Seven Ways to Improve Your Employees’ Productivity

By Richard Hadden

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]E[/dropcaps]nough with management theory already! If the success of your business is to any degree labor-dependent, here are Men chasing timeseven actions you can take right now to make your people more productive, and enrich your bottom line.

  1. Test their focus. Do the people who work in your company know what’s really important to your business’s success? Are they pooling their collective energy in pursuit of those things? Here’s a way to find out. First, write down what you believe to be your company’s top three business priorities, right now. Put the piece of paper in your desk drawer. Then ask the next five employees you happen to bump into the same question: “What do you believe are our company’s top three business priorities, right now?” Use those exact words. Make sure they understand this is not a test. Whatever they tell you is correct, and there are no punishments or rewards connected. Check for consistency among themselves, and with your answers. If the answers are all exactly the same, let me know; I’d love to congratulate you. If they aren’t, you’d better get busy. As former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson once said, “Confused players aren’t very aggressive.”
  2. Do someone else’s job for a day. On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, I noticed a flight attendant slightly older than his colleagues. Turns out he was a pilot in disguise. That day, from coast to coast, he cheerfully went up and down the aisle dispensing peanuts, smiles, and a great attitude about the lessons learned from those he called “the people who really keep this plane in the air.”
  3. Give them a challenge to beat. Identify a major business challenge or opportunity in your company (declining sales, changing customer demands, new government regulations, emerging markets, excessive employee turnover, etc.), and invite non-management people to form a focus team to help you tackle the issue. Make sure the team takes ownership for finding solutions, and that they don’t waste time meeting for the sake of meeting. Emphasize that results, not activity, will be rewarded. Then reward them, with real money, in relation to the bottom line value of the results they produced.
  4. Prove your commitment to training. The next time an employee attends any kind of training, ask them ahead of time to be prepared to tell you three new concepts or skills they learned from it, and one thing they will begin doing differently as a result. Don’t approach it like a grilling, but emphasize the need to transform learning into performance, and your desire to support them in their development.
  5. Sit on the footlocker. Major General Melvin Zais, commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, once said in a speech to future officers, “If you’ll get out of your warm house, go down to the barracks and just sit on the footlocker…you don’t have to tell ’em they’re doing a great job. Just sit on the footlocker, talk to one or two soldiers and leave. They’ll know that you know that they’re working hard to make you look good.” Great leaders show up, especially when their people are having a tough time.
  6. Show people the fruits of their labor. Find a meaningful way to show people how the product they make, the service they support, or the work they do is actually used, and enjoyed, by your customers. One company we work with makes highly technical medical supplies. The work is tedious, painstaking, and, well, boring. What’s worse, peach treesemployees began questioning the importance of their work. And it is very important work. The plant manager started arranging tours of a nearby hospital, where the assembly workers could see their products at work, saving lives, and delivering drugs and pain relief to patients. The workers came back so excited that the office staff wanted to be a part of it too. Now everyone in the plant makes a couple of trips a year, reinforcing the message, “What we do here matters! A lot!”
  7. Write thank-you notes. The next time an employee does something she didn’t have to do, purely out of a sense of commitment to the team or the organization, write her a note. Get a note card and a pen and write it out by hand, even if your handwriting is lousy. Put the note in the envelope with her next paycheck. Make this a habit.

I have a friend who berates himself for spending too much time “getting ready to get ready.” I’d suggest you’re already ready. Just get out of your cool office and go do it!

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Richard Hadden, co-author of “Contented Cows Give Better Milk”, helps businesses improve their performance by virtue of having a focused, fired-up, and capably led workforce. Please visit

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

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