Labor productivity can be a surprisingly elusive topic, especially if labor costs are spiraling out of control. You think it’s something you can chart, track, and parse, but then it turns out to involve a lot of relative unknowables like morale, volition, and focus. Even when dealing with these more abstract elements, however, there are still actionable steps you can take to address them and increase your company’s overall productivity. Let’s take a look at 4 steps that we think can garner some real results.
Remember that business culture matters.
“Business culture” may be one of those terms that smacks of corporate speak, but it’s an important and valid concept that should be addressed at any company, no matter the company’s focus or scope. Take a look at the culture at your company and what types of attitudes and practices it’s encouraging. What should you be hoping to find at the core of your company’s culture? Healthy employee morale and practices that reinforce that positive morale. Employees who believe in a company and its efforts are guaranteed to be more productive in their work… but you knew that already, right? Well then, make it happen.
Ask yourself every day…What can we change?
Real productivity comes from reinvestigating and realigning practices nearly every day. Seriously, every day. Are we doing this in the best possible way? What new approaches can we consider? Yes, it sounds exhausting, but in the big picture, it makes everything function much more effectively. Using the same approaches and practices day in and day out for years is not only bad business, it’s bad for morale. Encourage and foster an attitude of change and exploration, both on the individual level and on the team level. You’ll see how quickly everyone’s productivity increases. A great tool to consider? Setting up a central white board where employees can post suggestions and questions. Let your employees use it as a place to improvise and brainstorm new ideas, and see what they come up with.
Automate or upgrade wisely.
When seeking change, don’t automate or upgrade just because it’s the thing to do— make sure that you are making carefully considered choices that integrate well with your existing processes and actually improve overall workflow. Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people just upgrade for the sake of upgrading. An automated employee time clock will obviously be more efficient than filling out and processing time cards by hand, but other steps toward automation might not be as productive. In fact, they might create more problems than they solve. A solution with a steep learning curve, for example, could reduce productivity long enough that it actually does some real damage. And of course, you don’t want to eliminate the human element where it’s necessary.
Enlist your employees.
Assemble productivity teams who can spend some time looking at in-house practices and brainstorming on how best to improve and streamline them with an eye on increasing productivity. Two thoughts here— giving your employees this kind of power can help motivate them and increase their own productivity, and can also helps to foster a team and company-oriented mentality that might be lacking and dragging productivity down. Also, no one understands the nuts and bolts at your company better than your employees. They’ll have a unique perspective and intuition for improving productivity that you might not have on your own.
These four steps provide a good core for approaching the eternally mind-bending conundrum of increasing productivity. Do you have ones that you think work as well? Mention them in the comments below.