Productivity management: what is it and how can it affect team productivity?
by Matt Bochenski
As the world adapts to new ways of living and working, managers want to make sure they understand what productivity means, what drives it, and how they can measure it.
What do we mean when we talk about productivity management?
Productivity management is a set of skills that help people and teams improve productivity. It’s a key aspect of people management, where leaders use incentives, goals, development and communication techniques to help employees and teams increase their productivity.
How does management affect productivity?
Managers have an essential role to play in raising and maintaining productivity levels in their teams. But that doesn’t just mean pushing people harder or asking them to work faster.
Management accounts for 70% of the variance in employee engagement, according to a Gallup study. A good manager will recognize each team member’s skill levels, strengths and challenges and work with them to get the best out of each person.
As a reasonable basis, organizations shouldn't push employees beyond their level of expertise or experience and should recognize and reward them for their contributions. Managers play a coaching role, helping people understand their strengths and work towards professional goals.
And there’s a duty of care, too, as managers take their team’s stress levels and mental health into account and put supportive measures in place as and when they’re needed.
A good manager can help boost productivity in several ways, including:
The classic measure of a good objective is that it should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. If an objective ticks all these boxes, an employee can feel confident about working towards it and knowing when they’ve met it.
Trust is a crucial ingredient in building a successful team. Managers who share out team responsibilities according to individual team members' strengths and skills will free up their own time for more strategic tasks, empower their reports, and give them opportunities to grow.
Communicating, using the right tools and channels in the right ways
Teams need to be closely connected and able to collaborate to get their work done efficiently. Lines of communication between team members, managers, and their reports are crucial - particularly post-lockdown when many of us are working remotely.
Reporting feedback to employees
A good manager is like a mirror for an employee, reflecting their progress and showing them where they need to go next. Managers should regularly offer specific, actionable feedback to team members to help them continue to improve.
How can you manage your team’s productivity in the workplace?
You can use technology to support communication and help people work smarter, even if they work remotely. But be wary of using it to micromanage or put employees under the microscope, which is likely to backfire. Technologies like keystroke-loggers and screen recording software may give employers a crystal-clear picture of what staff are doing, but they can also make people feel intruded on, mistrusted and ultimately disengaged.
When it comes to tracking productivity, the most critical data helps you track your team's output against the hours they spend working. Only actionable, useful information is worth collecting.
Practical tips for improving team productivity
As well as the general principles of productivity management we’ve described, you can implement specific tools and techniques to help teams work smarter and keep productivity up.
Each day, team members can track the hours they spend on each job. This data helps managers to understand the current productivity levels and see where they need to optimize.
Dashboards give an overall team-wide view of productivity and help managers see trends and patterns. For example, if teams spend a lot of time on repetitive admin tasks, an automated solution could be the answer.
Whether in person or over live video, a daily stand up helps teams align on their daily goals and helps individuals understand what to focus on first. It also gives managers a heads-up on any issues they may need to address.
Team to-do lists
A shared to-do list means team members see how their work fits into a bigger picture and helps make sure teams allocate jobs according to each person’s workload, skills and experience. A digital kanban board can be a useful way to do this when working remotely.
Scheduling manager-employee meetings can be put off or forgotten, especially when workload is heavy. Putting a regular one-to-one in the diary, even when there’s nothing specific to discuss, means it’s easier for team members to communicate with managers and to give and receive feedback.
A structured feedback process
Having a clear framework for feedback helps make sure every staff member knows how they’re performing and their development objectives.
Feedback should always be specific and tied to an action the employee can take to move forward. Simultaneously, communicating about poor performance should be done with empathy and a recognition that personal and professional issues could be in the mix.
Incentives and recognition
Whether it’s praise, advancement or performance-based bonuses, rewards and recognition help motivate team members towards success. 78% of employees in a recent study said they would work harder if they were better recognized.
What are the types of productivity?
So far, we’ve defined productivity as the relationship between output and input. But there are other ways to think about it.
Individual and team productivity
Lifestyle and psychological factors like how much sleep someone gets, their diet and whether they’re confident and feel well-supported all play a role in personal productivity, as does a person’s personality type and working style.
Overall team productivity depends on each person meeting their own productivity potential – which doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone. A skilled manager helps create an environment where each employee can communicate, collaborate and produce work according to their unique skill and personality profile.
Partial productivity or total factor productivity?
We can break productivity down to a more detailed level by looking at its components. These include:
- Labor productivity, which is the efficiency of output per person
- Capital productivity, meaning the ratio of physical inputs, such as tools and equipment, to outputs like goods and services
- Material productivity, which is output relative to consumable materials, such as concrete or water
- Total factor productivity, also known as multi-factor productivity, which covers more than one input at a time.
Looking at multiple factors can be tricky. But by measuring tangible things like labor, capital and material productivity, you get a better sense of the role intangible inputs – like productivity management – can play. The more inputs you account for, the easier it is to understand harder-to-measure factors like accumulated knowledge or the use of efficient management techniques.