4 Ways To Get Slow Workers Moving Faster

Productivity is one of the most important issues that a company has to deal with. But what happens if you have some employees that are just, well, slow?
Author, Profit First
May 31, 2011

Productivity, as any entrepreneur can attest to, is one of the most important issues that a company has to deal with. Productivity is what gets things done, and when things get done, companies make more money. But what happens if you have some employees that are just, well, slow? Don’t worry; it’s a common problem, and one that has a solution.

Addressing the issue

Here’s the dealio—we may all have to deal with having a slow employee or three at times, but there is something you can do about it (and no, I’m not suggesting replacing the person with someone faster). I’m talking about taking that person that you thought highly enough to hire and motivating them to work faster and produce more.

Here are the secrets to getting slow employees working faster:

1. Limit their options

When you give an employee less choices on how to proceed, the easier it is for that person to proceed. If you only give one option, you have more of a dictatorship. This can actually cause an employee to intentionally slow down to retaliate. A good rule of thumb is to stick with three options. This will give them enough freedom of choice to motivate them, but it will also limit their options to something manageable, which will help them make a quick decision.

2. Give interim deadlines

If the project is due in the final state in a month, for example, break it up into four smaller deadlines. When you do this, asking for a quarter of the project each week, it will bring the employee a greater sense of immediacy, and that gets people moving.

Use inertia. A small set in the right direction (physically or even a mental commitment or otherwise) increases the likelihood of successful completion dramatically. So, for instance, take that same one month project and schedule and require completion of a simple task due almost immediately. For example, require that on the same day that you assign the one month project, the employee comes back to you with a completed calendar. The calendar will demonstrate that they have already scheduled all the necessary calls with clients for the entire one month project.

3. Set clear expectations

We all aspire to the expectations (both good and bad) that are set for us. When assigning this to the employee, explain your expectation with absolute clarity and that you have confidence in them. When they fully understand what is expected of them, and that you believe in their abilities, they will strive to please you.

Slow going

There is another issue that is worth bringing up here. If you have an employee that once seemed like a good candidate (come on, you hired them, after all), and now they are slow and unmotivated, try to determine why that is. Sometimes people may act like this if they don’t have all the tools they need to complete a task, are not getting clear instructions, or may even have personal problems that are draining their brain (and ultimately your time). But if you can get to the bottom of it and understand where the problem is coming from, you may be able to be more effective at addressing it.

Businesses run off productivity. You know that, but at times your employees may need a gentle reminder of this. Before it gets too out of hand, and they fall into a pattern of producing the minimal amount it takes to hang on to their job, address the problem. By speeding things up, you will be motivating them, teaching them more about business, and you will likely be meeting your customer demand more efficiently.

Author, Profit First