Savvy entrepreneurs get ahead by taking a business that is running smoothly and making it run even more smoothly. They don’t wait for something to happen—they make things happen. And they realize that in order to accomplish greatness, the process almost always starts with them. As management guru Peter Drucker once said, “The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.”
With that sentiment in mind, here are six smart steps you can take to increase productivity at your company.
1. Have a plan: “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going…it’s as simple as that.”—Earl Nightingale
Strategy will always be first on my list for ways to increase productivity, because the majority of business owners I talk to don’t have a formal plan for their company. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. If you want to be more successful and productive, you must know, specifically, where you want to go (e.g. $1 million in revenue or 25 new clients this year).
2. Execute the plan: “The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.”—J.C. Penney
A strategic plan is only a dream if you never execute it. A great way to increase your likelihood for success is by sharing your plan with employees, business advisors, partners, and anyone else who might play a role in helping you achieve your goals. When you get buy-in from the people playing an integral role in your company, you will likely increase productivity because everyone understands their part in the team’s overall strategy.
3. Get more from existing technology: “One day soon the Gillette Company will announce the development of a razor that, thanks to a computer microchip, can actually travel ahead in time and shave beard hairs that don't even exist yet.”—Dave Barry
Instead of upgrading your computers or buying new ones, run a series of “lunch and learn” classes on getting more out of the technology you currently work with in your office. According to a number of surveys, the average company utilizes approximately 25 to 30 percent of its existing resources (e.g. smartphones and laptops). How much more productive can your business be when utilizing 70 to 75 percent of your technology’s resources?
4. Set smartphone and social-media policies: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”—Henry Ford
This is the “800-pound gorilla in the room” issue. Smartphones and personal use of social media at work are major distractions and detriments to workforce productivity. According to a study done by Tomi Ahonen, a mobile technology expert, the average person will check his or her smartphone approximately 150 times in 16 hours, or once every 6.5 minutes. In addition, the average person will make, receive or avoid 22 phone calls and send 23 text messages in a given day. Whether you institute a formal policy or share articles like this one, employees need to realize how their smartphone and social media usage is hampering your company’s productivity.
5. Test flex hours and working remotely: “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach."—Tony Robbins
There is much debate on whether offering flex hours at work or having employees work remotely will increase or decrease a company’s productivity. I believe in testing new programs before jumping in with both feet. If flex hours and working remotely are important benefits to your employees, offer one or both programs for a month. Set up an analytics model to measure whether or not overall productivity increased in that month (e.g. absenteeism is down, output is up, fewer complaints from customers). If it works, expand the programs to three months, then six months and so on. Let your employees know how you will be measuring the programs in the event you decide to end flex hours and/or working remotely. You want them to understand that productivity decreased, remained flat or didn’t go up enough to warrant an extension.
6. Take care of your team: “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”—Mickey Mantle
If your business is a car, then your employees are the fuel that runs it. You need to look not only at absenteeism, but also measure how productive employees are when they come to work (if you can measure something, you can determine whether or not you’re making progress). There are dozens of programs that you can introduce to help increase health and wellness levels at your company. Some examples include subsidized healthy meals and exercise programs, ergonomic furniture and keyboards, brighter colors, new plants and hand sanitizers in the office.
Another option is to provide office perks that actually motivate employees to do what you want them to do. In other words, ask them if a monthly contest or summer hours would be enough motivation for them to exceed certain goals or objectives. According to an article in Fast Company magazine, Shortstack, a Facebook-customizing company, chose "Free Lunch Fridays" over a $3,000 bonus per employee. Sometimes, it's not about the money.
These six ideas are practical, inexpensive, and can serve as a catalyst for changing the way you run your business. By getting employees involved in the discussion for increasing the company’s productivity, you’re more likely to build a sustainable program.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.