Poor work productivity is a serious problem for businesses–in fact, the average employee is productive for less than three hours a day. This issue is only becoming more urgent, as the pandemic continues to push many towards remote work. Pre-COVID, only 17% of US employees spent 5+ days a week working from home, but that figure now stands at 44%.
Resolving low productivity as we stay remote or hybrid will be a challenge and requires a long-term, comprehensive approach. After all, personal productivity skills can range from things like the ability to focus to organizational skills to mindfulness. And who doesn’t have an area of weakness when it comes to being efficient? Within this question lies the true barrier to improving employee productivity: discovering and minimizing the habits that lead to poor performance on an individual basis.
What exactly are productivity skills?
Productivity skills are the skills that enhance efficiency and performance at work. While these typically include soft skills, they can include hard skills as well. These can be skills that help an individual excel at his/her job, but they can also be skills that bring teams together to work more effectively for the greater goal. Examples of productivity skills include time management, organizational and planning skills, problem solving and decision making abilities.
Coaching, Competence, and Company Culture
Coaches are perhaps best suited for helping employees boost these skills. A ‘clean’ coach, who comes from outside the organization, can spend a few months or even a year with an employee. Experience, external point of view, and long-term engagements all allow the coach to understand how the productivity skills of their client stack up.
Over the course of the coaching program, the coach works side-by-side with the employee, which enables several advantages:
– Close observation of behavior and customized recommendations
– Accountability of the participant with regular check-ins and to offer motivation
– A long-term, comprehensive effort
Most importantly, a successful coaching program can create significant gains for the organization. According to the Institute of Coaching, 70% of people who receive coaching enjoy improved work performance. Organizations can empower employees by offering the pro-bono chance to improve their productivity, thereby helping employees actually become more productive and creating a more productive company culture. Whether it’s in group lectures or workshops or offering employees their own coach for one-on-one, personalized programs, you can motivate your employees and get the best out of them by investing in their professional development.
Developing Employees’ Productivity Skills Benefits Businesses
As performance increases, so do many of the factors that influence job satisfaction, such as respect, meaningfulness, and salary. Satisfied employees generate a range of organizational benefits that affect growth in different ways. According to one McKinsey study, employee satisfaction is significantly correlated with the following business enhancements:
A greater employee retention rate means lower replacement costs, the maintenance of skill levels, and continuity of the working relationship with clients and employees.
Improved Customer Relationships
Treating customers properly is an absolute must for front-line employees, but content workers can also, for example, pay more attention to manufacturing processes, resulting in fewer defects and increased client satisfaction.
Satisfied employees have a greater likelihood of healthier work attitudes throughout the value chain, which translates into efficiency, effort, and profit.
Productivity Skills That Boost Performance
While many productivity skills are worth honing, focusing on these in particular can greatly enhance one’s professional performance:
1. Communication skills
Being able to communicate effectively affects everything at work, especially productivity. Precious time is often wasted on misunderstanding of tasks, misaligned expectations, trying to reach other team members, etc.–and this all translates into dollars down the toilet. First, it’s important to figure out which tool is best for your organization’s communication, whether that’s a team messaging platform, group chat app, zoom sessions, or old-fashioned face to face. Then, maintain an open line of communication: have regular check-ins, set clear tasks and deadlines, and most importantly, ask for feedback. Getting and giving constructive criticism is all a healthy part of enhancing productivity and performance.
2. Ability to prioritize
Hand in hand with communication skills is the ability to prioritize, which also involves organizational and planning skills. Being able to look at one’s tasks and break them down into mini-tasks, with clear goals and milestones, is guaranteed to enhance productivity. This may require delegating tasks to other employees or teams, and knowing when to put a rush on things and when to push them off to a later time. Detailed plans and to-do lists, such as the Eisenhower matrix, can be very helpful in this regard.
3. Managing distractions
Part of managing distractions includes learning when and how to say no. And that applies to both other humans and devices. Turning off notifications, phones, tablets, music, and anything else that may interfere with one’s attention span can be the hardest productivity skill of all to master. Employees need to acknowledge and address their weak spots when it comes to their less-than-productive moments, and identify solutions. That may mean working at a cafe instead of at home, or vice versa. It may mean politely saying no when other employees ask for help with a lower-priority project. If you want to boost performance, keeping an eye on the ball means keeping an eye on the ball.
4. Doing one thing at a time
Tying all of these skills together is the wise, age-old advice: Do one thing at a time. Multitasking has been proven again and again to undermine efficiency. It takes the human brain time and energy to shift between tasks. Once you’ve prioritized tasks, do the difficult ones first, and don’t leave anything unfinished before you move on to the next task. Doing so can cause a ripple effect chain of delays which can hurt performance. Taking a bit more time to complete a task once you’re enmeshed in it will almost always be faster than returning to it at a later date and having to re-familiarize yourself. All of this is part and parcel of one’s time management skills, which is a cornerstone of productivity.
5. Know thyself
The first step, ultimately, in improving employee productivity is knowing one’s unique strengths and weaknesses. When you can identify where an employee is falling short in their performance, you can focus their L&D efforts on those specific areas. Is the employee’s desk always a mess, and that’s why they waste time locating important documents? Maybe a coach can work with them on how to be better organized. Is an employee often late on their deadlines? Perhaps an expert in procrastination and prioritizing can teach them how to stay focused. The key to maximizing anyone’s performance lies in their unique needs–there is no one-size-fits-all magic solution. Understand who your employees are as individuals, and customize their professional development investments accordingly. That’s how you get results.
Improving Productivity Skills and Work/Life Balance
Improving productivity skills is also, of course, an advantage for the employee. When you’re more productive, you’re more able to maintain a healthy work/life balance. And as the World Health Organization has recognized, “burn-out” is now an official occupational hazard.
Work/life balance has become even more of a hot issue during the pandemic. In many ways, and for many people, remote work has erased the barriers between jobs and life at home. By building productivity skills, employees learn to deal with many of the factors that are part of work/life difficulties, such as:
A mindful employee is aware of their current workload and makes good decisions about taking on additional tasks.
Developing the ability to concentrate allows workers to spend their time doing their jobs instead of falling prey to constant distractions.
From setting a reasonable schedule to knowing the network password, organization is the cornerstone of productivity.
Coaching Methods for Employee Productivity
By working with a coach over an extended period of time, employees can tackle different elements of their productivity challenges. The cyclical nature of the process provides incremental benefits, allowing the employee to improve a certain aspect of productivity during each cycle.
Importantly, a coach never decides on a course of action alone. Their job is to ask questions and provide observations that enable and empower the employee to do so. There are many coaching models used both to provide a framework for asking questions and a structure for the entire coaching cycle.
For example, the FUEL model (Frame the engagement; Understand current level of skills; Explore goals; Lay out a pathway) is a method for investigating an employee’s productivity levels and setting targets for improvement. Or, there is the OSCAR model (Outcome, Situation, Choices/Consequences, Actions, Review), around which a coach can design a course for defining, executing, reviewing, and reiterating skill training.
The point is – Different coaches use different models and frameworks to get the best results from their participants. What matters is the end result – understanding the blockers and stoppers that prevent productivity in the workplace, whether remote or physical. By increasing productivity among employees, leadership can better trust that micromanagement isn’t necessary and the lack of oversight isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s where coaching comes in to fix the issues without making leadership and HR seem like the bad guys. Employees learn how to better tackle the tasks at hand while management and HR can take a step back and allow the company culture to become a more productive, less over-reaching one. And if there isn’t a better way to tackle the hoards of unsatisfied employees leaving companies that are having more trouble adapting to the new normal than their employees – we aren’t sure what it is.
The First Step towards Productivity
Just as all employees are not equally productive, so too not all coaches are equally effective. Locating the ideal skills training coach focusing on productivity is a challenge that requires a tool to find experts in this particular field.
With a global listing of top-rated, highly-trained experts including productivity coaches, GrowthSpace’s L&D platform is already enabling employees at countless companies looking to enhance employee productivity. Contact us for a demo and discover how GrowthSpace is changing the way HR and L&D programming can truly boost learning and upskilling.
This article is part three of a 4-part series on the top soft skills employees need in 2022.
- Read the original article on the 3 most in-demand soft skills
- Learn why communication skills are the most important skill today
- Dive deeper into the need for better time management skills