What’s Destroying Your Employees’ Productivity and How to Fix it

Leadership experts describe 6 common productivity pitfalls and how to address them.
Too many emails and meetings are factors that can affect your employee's productivity. (Photo: woaiss/Shutterstock)

Most small business owners understand that increasing their employees’ productivity will also boost their company’s bottom line. But how can your employees overcome common productivity problems? In addition to a good work ethic, they need leadership and support.

Productivity problem #1: Unnecessary meetings

A huge productivity drain is having too many meetings, according to Michael Fritsch, COO of Confoe Consulting. Fritsch is a leadership and productivity expert who guides a range of clients from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses.


Fritsch suggests small business owners have short meetings, with formal agendas that have been published prior to the meeting. (Photo: Michael Fritsch)

Productivity booster
Fritsch recommends shorter meetings, and making them more effective by defining and using meeting types with specific objectives:

● Problem­-solving meetings: These meetings help staff work through an issue or solve problems. Limit attendance to those who can solve the issue and the key stakeholders.

● Decision-­making meetings: This meeting type helps a group reach a decision, such as a presentation of options to the decision maker. “Have this type of meeting when the facts have been investigated and you are ready to move forward with a plan,” Fritsch says.

● Planning meetings: These gatherings help plan out a course of action. Similar to the problem­-solving meeting, limit attendance to those who will execute the planned work and important stakeholders.

● Status reporting/information sharing. This meeting is most likely not needed and the easiest meeting type to eliminate. Its objectives can usually be more efficiently accomplished by other means, Fritsch says. For example, a written status report or a simple email newsletter can replace this meeting.

“There is no need for an actual meeting unless there might be a lot of questions or you need to interact for political or motivational reasons,” he says.

● Feedback meetings: These meetings typically ask participants to react to recent events or information. Feedback meetings are a good time to ask staff to evaluate proposals or carefully listen to concerns from employees or customers, Fritsch said.

Finally, don’t meet without a formal agenda that has been published prior to the meeting. A meeting without an agenda is a time­-waster.

Productivity problem #2: Email overload

Is your team drowning in email? It piles up and devours more time than you might think.

Productivity booster
Fritsch suggests the following tips to avoid email overload:

● Designate blocks of time to work through e­-mail. Don’t constantly check it and respond to it.

● Use email filters to automatically route messages to specific folders. For example, you can create a filter for anything from your boss or from a client, items that are marked high priority, or that contain specific keywords.

Productivity problem #3: Lack of direction and planning

Managers who don’t clearly communicate expectations, direction and a plan can cause reduced productivity and affect a team’s motivation.

Productivity booster
“Managers must have an understanding of each team member’s challenges and a game plan. When there is a cross-­functional plan that reaches the tactical level, employees will know their roles in every project,” Jim D’Arcangelo, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Booker.com, says.

Outline a clear plan that includes goals and deadlines for each employee. This streamlines tasks and project management.

Productivity problem #4: Silos

Working in silos can happen in any business, and they impact efficiency and employee productivity. Silos occur when team members don’t want to share information, skills or knowledge with each other.

Productivity booster
“Open collaboration leads to the ‘best answer.’ Each team is a subject matter expert in their area. When that expertise is tapped and co-mingled across the team, better results happen. And teamwork, respect, personal satisfaction and self­-worth result,” D’Arcangelo says.

Productivity problem #5: Lack of autonomy and input

If you don’t trust your employees’ judgment or consistently provide them with feedback on their performance, don’t be surprised if your team lacks the motivation to perform tasks.

Productivity booster
To be committed to their work, employees need to feel they “own” a project and their role so they can commit to it, D’Arcangelo says.

“The best way a leader can boost productivity is to role model it himself by creating an environment where people have a clear, shared mission, open communication and responsibilities that match their passions.”

Productivity problem #6: No incentive to end the workday

Long work days and endless deadlines can demotivate employees, and this mindset affects the entire team. D’Arcangelo says that after-­work socials can end the workday on a positive note.

Productivity booster
At Booker.com, after­-hours activities celebrate team successes and help motivate the team to get their work done during business hours so they can socialize and have fun, D’Arcangelo says. “Unless a company thanks and rewards high performance, employees eventually feel their work goes unnoticed.”

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