Effective leaders establish the conditions needed for the productivity of their teams. They model efficient work habits and draw from a whole toolbox of powerful management practices that set up an environment for employees to perform their very best
Conversely, it’s also important to understand the conditions that cause individuals or entire teams to be unproductive. Today, staff rely on leadership more than ever to help them from spinning their wheels or suffering overwhelming burnout in our reality of living with the economic and societal changes of COVID-19.
Take a break
Burnout is one of the most pervasive issues facing workers, and the ongoing stress of the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. High achievers will naturally push themselves too far until they lose motivation or put their health at risk. Unrelenting overwork also leads to a lack of productivity and lower retention levels. A survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA) stated that up to 75% of employees have experienced burnout. The pandemic has added to the toll, as 40% reported their feeling of being burned out was directly related.
One of the contributors to burnout is that the line between home and work life has been blurred since so much of the workforce is now working from their home. A leader sets the standards, both for a strong work ethic and for knowing when to take a step away from work to recharge.
Encourage staff to take regular breaks to refresh themselves physically and mentally, so they can return with more energy, creativity, and a renewed sense of purpose. Of the 1,500 workers polled in the report, 56% reported that workplaces offering flexibility throughout the workday would help combat burnout.
Ownership and accountability
When you give ownership to employees for their projects or specific jobs, you show trust and respect. It gives the sense that you believe they can accomplish the task, which in turn builds self-esteem. And instead of being micromanaged, staff are empowered with autonomy. They are in charge of their work, which increases motivation, happiness, job satisfaction, and, ultimately, productivity. There’s also a bonus for leaders—when staff take ownership, leadership has more time to focus on other important areas of the business.
There are two key elements that must be put in place for employees to take ownership and be successful. First, clear goals and expectations have to be defined so that all parties understand the objectives. Second, employees need to be held accountable for the work they have committed to completing. They are responsible for results.
Holding individual staff accountable sometimes means having difficult conversations. On the other hand, avoiding the problem is worse. Dodging the issue indicates to the employee that their work is not valued, or that engagement and taking responsibility for unmet goals is not important to the employer. A lack of accountability can also brew resentment among other co-workers, who subsequently have to pick up the slack for their underperforming teammate.
Set attainable goals
Burnout can also come as a result of continuously pursuing goals that are not realistic or attainable. Employees are motivated both by reaching goals, and knowing that they are getting closer to long-term goals each day.
As a leader, it’s critical to both outline and communicate strategic targets and goals, and understand your team’s capacity for accomplishing them. By pursuing the right goals and committing to less, staff will have a better chance of reaching their targets. To ensure teams’ day-to-day tasks stay aligned with long-term goals and instill a strong sense of purpose, be sure to consistently reinforce the company’s core values. This helps everyone on your team to realize when they are making a wrong turn, or working on tasks that are not aligned with long-term goals.
Employees are far more likely to be engaged if they feel management is listening to them. In a report by Salesforce, employees reported feeling 4.6 times more empowered to do their best if they feel their voice is heard. Ultimately, employees who are heard know they can make a difference, and that their ideas matter to the company.
However, being an active listener is so much more than simply being quiet while the other person talks. Active listening involves paying attention, and confirming or clarifying what you have heard. It requires deferring judgement, and responding appropriately. Instead of explaining how a problem should be solved, give staff an opportunity to think the problem through and encourage them to offer solutions.
Instituting regular feedback reviews on performance encourages an environment of learning and contributes to improved productivity. A study by SHRM/Globoforce reported that 89% of HR leaders agree that routine peer check-ins and feedback result in positive outcomes for their organizations.
Reviews offer a chance to provide constructive feedback and praise for a job well done. This is also a good time to ask if the employee what you, other colleagues or the company could do to help them improve.
Increasing productivity in the workplace is not a one-and-done event or course correction, it is the continuous implementation and fine-tuning of human-centered approaches that help create a truly productive environment.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder & Managing Partner of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing IT consulting, growth advisory, and digital transformation services. As a strategic, delivery-focused leader, he works with organizations to change their thinking when it comes to technology, implementing solutions that achieve organizational efficiencies and improve the end user experience.
Known for his ability to see the big picture, Ashiq draws on his expertise to help organizations align their technology with their business goals.
Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
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