How to improve team productivity How to improve team productivity

How to improve team productivity
21 Aug 2018

Employee engagement has failed to improve at all since the turn of the Millennium.

This is the startling revelation made by Gallup in its 2017 study entitled ‘Employee Engagement Report is Out: And the Results…Nothing has Changed’. The research, published at the end of last year, showed that employee engagement levels had changed little since the organisation first started measuring them in 2000.

In fact, the graph below shows that only a third of US employees feel engaged, while a huge half do not. What is even more alarming is that 16% are actively disengaged – and the danger is that this group will actually undermine your organisation.

Gallup American Workplace 2017 Survey - Employee Engagement

Source: Gallup survey results – ‘State of the American Workplace 2017 Report’ 

What about the rest of the world?

But the situation is even worse in other developed markets. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 study indicated that a mere 14% of employees were engaged – even though they apparently have the best overall quality of life worldwide, according to the Australian Food & Grocery Council’s State of The Industry Report 2017 anyway. 

On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the “worst possible life” and 10 being the “best possible,” the average rating among employees in Australia and New Zealand was 7.36 compared to the US and Canada at 7.14.

Going back to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 study for a moment though, it showed that companies in the highest quartile with regard to employee engagement saw 17% higher productivity levels than average. Sales were 20% higher and profits were up 21%.

So on this basis, the obvious question is how can we best improve employee engagement in our workplaces? Here are some considerations to ask yourself:

1. What is the plan? Most companies develop a 12-month business and individual performance plan. But there are a couple of tricks you can try to take them to the next level:

i) Clearly define SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives for your team to achieve over the next 12 months;

ii) Visually display your SMART objectives in the form of a Gantt chart or calendar planner in an area in which it is visible to your team on a day-to-day basis.

2. Is everyone pulling their weight? There is nothing more frustrating for team members than working hard at their own job but also having to carry a number of ‘passengers’. It is equally annoying if work-related activities are not spaced out evenly over the course of the calendar year. Load-levelling is important to ensure that resources are not stretched too thinly and your hard workers do not burn out. So ensure your plan is well-timed and that you have enough staff to make it a reality.

3. Does your team know what success looks like? Many teams do not track their performance on a visual scoreboard like a sports team but instead rely only on month-end figures to see how they are doing. To make this process more effective though, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Decide on a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the team’s activities;
  • Ensure your team buys in to the targets relating to each KPI;
  • Create a graph that can be updated at an appropriate frequency - daily/weekly/monthly - and ensure that everyone shares responsibility for doing so;
  • Ensure the graphs include red and green indicators to show whether performance is better or worse than the target set. It should be possible to stand at a reasonable distance but still be able to see if the team is hitting its performance goals.

4. Is red the new green? Many people fear seeing swathes of red on the graph, which is associated with not hitting targets – and if this happens too much your team is likely to become demotivated. But too much green can also indicate potential problems such as people have become complacent or incorrect goals have been set. As a result, do not be afraid to adjust targets as necessary. A few reds will encourage teams to improve what they are doing. In other words, red is the new green and should be seen as an opportunity to improve.

5. Who is responsible? Hold a short stand-up meeting around your graph to review its metrics on a regular basis. The meeting should have a clear agenda, a code of conduct and be attended by the entire team. If any metrics are red, discuss what can be done to improve performance by asking the 3W questions - What, Who and When. What is the action to be taken, Who will execute it and by When? It is more effective if only one person is made responsible for performing a given task, even if they may require help from others to complete it. Also check on the status of previously assigned jobs to check they have been done too.

Does this approach work?

Yes, but the trick is to ensure that everyone abides by the code of conduct and owns the results. If something does not work, keep on changing it until it does. Keep the process simple, keep it non-techy and watch your team accomplish more than ever before. One last piece of advice, watch the TED talk by Harvard psychiatrist Professor Robert Waldinger on how positive human interaction is the key to success in life – and work. It will be worth it.

 Ishan Galapathy

Ishan Galapathy is an expert on operational excellence as well as an author and speaker. For nearly two decades, he has worked across six countries for companies including Kellogg’s and Campbell Arnotts. Ishan lives in Sydney with his wife and children and focuses on purposeful living.

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Employee engagement has failed to improve at all since the turn of the Millennium.

This is the startling revelation made by Gallup in its 2017 study entitled ‘Employee Engagement Report is Out: And the Results…Nothing has Changed’. The research, published at the end of last year, showed that employee engagement levels had changed little since the organisation first started measuring them in 2000.

In fact, the graph below shows that only a third of US employees feel engaged, while a huge half do not. What is even more alarming is that 16% are actively disengaged – and the danger is that this group will actually undermine your organisation.

Gallup American Workplace 2017 Survey - Employee Engagement

Source: Gallup survey results – ‘State of the American Workplace 2017 Report’ 

What about the rest of the world?

But the situation is even worse in other developed markets. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 study indicated that a mere 14% of employees were engaged – even though they apparently have the best overall quality of life worldwide, according to the Australian Food & Grocery Council’s State of The Industry Report 2017 anyway. 

On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the “worst possible life” and 10 being the “best possible,” the average rating among employees in Australia and New Zealand was 7.36 compared to the US and Canada at 7.14.

Going back to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 study for a moment though, it showed that companies in the highest quartile with regard to employee engagement saw 17% higher productivity levels than average. Sales were 20% higher and profits were up 21%.

So on this basis, the obvious question is how can we best improve employee engagement in our workplaces? Here are some considerations to ask yourself:

1. What is the plan? Most companies develop a 12-month business and individual performance plan. But there are a couple of tricks you can try to take them to the next level:

i) Clearly define SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives for your team to achieve over the next 12 months;

ii) Visually display your SMART objectives in the form of a Gantt chart or calendar planner in an area in which it is visible to your team on a day-to-day basis.

2. Is everyone pulling their weight? There is nothing more frustrating for team members than working hard at their own job but also having to carry a number of ‘passengers’. It is equally annoying if work-related activities are not spaced out evenly over the course of the calendar year. Load-levelling is important to ensure that resources are not stretched too thinly and your hard workers do not burn out. So ensure your plan is well-timed and that you have enough staff to make it a reality.

3. Does your team know what success looks like? Many teams do not track their performance on a visual scoreboard like a sports team but instead rely only on month-end figures to see how they are doing. To make this process more effective though, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Decide on a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the team’s activities;
  • Ensure your team buys in to the targets relating to each KPI;
  • Create a graph that can be updated at an appropriate frequency - daily/weekly/monthly - and ensure that everyone shares responsibility for doing so;
  • Ensure the graphs include red and green indicators to show whether performance is better or worse than the target set. It should be possible to stand at a reasonable distance but still be able to see if the team is hitting its performance goals.

4. Is red the new green? Many people fear seeing swathes of red on the graph, which is associated with not hitting targets – and if this happens too much your team is likely to become demotivated. But too much green can also indicate potential problems such as people have become complacent or incorrect goals have been set. As a result, do not be afraid to adjust targets as necessary. A few reds will encourage teams to improve what they are doing. In other words, red is the new green and should be seen as an opportunity to improve.

5. Who is responsible? Hold a short stand-up meeting around your graph to review its metrics on a regular basis. The meeting should have a clear agenda, a code of conduct and be attended by the entire team. If any metrics are red, discuss what can be done to improve performance by asking the 3W questions - What, Who and When. What is the action to be taken, Who will execute it and by When? It is more effective if only one person is made responsible for performing a given task, even if they may require help from others to complete it. Also check on the status of previously assigned jobs to check they have been done too.

Does this approach work?

Yes, but the trick is to ensure that everyone abides by the code of conduct and owns the results. If something does not work, keep on changing it until it does. Keep the process simple, keep it non-techy and watch your team accomplish more than ever before. One last piece of advice, watch the TED talk by Harvard psychiatrist Professor Robert Waldinger on how positive human interaction is the key to success in life – and work. It will be worth it.

 Ishan Galapathy

Ishan Galapathy is an expert on operational excellence as well as an author and speaker. For nearly two decades, he has worked across six countries for companies including Kellogg’s and Campbell Arnotts. Ishan lives in Sydney with his wife and children and focuses on purposeful living.

OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

The rise of micro-surveys as an employee engagement tool

Generation Z unveiled

Making the most of your company benefits strategy