Six Principles to Improve Workplace Efficiency

by Jimmy L. Smith, Jim Smith Quality

Employee productivity is important to any business—and it can have a huge impact on the bottom line. The more efficient your employees, the more successful you’ll be as a business.

Most agree that employee productivity is important, but there’s a lot of misinformation about it. There are countless leaders doling out advice on productivity. Sometimes, this advice is good; other times, it’s not backed in reality. The bottom line is to get all employees engaged in the common goals of the organization, meeting its customers’ needs and expectations.

Sounds fundamental, doesn’t it? But things that sound basic and fundamental aren’t always easy to achieve.

Some experts claim that as much as 70 percent of the U.S. workforce doesn’t feel engaged, which seems to be a conundrum. More and more companies report increasing the number of teams in the workforce, which typically translates into activities like brainstorming and idea-sharing. They believe these activities translate into worker engagement, but it isn’t that simple.

In fact, companies that spend a lot of time in these and related activities may even suffer productivity losses, with less time dedicated to performing primary work. After all, it takes more than just setting aside time for workers to sit on a team. But if actions are taken on the outcome (suggestions) of these activities, companies can improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

The answer is to find the right formula to increase workplace efficiency. Creating teams to brainstorm and share ideas is certainly part of the answer, but it takes more than that. Certainly, companies need to generate and support a culture which inspires workers to become more engaged—data suggests that workers who feel engaged are as much as 38 percent more productive.

How to achieve these engagement and productivity gains depends on the culture of the organization, but following certain management principles can have significant benefits in creating an engaged team:

  1. Clarity of expectation. Workers won’t be efficient if they don’t know what’s expected. Effort should be made to ensure assignments are as clear as possible. Workers need to know exactly what is expected of them, and specifically, what impact their assignment—and achievement of the goal—will have for them and the organization. They can then relate their output to the bigger picture and feel ownership of what they’ve been asked to perform.
     
  2. Match tasks and skills. Knowing the worker’s skills and behavioral styles are essential for maximizing efficiency. Not every worker is capable of doing everything—some tasks require more skill, thought, sensitivity or attention to detail. Therefore, matching workers with those traits to these assignments increased energy and excitement. A young manufacturing supervisor, for example, found that assigning workers to specific tasks increased efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.

    Some workers struggle when assigned detail-oriented tasks. It’s not because they perform poorly or are not dedicated; it’s simply because they don’t have the behavioral style to be as efficient in some situations. Before giving a worker an assignment, ask yourself: “Is this the person best suited to perform this task?” If not, find someone else whose skills and styles meet the needs of the task.
     
  3. Train and develop. Helping workers expand their skillsets is one of the best ways to develop a more productive and capable workforce. Without expending a lot of money, there are numerous ways to support employee development: cross-training, individual coaching, courses, job shadowing, mentoring, or even by just expanding their responsibilities. Giving workers additional skills can improve both their efficiency and productivity, while preparing them for promotional opportunities.
     
  4. Delegate. As workers receive more training, their development path can be enhanced by delegation. Give responsibilities to qualified workers and trust that they will perform the tasks well. This gives workers the opportunity to polish their skillset, confidence and leadership experience.
     
  5. Reward by deed. Regardless of their position, recognizing workers for a job well done makes them feel appreciated. I recall a time when I presented an intangible award to a company vice president. Her reaction was no different than other workers—one of general appreciation. Although she was already a supporter of employee recognition, she became a stronger advocate after her experience. When deciding how to reward efficient workers, make sure to: 1) match the reward with the deed; and 2) take into account their individual preferences. (For example, some like public recognition, while others are more private.)
     
  6. Productive feedback. Efficiency doesn’t just happen, and workers aren’t psychic. If people don’t know they are inefficient, there is little chance of increasing worker efficiency. Conduct positive discussions using specific situations, and stress ideas for efficiency improvements. Creating a culture of open dialogue will generate continued development over time. Remember, it’s a journey—not a destination.

By simply implementing these six actions, you can improve the efficiency of your team—no action by others is needed. And by improving worker engagement, efficiency and productivity, one can energize their workforce to impact the company’s bottom line. iBi

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