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May 25, 2022

How do you know how productive your employees are?


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Tired of paperwork?

What helps leaders and managers make better decisions for their team and staff is the ability to track productivity. This way, you’re able to better delegate tasks and use resources in the most efficient way possible. 

So how exactly will you be able to know how productive your team is?

The first step is recognizing productivity as an important part of your business’s overall performance. Afterward, you can use different methods to measure and analyze it with the intention of finding possible areas of improvement.

In this article, we’ll look at what “employee productivity” means to you and your business, how you can track productivity, and a few tips on how to improve productivity in the workplace.

What does "employee productivity" mean in the workplace?

Productivity can have various meanings in specific contexts. In this case, we want to focus on defining this magic word within a workplace context. 

For businesses and organizations, there are usually three ways that productivity is identified:

  • Net Profits - One of the most common ways to evaluate productivity is to look at the results of a business’s work, which is usually the net profits. Also known as a “bottom-line”, you can identify how much a company has been productive through various outcomes: a number of sales, the number of cars repaired, or how many candles were made. 

  • Hours and effort - Instead of looking at the bottom line of a business, productivity can also be evaluated by looking at how your staff uses their working hours. This way, you can check to see how much of their time is dedicated to getting work done. If they work full time, i.e 8 hours a day, leaders can estimate how many of those hours are the most productive. 

  • Employee efficiency - The third approach is somewhat of a combination of the two previous ways but with a twist: the focus is on efficiency. This means that in order to determine how productive your employees are, you would have to look at how much valuable work an employee can complete in a certain period of time. Here, the idea is to maximize time and effort all in the shortest time possible, which could be calculated through a per-hour return. 

While there certainly are much more slightly detailed or altered focus a business can take when deciding what productivity is to them, each business should take the time to craft an approach that best works for them. For example, it is possible that all three of the above definitions could be utilized as well. It’s important to talk with your staff and see what would best work for everyone. 

So, how do I know how productive my employees are?

We’ve arrived at the main question: How do we exactly measure productivity?

Your employees may seem to have fairly well-balanced workloads, but it is understandable that you would like to know how fast they are completing their tasks and if their time at work is used effectively. What you need are ways to measure productivity within your company by looking at employee performance. 

Well, we’ve got 5 strategies ready for you:

  • Use a time tracking system. One of the most efficient ways you can measure productivity within the workplace is by using time-tracking tools (like Atto, for example). These tools are designed to keep track of how employees spend their working hours. It’s important to note, however, that the staff should use these systems as intended - meaning that they use the timers included in the software instead of adding manual entries and be as truthful and honest about their reports as possible. With the help of time tracking systems, businesses can look at which tasks and projects are time-consuming and where employees need a little more improvement.
  • Daily check-ins. Another method to track productivity is by creating a system that expects employees to prepare daily reports of the work they’ve completed. This is a method that works great if you trust your employees enough for them to make honest reports. Everyone should be as accurate as possible when it comes to describing their performance. These little check-ins don’t have to be meetings or calls - simple emails with bullet points at the end of the day will do great as well. This way you won’t be micromanaging your employees, but you will establish a sense of responsibility within your employees as they know that they will have to report on how they spent their time. They will know that using Twitter and YouTube should be left to a minimum and the tasks they need to do have to be completed.
  • Digital activity monitoring software. Installing software that monitors your teams’ activities on work computers is a great way to avoid any potential problems with self-reporting bias. If you don’t trust your employees as much or if you prefer to have everything automated, then digital activity monitoring software is the best option for you. Depending on what services you decide to utilize, you can check which sites your employees are visiting, what apps they use, and in the simplest sense - how productive they are during working hours. While this approach can feel a little like “micromanaging”, it’s important for you as an employer to not constantly check on what your employees are doing. Instead, dedicate once or twice per day to monitoring their activity.
  • Use charts. If your business already uses project management or task assignment system, then you can quite effortlessly measure your employees’ productivity. You can look at how many tasks they’re completing within a day, week or even down to the hour. This also helps with knowing when your employees are most productive. If, for example, someone on your team has had on average 20 successful calls in the morning, but only 10 in the afternoon, then this means that there is a potential problem that you have to tackle. Your employee could be overworked by the time it’s afternoon or they don’t have a lot of motivation after lunch.
  • Quantifying work. Some companies decide that the best way of tracking productivity is by focusing on quantifying the work that their employees do. This method is usually part of a “bigger-picture perspective” that businesses want to have. You too can find a way to quantify work by looking beyond tasks, projects or working hours. For example, a company can focus on tracking how many calls an employee makes, how many words they write, how many products they can sell or how many lines of code they can write. The only drawback of this approach is that it shifts the attention away from quality to quantity.

Tips on improving productivity

Now that you know how you can track your employees’ productivity, you will probably have a large amount of data at your disposal. This data is crucial when looking at possibilities of improvement. 

Here are some tips that can help you utilize this data as best as possible to increase productivity within the workplace:

Your employees’ feedback is invaluable

While we’ve spent the majority of this article detailing how you as a leader can measure productivity in the best way possible, it’s important to never forget your employees’ perspectives on the issue. In most cases, employees are already aware of how productive they are and if and why they may have times when they’re not. You can discover these by simply asking them questions on how they feel about their working environment (especially if they’re working from home), or if there is anything else that is hindering their productivity. Afterward, don’t forget to ask about their opinion on ways of improvement. Oftentimes employees will have great ideas and feedback that will save you a lot of time researching and going through trial-and-error to find ways to increase productivity.

Looking at possible distractions 

We’ve mentioned Twitter and YouTube earlier, and as you are very much aware there are many more apps that seem to devour your time without you realizing it (we know how easy it is to watch those TikTocks one after the other). But social media isn’t the only possible distraction. If you want to improve productivity, a big challenge is identifying these distractions and working on eliminating them as fast as possible. Some other potential “time-consumers” are phone notifications, constant workplace conversations, noise, and even the aroma of a workplace. To help you minimize (or hopefully eliminate) these distractions, use the data gathered by your productivity tracking system to see if there is a cause or a particular issue that is causing problems.

Investing in new tools

More often than not, the tools that your employees use can make or break a productive day. If a video editor doesn’t have an efficient computer or laptop to edit, or if a construction worker has worn-out tools, then you can expect less productive employees. While it is great to invest in new technology and perks to make the office more work-friendly, the main priority should always be that your employees have the best tools and devices that you can offer. This can be done by upgrading computers, bringing in more efficient software, and even offering training to best use and maintain their tools. All of these will surely help boost your team’s productivity.

While we can’t always predict what affects productivity levels, we can definitely investigate and come up with solutions. Even the best leaders and managers sometimes struggle to find the best way to measure and increase their team’s productivity. The best way is to experiment and test out software and approaches in order to find one that works for you.

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