what can a business do to improve its productivity

Identifying the Obstacles to Employee Productivity

It seems like a fairly straight-forward equation: employee + time = work. However, as any business leader will attest, things are seldom this simple. Employee engagement is a complex thing, dependant upon a variety of factors, and unless you can get to the heart of things with your workers and figure out how to help them stay focused and on task, overall productivity could suffer.

Unfortunately, the success of your business is largely dependant upon the productivity of your workforce. According to research by Dale Carnegie Training, companies with engaged employees outperform those whose employees are not engaged by 202%. As an added concern, it seems as though employee disengagement isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. Studies show that as many as 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged, costing businesses upwards of $450–550 billion every year in lost productivity.

Of course, just because low productivity is common, it doesn’t mean it should be acceptable. Addressing productivity concerns is everyone’s responsibility, and the first step towards improving employee engagement is identifying the problem.

What’s Hurting Your Business’s Productivity?

Employee productivity isn’t a switch that can be turned on or off; it’s a intricate system of variables that each play a part in the overall pattern of engagement. That said, it is possible to figure out where your biggest productivity issues lie. To start, take a look at your employees.

Engagement is often a product of attitude and ability. How do you employees spend their time at work? Are they enthusiastic about what they are doing, or do they face new challenges with an apathetic sigh? How well do they interact with team mates? Are they willing to take responsibility for their mistakes and work to correct them, or do they make excuses? When you know what to look for, disengaged employees are not difficult to identify, and as much as you might not want to do it, sometimes replacing those employees is in the best interest of your business.

Of course, not all of the blame lies with the workforce; management should be accountable for the part it plays. For example, how often are you providing your employees with useful feedback? Of the most highly engaged employees, 43% receive performance feedback on a weekly basis. On the other hand, 32% of employees have to wait three months to receive any sort of feedback from their managers. How involved you are in your employees’ work lives has a direct impact on how involved your employees are at work.

And then there are the times when it’s not you or them, at least not directly. Sometimes the issue is a stifling company culture.

Identify the Productivity Killers in Your Company Culture.

According to David Cummings, cofounder of Pardot, “Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.” A stimulating company culture promotes hard work and engaged employees. On the other hand, an oppressive culture drains employee enthusiasm, resulting in punch-clock workers without accountability or passion.

And while company culture is something that grows naturally as a result of work environment, values, mission, expectations, habits, and company vision, there are certain aspect of culture, there are steps you can take to help promote a culture conducive to productivity.

Here are 5 common culture-related issues that may be killing productivity for your business:

  1. Meetings
    When you work as a team, effective cooperation and communication are essential. As such, it’s no wonder that meetings have become an accepted fact of corporate life, but should they be? 91% of employees daydreaming during meetings, 39% have dozed off during a meeting, 45% feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they are required to attend, 73% bring other work with them to meetings, and as many as 47% complain that meetings are the top time waster in their workday.

    Meetings should be a way for a group of people to brainstorm solutions and make decisions. They should be a lecture where one person (or a select few people) speak to an audience. If you need to disseminate information among a large group of people, email is a much more efficient method. To keep your meetings from negatively affecting employee productivity, make sure that they only include the people who absolutely need to be there, have an agenda to keep everyone on course, and keep everything as short as possible.

  2. Overly strict schedules
    There was a time when most work tools only existed in the office, but that time is long past. Telecommunication and cloud technology is now making it possible for employees to work and collaborate across great distances, so is it really still necessary to demand that workers be at their desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.?

    While some businesses really do rely on employees being in office at specific times, such as when clients may be visiting, many companies stick with strict work schedules just because that’s how they’ve always done things. But ask yourself, do you trust your employees? Because if so, then keeping track of the hours they spend in the office is a waste of everyone’s time; they’ll do their job regardless. If, on the other hand, you don’t trust your employees, then even confining them to their desks isn’t going to ensure a productive workday. Give your workers the autonomy to work when and where is best for them, and they’ll reward you.

  3. Too much stress
    The health costs and missed workdays that are a result of overly stressful work environments cost employers $300 billion annually. With that in mind, office stress levels should be a major concern.


    But what causes office stress? It can be any number of factors, from workplace temperature, to too many deadlines, to hostile coworkers. The problem here is that stress factors will likely change from person to person. However, by creating a way for employees to anonymously bring stressful situations to you attention, you’ll be more able to identify the biggest culprits, and work to resolve them.


  4. Too little recognition
    There’s nothing wrong with expecting a little bit of praise for a job well done. When employers fail to recognize exceptional performance, employees may decide that going above and beyond just isn’t worth the extra effort. According to TINYpulse, 69% of employees would be more productive if their efforts were more appreciated.

    So, how should you be recognizing your best employees? It doesn’t have to be anything too ostentatious. While cash bonuses and other prizes are always welcome, something as simple as a company lunch, a handwritten note, or even just a verbal “good job” can go a long way toward incentivizing employees to perform their best.

  5. Lack of trust
    Often, the difference between an engaged and a disengaged employee is one of ownership. When employees feel like an integral part of the company, they are more invested in seeing it succeed. However, few things distance employees from their employers quite like a lack of trust.

    Limiting business transparency shows your employees that they’re not really part of the team. Likewise, trying to address productivity issues by treating workers like misbehaving children only shows them just how little you expect from them. Prohibiting personal telephone calls, closely monitoring internet usage, or keeping track of every minute of every break (including bathroom breaks) may seem like effective ways to improve productivity, but the resentment employees will feel as a result of being so restricted will likely mean less engagement overall.

Learn how to engage & retain your team

Productivity is Everyone’s Responsibility.

The question then, is this: how does a marketing manager look past those good marketing automation tools, and find the best marketing automation tools? As mentioned, it starts with knowing what the customer wants, but the next step is to know which features will give them that. With that in mind, here are some features to look for in an effective marketing automation tool.

When it comes to low productivity and employee disengagement, it can be easy to point the finger of blame directly at the workers, but the truth is that they are only part of the problem. The equation for employee engagement has a lot of different variables, and unless your business can address them all, it will always be less productive than it could be.

Hire the right people, give them a voice, and treat your employees like the valued partners they are. After all, employee engagement affects your entire organization, which means that identifying and overcoming the obstacles to employee productivity is everyone’s job.  

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