How to Boost Employee Productivity

Keep lines of communication open and provide adequate training.

Every remodeler wants company employees to be more productive, but most don't know how to achieve this lofty goal. They simply tell workers to "work harder," and usually, not much happens.

To really improve productivity, remodelers must change employees' attitudes, first by learning to listen and then by improving current systems and providing educational opportunities to enhance the team's strengths and effectiveness.

The best way to improve existing systems is by asking employees how they would change things, says training consultant Arte Maren. Arte bases his programs on the Hubbard Management System, developed by educator and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The Hubbard system is used by Fortune 500 companies and thousands of small companies around the world. Arte also moderates the television show BusinessWise, which appears on 15 stations nationwide.

Two factors are key, Maren says: communication and training.

Communication

"Keep communication open to the guys in the field and the front office," Maren says. "If you trust them and they're producing, they'll tell you what needs to be done." You can gather the information through a formal survey or by just talking with key people. He adds that employees can be surveyed as often as four times a year, which will help ensure that problems don't go unknown.

The reason to survey employees is that management should consider employees to be "internal customers" who must be served as completely as clients, Maren says. Conducting such surveys tells employees they're a significant part of the company. It's also important that any goals that are set for them are created in conjunction with their input. "Employees won't sell what they don't own," Maren says. "If they don't 'own' the goals, they won't feel responsible if they don't reach them."

Productivity also rises when managers provide ongoing feedback to employees, letting them know when they're doing well and when they need to correct a problem. This encourages them to repeat the activities that gained them success and accolades. Maren suggests conducting performance reviews at least twice and ideally four times a year, discussing good points and areas for improvement. These should be done separately from promotions and income adjustments.

Training

Of course, surveys don't improve productivity unless their results are acted on. That often requires training, a subject near and dear to Maren's heart. "Empowering employees to solve problems can ensure high customer satisfaction, but ensuring that employees know how to respond in each situation requires training. Training is the No. 1 factor in better productivity."

Too often, managers assume all employees know how to respond to problems and are surprised when each person responds differently, causing confusion or making things worse. But if the company has a consistent policy and all employees are aware of it and how to implement it, they can achieve the highest possible level of quality as well as higher productivity. On the other hand, a failure to understand how to perform activities correctly can lead to frustration or cutting corners, which worsens problems.

Employees want to excel, Maren stresses. "Every employee wants to do a fantastic job, but management often doesn't take the time to make sure that they can do so through good two-way communication and adequate training."

The upshot? If you want more productive employees, you have to boost your own productivity first.

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