Chris Lennon is vice president of product management at BirdDogHR. Lennon is an active participant in the talent management community, bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in publications including Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT and HR Bartender. Visit birddoghr.com.
We have all come across bad apples. There are those employees who show up late and leave early, or those whose attitudes cause conflict with other employees and make it impossible to get anything done. If you have more than a few bad apples on your team, though, there might be something wrong with the tree and its environment. High employee productivity relies on many factors, not only the motivation of individual employees. If employees are placed in an environment that doesn’t adequately support them, or that actively places barriers in their way, even the highest-performing employee will struggle. The following article lists five factors that influence employee productivity and morale. By understanding these factors, human resources departments and other managers can improve employee productivity.
1. Work Culture
What does your company’s underlying culture say about the reasons why people should work hard? Research identifies the six main reasons people work as the following: play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia.
Play, purpose and potential are far more positive reasons for working than emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia. Employees who work for these reasons tend to be more productive than those who work because of pressure or inertia (i.e. doing something just because that is what you have always done).
For example, at one retail organization, the difference between a sales associate with high motivation, associated with play, purpose and potential, and a sales associate with low motivation, was 30 percent in revenue. For better productivity, maximize the play, purpose and potential your employees feel, while minimizing the emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia. Focus on doing the following:
- Make work feel fun—Encourage employees to test new tools and ideas. Facilitate a sense of teamwork among employees. Give employees projects that challenge them.
- Ensure your employees understand the purpose of their work and how it fits into the bigger picture—Give your employees the chance to see the results of their work, whether that is by visiting a building they have constructed after it is finally opened, or by making sure the author of an internal report knows how it influenced discussion at the management table.
- Support and encourage learning and professional development—With development programs, a management team that is committed to nurturing their direct reports and a learning management system, you can help
a team reach its full potential.
2. Bad Management
Research indicates that bad managers impede employee productivity. In fact, it may even be the No. 1 factor causing low productivity. Whether it is a boss who micromanages, doesn’t give credit when credit is due, or is overly critical or blames others for their own mistakes, poor management behaviors cause employees to become less motivated and less productive. After all, what is the point in working hard at something if your supervisor is only going to take credit for it or criticize it? Employee performance is a direct reflection of company leadership. Make sure your organization’s supervisors support their employees, rather than drag them down.
3. Fear of Taking Vacation
About half of Americans don’t take all their vacation time. This impacts productivity. According to Project: Time Off, employees who take all their vacation time are more likely to get promoted and to receive a raise or bonus than those employees who don’t take time off. In other words, those who take vacation perform better when they are back at work.
A majority of managers believe their company benefits when employees take vacation, with 78 percent saying it improves employees’ focus upon return. Yet more than a quarter of Americans fear that taking vacation will make them seem less committed at work. Encourage your employees to take time off from work so they can return to the workplace renewed, refreshed and more productive.
4. Wrong Tools for the Job
Nearly 80 percent of workers use personal mobile devices at work, in part because outdated company technology is more of a hassle than it is worth. Companies that don’t equip their employees with the tools they need may not even realize how much it can cut into productivity. The time employees spend battling outdated operating systems or troubleshooting issues because their technology isn’t working is time they aren’t spending on their work.
Even if tools aren’t outdated or malfunctioning, they still may not be productive. After Intel upgraded its employees to wireless notebook computers, its employees found an average of 100 hours of additional productivity per year—more than enough to pay for the costs of a new system.
5. Poor Health
If an employee isn’t feeling well, they are not likely to work well, either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that productivity losses related to individual and family health problems cost employers $1,685 per employee per year. Across the entire workforce, that adds up to $225.8 billion every year. There are many ways your company can support your employees to be healthy. Your company can do any of the following:
- Offer adequate vacation time and paid sick leave—Paid sick leave improves productivity and reduces employee turnover. Sick workers are more prone to job-related injuries. Plus, no one likes it when a coughing colleague comes to work, potentially spreading his/her illness around the office.
- Support physical activity. If you can’t have a gym on-site, you can subsidize gym memberships—Even encouraging employees to leave their desks at lunch and take a walk outside is a step in the right direction.
- Encourage seasonal vaccines—Allow employees to take time off work to get a flu shot, or consider bringing the flu shot to your employees.
- Accommodate chronic conditions—According to the CDC, about half of Americans have one or more chronic conditions, ranging from arthritis to diabetes to mental illness. Often, small workplace accommodations, such as an ergonomic workstation, can greatly improve the wellbeing and productivity of employees with such conditions.
If your company has a productivity problem, it might be because poor office culture, unsupportive bosses, inadequate vacation time, outdated technology and tools or poor health are taking a toll on your staff. Take steps to address these issues, and see your employee productivity improve overall.