When you're working on a team, subtle differences between your employees' abilities may become highly apparent. While one team member is always volunteering for the hardest projects and burning the midnight oil, one of your other workers misses deadlines, shows up late and turns in low-quality work.
Although it may feel more natural to dump all your most important work on your hardest worker, that strategy will not advance your business.
Teams work most efficiently when the workload is evenly distributed among all members. However, even distribution does not mean that everyone should be taking on the same projects. What takes your top performer three hours might take another team member the whole day.
As the manager, it is your responsibility to properly delegate work so that your employees' skills complement each other. Do not underestimate this task. Optimizing team performance and productivity is one of the most challenging jobs that a manager has to do.
So how do you avoid creating an unbalanced workload? Here are five of the most common mistakes managers make when they are distributing work across a team.
1. Don't overwork your highest performers.
Almost every team has a star player who is willing to put in extra hours or take on particularly tricky projects. This person tends to be highly reliable, consistently turning out the best work and meeting deadlines, so your natural reaction is to lean on them for any projects that come up.
Unfortunately, if you repeatedly take advantage of your highest performers' inability to say no, their productivity may eventually drop. Not only can they begin to feel overworked and exhausted, but this team member may even come to resent the team for not pulling their weight.
2. Don't pile on the pressure for unproductive team members.
Pay attention to your employees: If you see team members becoming frenetic, reaching mental blocks or feeling frozen when facing a challenge, their stress level might be too high.
You may be tempted to put pressure on your lower performers to help them catch up with more efficient team members, but that tactic might be counterproductive. Try to learn where these employees excel, whether its social media management or client communications, and shift their workload instead of pushing them harder.
3. Don't make decisions about workload balance on an ad hoc basis.
Figuring out how to manage your team members' skills to create better outcomes for your clients is one of the most critical parts of your job as a manager. For that reason, you should not save planning for the slivers of time between larger tasks, or worse, do no planning at all.
You should expect to spend an hour or two a week planning out projects for your team throughout the week. This time will allow you to design a strategy that focuses on long-term productivity and capacity-building on your team, rather than thinking about day-to-day tasks. Just make sure your plan is flexible enough to handle unforeseen circumstances that arise during the workweek.
4. Don't avoid having difficult conversations with low-performing team members.
You should set clear expectations regularly with your team. When you have explained your expectations, it can become much easier to have conversations about why someone is not achieving what you have asked of them. Make yourself available for one-on-one discussions with your team where you can discuss their professional goals and team dynamics.
These meetings are also a moment where you can dig deeper into why a low performer might not be reaching your expectations. Ask them how you could support them better so they can complete their projects more efficiently.
5. Don't leave any uncertainty about roles.
Employees are more productive when they feel that their work matters to the success of the team, or even the agency as a whole. However, it can be easy to feel lost and lose steam, particularly if you work for a large organization.
Instead of allowing a few people to cover all the bases, try to define roles as much as possible. Having clear functions for each team member will help make each person feel accountable for their area, meaning they may be more committed to pulling their weight. This exercise also allows you to evaluate any gaps in your current workflow and shift your employees' projects to better fit with their unique talents.
Do not underestimate the challenge of managing the time and productivity of a dynamic marketing team. You need to understand how to balance the talents, schedules and interests of a group of people to achieve the best results for the group, and for your agency. This process requires time, patience, and constant communication with your team. However, if you invest in adequately balancing your employees' workloads, your agency can quickly see the results of a happier, more productive team.