27 January 2015

How To Increase Employee Productivity Without Being A Bad Guy

Being a good boss works.

You don’t have to take my word for it—there are lots of case studies and examples out there proving that you don’t have to be a jerk in order to have your employees work harder. In fact, one of those studies illustrates that being a good boss can increase your employee’s productivity a lot. How much?

“Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team.”
Freakonomics

Numbers are helpful, but there’s another way to think about it—have you ever had a boss you really hated? How much did it take to go to work, and actually do good work, under them? Probably a lot. The numbers show that, too: bad bosses drain productivity and cost a lot more than money.

Let’s take a brief moment to talk about what “good” vs. “bad” means—it doesn’t mean you let your employees get away with doing less than excellence. In fact, to many employees, it means the opposite: great bosses are tough, critical but not criticizing, and meet with their employees on a face-to-face basis. It’s not easy to be a good boss, but the proof is in the pudding that doing the right things is how to increase employee productivity. We’ll break down increasing employee productivity into three categories: motivation, incentive, and monitoring, and share several methods on how to work to make your employees better without making you a bad guy.

Step 1: Motivate

Motivation is an intrinsic value: in order to increase employee productivity, you need to help your employees understand why doing their jobs well is personally valuable to them. Naturally, if all employees believed that their jobs were worth doing, we’d have an easier time getting them to work! Nonetheless, there are several things you can do to build a culture of motivation in your business.

  1. Praise your employees for the good things they do (not just the good work they do). This not only motivates them—83% of employees surveyed in one poll said being recognized for their contributions was more fulfilling than any rewards or gifts.
  2. Recognize their efforts in front of the whole team.
  3. Help them grow personally and professionally.
    • Learn your employees’ names—here’s why it matters.
    • Take the time to meet one-on-one with your employees several times throughout the year.
    • Find out where they see themselves in a month, a year, and in five years and then help them build a plan of growth to help reach their goals.
  4. Ask them what motivates them. One of the most effective ways you can help your employee add value to your organization is by capitalizing on the things that really matter to them and correlating that to aspects of their job. It not only helps them identify how improvement can benefit them in and out of the office, but it provides you with more information you can use to be a better supervisor.

Step 2: Incentivize

Once you’ve laid the groundwork of motivating, you can add extrinsic motivators to help bring about the changes you’re looking for as well as unify your team. Incentives that offer money or a tangible reward in exchange for doing a certain behavior (or for not doing that behavior) can increase performance by as much as 44%! Here are some best practices for incentivizing your employees:

  1. Establish long-term programs (lasting longer than six months).
  2. Create open-ended incentives that don’t limit the number of winners or chance of success and give every employee a chance to claim the reward. These type of incentives focus on individual growth vs. competition. For example, instead of offering your five-person staff the chance to win one of two-$100 gift cards, offer each person the opportunity to win the gift card based on meeting his or her goals.

    According to a study from the Incentive Research Foundation, programs that reward performance based on meeting or exceeding goals generate the most positive results.

  3. Make sure you actually follow through on your incentives. This one is a no-brainer, but falling short will have the opposite effect on your team.
  4. Don’t limit your incentives to extra compensation. Consider some of the following incentives:
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Vacation time
    • Opportunity to work remotely
    • Incentives based on employee hobbies (concert or movie tickets, festivals, gift cards for books or music, for example)
    • In-kind rewards supplied by your business partners or your business itself

Step 3: Monitor

You’ve started motivating and incentivizing employees, but how do you know your plans are working? Monitoring your employees is the easiest way to get the data you need. Here are several ways you can solicit that feedback:

  1. Be present with your employees and watch them work. Don’t give them a chance to think you aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing (or not doing)—this helps you nip secret behaviors in the bud.
  2. Ask employees to self-monitor through project plans, checklists, and activity logs.
  3. Rely on your entire team to give feedback about individuals, both anonymously and when identified.
  4. Use tools and software that can help you monitor your employees when you can’t be there. One bonus to this type of monitoring: it’s not biased. That means you’re cutting hearsay out of the equation and relying on evidence to show you your employee’s productivity.
    • Call recording and scorecards help you identify how how well your employees are doing on the phone by providing a sample of calls so you’ll know what they’re saying. Implementing scorecards usually provides a 10-15% uptick in sales; with call recording, you’ll also know exactly what was said and who said it. You can use that information to train your employees (or take other measures as necessary).
    • If your employees are self-monitoring, use a project management software like Basecamp or Teamwork that combines everyone’s assignments and due dates and makes tracking progress easily accessible for the whole team.
    • Block websites you don’t want your employees to use.
    • Monitor email, phone, and internet usage, but be sure to alert employees of this activity beforehand.

Most employers don’t want to be seen as the big bad boss. By motivating, incentivizing, and monitoring your employees, you’re creating a team environment that can boost morale, productivity, and ultimately, your market share.