How To Increase Team Productivity: 9 Tips From Expertson 20 December 2019
With a hundred to-do items on your team’s plate, it seems like there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.
As work piles up and deadlines get closer, your first instinct may be to have your team work overtime. While that strategy can be handy in a pinch, oftentimes you need a more holistic approach to getting more work done within the same working hours. Below, four experts share their advice on how to drive performance within a team—use it to set your team up for long-term success.
9 Tips On How To Improve Team Productivity
1. Perform each job yourself.
“You can’t train people to be more productive unless you know the ins and outs of the job,” advises Jon Hill, CEO & chairman of The Energists. He explains that a manager should have some level of experience in doing the jobs of their employees. Ideally, the manager has worked their way up in the company and done different jobs firsthand. “But if they came in straight from school or another company, they need to spend time shadowing each team member. Otherwise, they won’t have a solid foundation for making the team more efficient.”
2. Develop a strong training program.
Hill also says it’s the company’s job to set their employees up for success. He recommends every team member go through a pre-developed training program to ensure they know how to do their job properly. “Again, this is why it’s important as a manager to experience the workflow from your team’s perspective—this will help you develop better training programs.”
3. Respect different working styles.
Not every member of your team is going to be excited about working in groups. Many talented people prefer to work alone. Hill says it’s important to establish a culture where people are encouraged, but not required to work closely together. “People should feel comfortable working in whatever way allows them to be most productive. If you try to force them to work with others constantly, you're not going to see their best work.”
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4. Meet weekly to plan work.
Planning is always a smart move when it comes to work. Riz Rahim, CEO of Upskill Nation, suggests end-of-week meetings where the team can sit down to plan work for the following week. During the meeting, the team should review the current week's work to see what should be prioritised after the weekend. If work isn’t being completed as quickly as expected, identify the reason behind delays and determine the best remedy. “The process of sitting down in a group and talking about weekly productivity in a structured format will increase performance dramatically.”
Rahim shares how this works with his team: Every Friday, he starts the meeting with his design team by discussing the current week's progress and identifying potential roadblocks. Each team member shares where they’re at with their work so everyone is on the same page. “After implementing this approach, I reviewed our progress over a six-week period and estimate our team output increased by 50%.”
5. Disconnect from communication channels periodically.
Another suggestion from Rahim: Turning off your work communications each day. “Whether it’s email or some other communication tool, just disconnect for a while when you really need to focus. Let your teammates know they can contact you in an emergency by calling or texting you.”
To underscore this tip, Rahim notes how, when his team transitioned to Slack, they initially celebrated the easy back-and-forth communication. However, they soon realised the flip side of the coin—they were constantly getting pinged and interrupted. As a result, people couldn't get the kind of work done that requires deep focus.
Rahim’s solution was to encourage people to turn off notifications for up to a few hours a day when they needed to work without interruption. “As long as they set a status explaining how people could contact them in urgent situations, we found that silencing Slack got us the best of both worlds—people could still do thoughtful work while enjoying faster communication with coworkers.”
6. Form personal connections.
Rahim says it’s important for teammates to know each other on a personal level because feeling comfortable with one another lowers barriers to cooperation and “greases the wheels” of productivity. “If a new member joins your team, invite them to a social outing with the rest of the team as soon as you can. Or if you all work remotely, try regular video conferencing as a team.”
7. Plan team-building activities.
Michael Alexis, VP of marketing at Museum Hack, suggests looking to well-known, successful companies like Google, Facebook, and Johnson & Johnson for great ways to improve productivity.
Specifically, Alexis calls out how these brands use team-building activities with their employees. Some of these activities are internal, such as fun icebreaker questions at meetings and lunch meetups. Other times, these organisations hire a third party to run the activity for them. For example, they may organise a guacamole-making competition or a bowling event. “Team building improves productivity indirectly. The activities and bonding experience improve overall morale and job satisfaction, which leads to stronger individual and team performance.”
8. Show appreciation throughout the year.
“Everyone loves getting a big bonus at the end of the year, but I’ve found you can have an even higher impact on team productivity by showing small signs of appreciation throughout the year,” says Alexis. He explains that these signs may be financial as well, like a gift card, but even a simple thank you goes a long way: I appreciate that you did X because it helped us do Y and Z. “Employees who feel their managers appreciate them tend to be more productive and stay longer.”
9. Give time off.
Mike Miller, editor-in-chief at Wilderness Times, has a novel idea on how to increase productivity of team members: Give them time off. It may seem contradictory at first—if you want your team to be more productive, shouldn’t they work more? Miller doesn’t believe that’s the case. “There's no reason why your team should have to work extra—or even the standard 40 hours a week—if some of those hours are empty. There’s a big difference between being on the clock (where people may just be browsing social media) and working.”
Miller says instead of focusing on the hours your team is putting in, consider their output. For example, he suggests once a big project is completed, give your team a day at home, or even just an afternoon to take a nap. “They'll appreciate this kind gesture, and it will show in their work.”
How To Improve Your Team Performance With Team Productivity Tools
- Communicate faster. Hill says communication tools like Slack are incredibly helpful for collaboration and productivity because they allow his in-house and remote teams to stay on the same page even when they’re in different parts of the country. “You’d think that collaborating through an app would lead to a disconnect in the work pipeline, but I’ve never seen a team work together as seamlessly as mine does with this tool.”
- Automate your workflow. Alexis notes how his team’s productivity has skyrocketed with automation. They use Zapier and other platforms to automate simple tasks like data processing and notifications. “The result is that our sales, marketing, and admin teams save dozens of hours each month, which can then be put toward higher-level projects and tasks.”
- Keep better track of work. Miller notes how work can often slip through the cracks if not tracked accurately. That’s why he recommends project management solutions like Basecamp. Task management is one of his favorite features, but he also appreciates robust collaboration tools with the ability to store files and hold conversations in the same app. “This keeps discussions focused and work on track, which is epic for productivity.”
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