People + Process = Performance

8 Tips to Improve Employee Productivity

Productivity and efficiency—two buzz words that are talked about and heard continually from large to small businesses.  Why?  The productivity and efficiency of people and operations can make or break a business.  Unfortunately we can’t snap our fingers and make high productivity happen all by itself.  However, significant improvements are common when you apply the right principles, guidelines and tools to your business systems and processes.

Throughout my career I’ve had opportunities to improve productivity, save time and reduce injuries.  I can remember one time when I was able to reduce employee injuries by 80% and improve their productivity by 50% within one year within a environmental services department.  I was amazed and impressed by the results at the time.  Now I understand it to be the result using LESS (Lean, Ergonomics, Six Sigma and Systems Engineering) and following principles below.

8 Tips to Productive Employees

  1. Make sure each employee is a good fit to their position and job tasks.  This means physically and mentally.  People tend to perform at their highest potential when their abilities match their jobs.  Don’t give someone a physically demanding job if their body isn’t built for it, likewise, don’t give someone a position that requires excellent concentration and focus when they have difficulty staying on task.  The same can be said for putting people in positions of leadership who lack exceptional organization and leadership skills and talents.  Most everyone is capable of learning new skills or improving their physical condition but why force someone to do something when other things come naturally.  Employees who do something that is intuitive and part of their natural talents will be more productive.
  2. Invest in the learning and growth of your workforce.  I start off the article by stating that the productivity of your people will make or break you.  Well, if their skills and knowledge don’t keep up with the demands of the job then you have a problem.  If you are asking them to provide ideas and suggestions on how to improve processes but don’t give them training on the principles of LESS (Lean, Ergonomics, Six Sigma and Systems Engineering), how do you expect them to contribute valuable ideas?  Give them clear job descriptions, define their roles and responsibilities and provide relevant, preferably hands-on training and educational activities.
  3. In keeping connection with the above be sure to set performance standards and goals (stretch them a bit when appropriate) that engage workers and give them a chance to succeed.  Hold workers accountable for them.  Short term goals are best as people’s performance and productivity increases as they get closer to the goal.
  4. Create a business culture where productivity, efficiency and safety are equally recognized and rewarded.  (Of course, this relies on having effective business systems already.)  Where everyone is encouraged and free to ask and honestly answer “Why are we doing things this way?”  This is the only way for continuous improvement to survive and thrive within a company
  5. Design the work environment (facility layout, workstation, equipment, tools, policies and procedures) to support and enhance the abilities of the people and the execution of the systems and processes.  All too often people are asked to do things are certain way when in reality that are prohibited from doing so because of the work environment.
  6. Avoid all unnecessary and “treadmill” meetings and hold only actionable meetings.  Have you ever thought to add up the amount of time people spend in meetings?  Of those meetings how many were “really good” and how many were “were meeting just for meeting’s sake”?  Think of how much productivity is lost from meetings.  Ann Latham, from Uncommon Clarity, describes treadmill meetings as those where things are discusses over and over and items rehashed again and again with no outcomes.  She encourages meetings that are actionable, meaning topics are discussed with action items assigned and followed up on.
  7. Measure performance and provide/receive performance feedback frequently and transparently.  We’ve all probably heard that what gets measured gets done.  Well, the same is true for performance.  According to Thomas Monson, “when performance is measured performance improves.  When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates”.  The flip side of this is to tell workers their measurements and let them know where they stand in relation to the performance goals.  They can’t improve if they don’t know.  They may not have any idea how their performance impacts the company—thereby impacting the bottom line, their employee benefits and salary.
  8. Create small work teams/groups that focus on achieving different organizational goals.  These small groups are where LESS (Lean, Ergonomics, Six Sigma and Systems Engineering) becomes More, meaning they are focused on reducing waste, improving the design of the work within their area but also with all other areas in which they “touch” and building in continuous improvement processes.  They have the building blocks on which their work and that of others depends on for improving and growing the organization.  These groups are capable of bringing added resources, talents, ideas and energy toward the achieving the organizations goals.

Bottom Line


Having a work environment with good design and good systems which incorporate the above will lead to increased employee productivity, efficiency and safety—GUARANTEED!  And, if your people are performing their best and enjoying their work they will also stay with the company longer which is a productivity boost in itself.