Productivity

Photo: Andrik Langfield

4 Proven Techniques to Increase Employee Productivity

The main goal of any company, of course, is to be successful. And the level of employee productivity is one of the crucial factors that makes or breaks the success of a company.

Employee productivity represents the amount of work employees complete in a given time period. An employee who completes more tasks in less time is considered to be more productive. This higher productivity has a number of tangible benefits to a business, including:

  • Making it more profitable
  • Helping it grow
  • Helping it stay competitive on the market

Here are four great techniques you can use to increase employee productivity in your team:

Employee Productivity: The Kanban Approach

Kanban is a time management technique meant to help you track progress on your work, and keep an eye on tasks that are nearing their deadlines.

The practice originated in the 1940s at Toyota and represented a shift in production. Kanban (or lean manufacturing, as it was called back then), allowed Toyota to produce according to customer demands, as fast as possible. As opposed to producing vehicles to push them out on the market.

This practice would influence the creation of Kanban 70 years later. In 2007, David Anderson and Darren Davis developed the same idea of streamlining workflow and increasing productivity. They noticed that the scope of work is easier to visualize once it was presented on a whiteboard.

KISS: Whiteboard and Post-it Notes

  • The whiteboard represents your project
  • The Post-it notes represent your tasks
  • You divide the whiteboard into four columns:
  1. “Backlog” column | For all the tasks that you need to work on.
  2. “To-do” column | For the tasks with a specific deadline.
  3. “Doing” column | Tasks you are currently working on
  4. “Done” column | Tasks you have finished.

Define the task deadlines, assign each task to an employee, and have them move their tasks across columns, in accordance with the progress status of the task (“To-do,” “Doing,” or “Done”).

The approach with the whiteboard and Post-it notes is just an illustrative example. Alternatively, you can use Kanban-based software to track your project progress.

In any case, ensure your Kanban board is available to your employees at any time. This way, everyone will be able to see at a glance:

  • The progress status of each task
  • Who is working on what
  • Whether a task is nearing its deadline, indicating it should be a priority

By knowing all this, you’ll make work more organized, structured, and easy to track, directly increasing employee productivity as a result.

Time Blocking

Time blocking is a time management approach which mandates that all tasks have a predefined time frame and calendar slot during which employees will work on them.

Although its origins are said to exist as far back as calendars themselves, the earliest known user is said to be Benjamin Franklin. He used to take note of everything he did during the day, hour by hour. Blocking off times for chores, rest, relaxation and deep work. One could say he was the modern employer of the time blocking technique.

And today, hundreds of years later, it has proven to be a great technique to increase employee productivity levels on all types of tasks.

To implement time blocking, instruct your employees to:

  • List all their tasks, in order of priority.
  • Allocate a certain amount of time to each task. For example:
    1. First Task: 15 minutes
    2. Second Task: 45 minutes
    3. Third Task 3: 1 hour
  • Slot each task in a calendar. For example:
    1. First Task: 8 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.
    2. Second Task: 8:15 a.m. – 9 a.m.
    3. Third Task: 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
  • Work on the tasks in the order you blocked time for them. Don’t spend more time on a task than what you blocked. As soon as the time block for Task 1 is up, move on to Task 2. Continue in the same manner until the end of the list.

The principle of this productivity-increasing technique is simple: all employees who make feasible time blocking schedules, and then stick to them, will be able to finish their tasks as planned and maintain full control over their time as a result.

The Eisenhower Matrix: Identify Priority Tasks

Productivity is not just about working fast, but also about ensuring enough time is spent on the right tasks — i.e., your priority tasks. One of the best approaches that can help you with that is the Eisenhower Matrix.

Its originator is Dwight D. Eisenhower himself. He was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WW2, the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and went on to become the 34th president of the United States. With his life of warfare and politics, Eisenhower was required to make tough choices under immense pressure. Countless sources credit him for creating a method that aims to achieve exactly that — to see your priorities and make informed, yet quick decisions.

And decades later, the Eisenhower Matrix expanded to become a time management technique that also helps businesses organize tasks in a way that lets employees easily recognize priorities.

To implement it, take 10 minutes each morning to go through the project tasks for that day.

They can be, for example:

  • Writing a marketing strategy for the new project
  • Preparing reports for the big client update meeting
  • Solving the most immediate bugs from the day before
  • Going through customer support analytics for the past quartal

Four Quadrants

Then, sort them into four quadrants, based on whether they are important and/or urgent:

  • First Quadrant (important: Yes, urgent: Yes) | The tasks you should work on first.
  • Second Quadrant (important: Yes, urgent: No) | The tasks you should work on when done with the tasks from Quadrant 1.
  • Third Quadrant (important: No, urgent: Yes) | The tasks you should delegate to someone else.
  • Fourth Quadrant (important: No, urgent: No) | The tasks you should most likely eliminate.

The Eisenhower Matrix is meant to help your teams focus on the day’s most important and urgent tasks. At the same time, it also helps them recognize which tasks they could delegate or eliminate, thus freeing even more time for their priority tasks.

And after the collective meeting, you can always instruct the teams to apply the Eisenhower Matrix to their own tasks for the day.

Streamline Meetings

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, as much as 71% of senior managers find meetings to be inefficient and unproductive.

And yet, an infographic by AskCody shows that the average office employee from the US still spends over five hours on meetings. They also spend over four hours each week preparing for those meetings. Switching focus between different work wastes time and effort. Of course, this negatively impacts productivity. Which leaves employees feeling scatterbrained and drained.

To ensure this time is better spent, streamline meetings: 

  1. Create precise meeting agendas | Straightforward agendas will help you stay on topic, and hold shorter, better structured, and thus more productive meetings.
  2. Announce meetings at least a couple of hours in advance | This way, you’ll give your employees enough time to think about what they want to say or ask in advance, saving them the time they’d need to do so at the actual meetings.
  3. Limit meeting time to 30 minutes at maximum | Forbes even suggests implementing a 30-minute challenge that involves prioritizing topics better and selecting attendees more carefully in order to keep meetings from lasting more than 30 minutes.

Structure your meetings. Organize, schedule and track your tasks. Then watch your employee productivity soar.

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