Most startups and small businesses fold within their first two years. And with that in mind, it makes sense that employee productivity can feel like one of the many metrics which can make or break your business. Getting work done efficiently and meeting client deadlines is absolutely critical to build the trust and reliability you need. But that can mesh relatively poorly with the expectations of employees, who often expect that a smaller company will provide them with less stress and more flexibility.
But the worst thing business owners and managers can do is crack the whip to try and squeeze more productivity out of their employees. Employee dissatisfaction usually only increases poor productivity, and makes it more likely that they’ll simply pack up and leave all together. The good news? There is a happy middle-ground where you can both improve employee satisfaction and encourage them to be more productive and efficient in the time they work.
It just takes a little hand-holding. We’ve put together the best tips and tricks to creating a satisfied and more productive workforce for a small business or startup.
If every day at work feels like a sprint with no end in sight, your employees are probably burning out. And if they aren’t yet…they will be. All those studies on how a full night of sleep makes you more productive are on to something: that having periods of rest improve the capacity for productivity. With that in mind, try to build in a few periods in a month where employees can take it slow at work. Tell them to stop sprinting, and take a breather.
You can easily do this and incorporate team-building at the same time by having a company lunch. But you could also make a rewards-based system; for example, if major deadlines are reached early, or big projects are finished with stellar quality, let everyone go home an hour early or have an office party. Rewards are often much more effective encouragement than punishments.
Use the Tools You Need
There’s a wide variety of project-management and workflow efficiency tools on the market. They range in variety from simple, free options like Trello to comprehensive, beefy enterprise systems like Clarizen. This will help break projects into tasks, ensure that everyone has centralized access to necessary assets and data, and even establish collaborator calendars so that team members can receive alerts on everything from meetings to deadlines.
Timeline-based tools which help all members of your small business see the full life cycle of a project tend to increase motivation. Dashboard-type systems which only display immediate tasks obscure the sense of a finish line, meaning there’s less motivation to complete tasks and a little bit more of a tendency to procrastinate.
Give Employees the Right Equipment
Often, employees know exactly what they need to do a better job. But just as often, they’re afraid to ask for it. Whenever you can, ask employees what you can provide to make their job easier. Their answers might surprise you! In many businesses, especially small businesses and startups, delays can happen because employees are sharing equipment or computers, or things just aren’t as up-to-date as they could be.
Keep a list of employee suggestions and prioritize them based on how much benefit they could give your workforce. Sure, it might cost a little cash; but you should always consider an investment to improve your business a worthy one. One of the keys to being a great manager is listening to employee needs and actively responding to them.
Improve Time Management
Many bosses in businesses of all sizes bemoan the time that employees spend on cellphones, Reddit, and social media. But what many don’t know is that small breaks from work can actually help keep employees from burning out. How do you strike a balance?
You can begin improving time management by asking employees to use Pomodoro timers at work. Basically, this system has employees work and focus hard for 25 minutes…and then take small breaks of 5 minutes or less. You’ll find it likely dramatically increases productivity, and since you’re still allowing small breaks, most employees won’t find anything to complain about.
The Bottom Line
Your methods would (and should) be unique to your business and your staff. And there really is no magic bullet for productivity! Implement changes one step at a time, and hunt for solid metrics by which to measure positive changes. And when there are positive changes, reward your employees! A happy employee is far more likely to be productive, at the end of the day.