar teams.
- Design your departments in such a way that the positions within each department can easily execute the strategy. Clearly define the attributes of people who fit the culture. Then, you can use that standard to support your hiring decisions. Proactively identify and develop effective front-line managers.
- Ensure that each job not only has a job description, but distinct and measurable goals. For example, make sure that three people are never doing the work of two. Productive companies closely monitor and benchmark individual contribution. They assess and reassess priorities to determine what work is most important and what activities can be streamlined because they don’t add sufficient value. Clearly align roles and responsibilities with the goals of the organization so that your employees can help execute the strategy. Clear goals help employees focus on the outcomes that matter most to the organization.
- Create a system that can monitor how each employee contributes to the overarching strategy. One-on-one meetings and open communication will encourage employees to stay focused and accomplish their goals. Performance-driven cultures—where actions and results speak louder than words – are often most effective. Executives should be in constant contact with front-line managers so that the people under them are always on track and focused. It is always helpful when the department manager sets goals and benchmarks for each employee, but then allows the employee to formulate the strategy for accomplishing the assigned goals.
- Allow employees to take ownership of their duties and goals. When you allow employees to take ownership, you provide with them with a valuable opportunity to learn how to manage their own success. Open communication and team work are essential. When the team knows how they fit into the overall purpose, and they also know how their peers contribute to the purpose, then they are more connected and committed to the company’s success. Failure should not be discouraged because risk taking helps drive innovation leaps. When employees are encouraged to try new things without the fear of being reprimanded for failing, they are more likely to push themselves and exceed expectations.
- Be flexible and open-minded to necessary adaptations and alterations. Just as clarity of purpose drives productivity, so does flexibility drive efficiency. Productive companies are more flexible than their peers in handling special circumstances such as special projects, peak demand periods and unplanned employee absences. Full-time employees are cross-trained to cover for one another in times of short-term need. The most productive companies cultivate good sources of contract and temporary labor and have good practices to ensure they deliver what is expected. Innovation results from incremental improvements to, and the fine tuning of, existing strategies and processes.
When these six best practices are executed in a company from the top down, you will create a culture that attracts and sustains people who will make the company more efficient, and subsequently more productive.