Countless studies have been undertaken to find out what makes a workforce productive. Overwhelmingly, the conclusions have been that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. So in order to make sure your workforce is productive, you should take steps first and foremost to ensure your staff are happy.
But now does a company achieve this goal in continuing difficult economic times, when the obvious incentives of pay rises and bonuses are not always possible? There are lots of different ways to encourage a happy workforce, but all contain the key element of communication.
As managers you need to know your staff and understand the jobs they do. Whether you are in charge of an entire workforce in a smaller company or act as a line manager in a larger firm, your positive interaction with the staff you are responsible for is vital. The importance of good communication between management cannot be over-stressed. It is a very telling fact that seven out of ten people voluntarily leaving a job do so because of an unsatisfactory relationship with their line manager.
Let’s start at the beginning. Provide an effective orientation programme for new employees, including introduction and training, so that they quickly begin to feel part of the team. But don’t stop there. Ongoing training and development is a key factor in motivating your staff. You may provide training sessions or perhaps can offer financial assistance for those who wish to undertake formal education to increase or expand their skills or gain further qualifications. Even offering employees a few hours weekly in which they can further their studies encourages ambition and helps employees to know they are valued and that their goals matter to you.
Still in the area of training and development, offer mentoring to staff who are hoping to progress within the company. Avoid letting employees feel ‘stuck’ in a dead-end job by offering opportunities to progress and even cross-train.
Another essential tool is validation. When an employee goes above and beyond; offers superlative customer service; helps increase profitability; or is otherwise seen as a special asset to the team, make a song and dance about it. Make sure your employees know you appreciate their efforts, Cash bonuses where possible; employee of the month awards; thank you tokens or even a free Friday afternoon are just some of the ways of offering tangible validation for a job especially well done.
Good lines of communication are vital to maintain productivity. If your employees are not happy – don’t learn about it from a downturn in your production statistics. Ensure that employees feel that they have an open line to talk to management about any areas that are troubling them. Equally, make staff aware that their contribution is valued by providing opportunities to discuss ideas and innovations. An old-fashioned but effective tool is the suggestion box, or perhaps monthly brain-storming meetings where staff are encouraged to voice their thoughts and ideas. And don’t forget to act on those ideas when they are viable! You can use these regular meetings to update staff on company progress and plans, making them feel part of the team that engenders progress.
Don’t forget work/life balance. It’s a cliché for a good reason. Employees need to feel that their lives are in balance and that, whilst devoting a good amount of time to productive work, they are able to enjoy their lives, families and interests outside work as well. You need to be aware of this and appreciate that overly long hours regularly spent at work does not increase productivity. Quite the opposite as, if a staff member’s life outside work suffers, they will be unhappy at work, with a proven decrease in productivity as a result.
Incentivising your staff, listening and responding to their needs, offering opportunities for development and advancement and giving genuine validation for work well done, will produce a happy workforce, which has been proven to be the best way to increase and maintain productivity. And that’s not the only benefit. People who are happy at work are more creative and innovative, motivated and dedicated, positive and optimistic. Not only that, but they give your customers better service, sell more, communicate better and work better as a team. Happy employees are less stressed and take fewer sick days, which is yet another tangible benefit and will help to maintain your productivity.
So – bottom line – to keep your workforce productive, keep your employees happy. The above are just some of the ways this can be achieved, but you will not go wrong if you remember that the key is ongoing, effective communication. Know your staff and help them to achieve their goals and to feel valued. It’s a simple equation really – and one that will have a very positive effect on your productivity statistics.