Category Archives: employee performance

Are Better Processes an Answer to the Labour Shortage?

It’s been a while since I did a post but yesterday I was asked to do an interview improvewith one of our local media organizations regarding our current labour shortage in this region. The interview conversation caused me to re look at where we are with regards to productivity in our area. I was asked to provide advice for employers about what they could do if they were experiencing the labour crunch. My response was to get better at their processes, to train their employees so they were really good at what they did and to make sure they were only doing the right things – things that their customers saw value in. The interviewers reaction gave me that AHA moment when she responded by saying ‘no really, what can you tell employers that will help them find more staff?’. I actually repeated myself only this time with a little more explanation to help her connect those dots.

That interview got me thinking maybe the media isn’t the only ones that feels the solution to our labour situation is to throw more people at it – even if you can’t find them. Maybe we need to look at helping people understand the connection between productivity and the labour shortage especially employers. Unfortunately I suspect we are too busy working in our business (and making money in spite of ourselves) to have a look at how we could do things differently. And perhaps we don’t understand that productivity is NOT about doing more with less; it’s about doing it better so you don’t need as much.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/ or check out our new website at http://www.connectingindustry.ca/

Innovate and Be More Productive

I often feel innovation and productivity are at odds but in this day and age if you aren’t doing both you are probably on the road to serious trouble. I recently came across Jeffrey Phillip’s blog called Innovate on Purpose. In this post he was discussing the ‘Five Factors that drive the need for more innovation’. The more I read the post the more I concluded those factors were responsible for the need to become more productive as well. Customer expectations, the driving force behind any business, have evolved considerable from the days of old. The increased pace of change, increased access to information, decreased cost of entry into the market place and falling trade barriers have all lead to better informed customers with way more choices and opportunities to not only get exactly what they want but get it easier, cheaper and faster than ever before. To compete in this arena businesses need to be on the very top of their game.

So how do you do that? Well in a different post I came across some tips on how to turn employee creativity into corporate innovation. 5 must be the magic number today as this post offers 5 tips as well including invest in basic ideation training to help employees increase their creative output. It also suggests you can set up the environment to encourage creativity. As always it is about capitalizing on the talent and ingenuity of your employees. I urge you to check out the post – perhaps there are some tips there that you can use.

In closing today I can’t resist offering one more tip on how to be more productive. How about a vacation from email? According to this new study a vacation from email could be a health benefit offering reduced stress and better focus as well as increased productivity on the job. Apparently constantly reading emails not only causes stress but actually raises your heart rate. Why not consider using email blackout periods to not only help with the productivity but to set the stage for some creative time as well.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Committing to the Outcome

A few weeks ago we talked about change management (Do You Resist Change?) and how people needed control in order to stop resisting the change. In a famous experiment where people were either given a lottery number or given the opportunity to choose their own lottery number it was determined that the value of choosing their own number was in fact 5 times more. Once again giving people control but this time putting a value on it. The conclusion from the study was: When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome – by a factor of five to one.

An article in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Keller called ‘Increase Your Team’s Motivation Five-Fold’ gives some great examples where companies have used this human trait to create a sustainable vision for change for their companies. What are you trying to change? Perhaps using this approach will make it that much easier.

I have often heard that working remotely – away from the office causes people to be more productive. Well there is new research in and it suggests that this is not always the case. Apparently when the task depends on creativity, productivity goes up in a less structured environment but the reverse is also true. So next time you need to accomplish some real creative stuff set yourself up in a really cool environment but to get those routine mind numbing tasks done better stay at the office.

I came across a blog post by Swift To-Do List that I thought was interesting. The blog called ‘5 Counter-Intuitive Productivity Tips’ gives tips that make use of those laws behind the way we work. The first tip: Make sure your work is left unfinished is based on the Ziegarnik effect (see The Value of Focus). Another tip: Work less to get more done, is based on the studies that suggest humans work best in blocks of time and that you need to take a break in between those periods of focused work. I enjoyed the article and I encourage you to check it out for the rest of the tips.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Are You a Super Productive Person?

I recently came across an article in Time Business by Margaret Heffernan that shared the secrets of people who are very productive. I was a little surprised at a couple of the habits so I thought I would share them with you. According to the article it boils down to four things. 1 – These people have a life. The article suggests academic research keeps showing external commitments are highly correlated with high achievement. 2 – They take breaks. From what I understand when you get tired you can quickly become rigid and narrow-minded and a quick break may be all that is needed to get those creative, productive juices going again (more on that later). 3 – These people have often worked in different industries. While this makes sense to me I was surprised to see it on the list. Having a diverse background allows you to see different frameworks and approaches. We discussed this in the Diversity Enhances Productivity post from November 2011.  4 – The final attribute – these people have great outside collaborators and networks. What the article really suggests is productive people have very wide, rich resources to call on. The secret to productivity isn’t the latest tool or being better organized, it’s having a complete life.

Now let’s take breaks and take that one step further. I receive regular newsletters from Patricia Katz and her April newsletter focused on getting the most out of your breaks at work so you have more energy to be productive. Patricia got her information from an article that examined Knowledge Workers’ Energy Management. The newsletter suggests some of the things we do when we take breaks may not be as recharging as we thought. Basically the things that really renew our energy relate to learning, strengthening relationships and finding meaning at work. Patricia actually lists 8 different re-energizing strategies and I challenge you to incorporate even one of them in your breaks. Perhaps with all this advice we can all turn into one of those ‘Super Productive People’.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Too Much Time

How many of us have too much time and not enough to do in it? I venture to say not too many of us can claim that! Which means we start every day knowing we are not going to get it all done. Talk about setting ourselves up for failure.

I recently read Peter Bregman’s book ‘18 minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done’, and I must say this was one of the better time management books I have read. I really enjoyed Peter’s analogy of likening our time management challenge to a buffet. I have trouble with buffets. I have a tendency to want to try everything and even if I only take a little of everything that is often still way too much. Peter suggests we often manage our time like that – because there is so much to do, so many interesting people, enjoyable activities, worthwhile causes and compelling opportunities, it’s hard to choose. So we don’t. We try to do it all. Peter offers some really good solutions, ones that are do-able, all in 18 minutes a day.

On the same theme of too much an article on CBS News from the Harvard Business Review suggests that the culture that the smart phone is encouraging, one of 24/7 availability, actually is decreasing our productivity. The argument is that not only does this 24/7 availability cause productivity and effectiveness to decline but customer satisfaction declines as well. The article provides a pretty convincing argument.

Now here is something a little off the wall (literally). Have you given any thought to the effect colour has on productivity? Well this painting company has. It seems painting the walls in your office blue may actually make the staff more productive. Pink on the other hand is tranquilizing and may make the staff want to fall asleep. Be careful with red as it is thought to make people more cautious and accurate but it also raises blood pressure and heart rate. And better stay away from yellow as people tend to lose their tempers most often in yellow rooms. Who knew?

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Do You Resist Change?

Today I want to talk about change because if we want to become more productive or if we want others to be more productive, then often that requires some kind of change. I have continuously been told people don’t like change. They resist it. Don’t get me wrong I am sure there is evidence to support this. However there is also evidence to the contrary. Just look around people are making major changes every day; changing jobs, moving, having a family, learning new technology, developing new skills. Not all of those changes are easy but most of the time people actively seek out those changes. That doesn’t sound like resistance to me. So what is the problem? Well according to Peter Bregman, in his blog for the Harvard Business Review, the problem is we assume people resist change so we do all kinds of things to counter that resistance. But in reality people don’t resist change they resist being controlled. Now that should be an Aha moment!

This would be why 70% of all the major changes corporations try to make fail. If you want to find out more try following this link to an article by the Harvard Business Review on a classic called ‘Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail’ by John Kotter.

So how do you get around people’s resistance? According to Peter give them control. Much easier said than done but Peter also gives a bit of guidance in the form of three steps on how to do this along with an analogy that makes perfect sense to me. Basically you need to be more outcome focused and while you can suggest a route to get that outcome, you also need to be open to different routes as long as the outcome is satisfied.

Do you sneak in a nap during the day? Well according to this article in the Gulf Today a short snooze not going beyond 10 minutes increases productivity, improves intelligence and maintains emotional stability. The article goes on to suggest that a mid-day nap is not only accepted in many cultures but some go as far as to set up a special room to allow workers to have a siesta. Mmm  I wonder if you would have trouble getting people to buy into that change.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Hot Topics: Retention and Recruitment

Labour or lack of skilled labour is a hot topic in our region. Because how productive recruitment loopyour organization is boils down to how good your people are I thought I would tackle that subject this week. Basically we are talking about two things; retention and recruitment.

Let’s start with retention. Want to retain your people then you really need these two things as described in Forbes by Erika Anderson.  The article is called ‘Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1’ and Erika states “top talent does indeed leave for the same reasons everyone else does”.  So what are those reasons? Basically it comes down to 2 things – people leave an organization when they are badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

So what is the answer? First the managers in your organization really need to be able to manage people well and they need to be supported to get even better at that. What’s more they need to be held accountable and rewarded for doing so. Secondly the organization needs to have a purpose, not just financial goals and not just some mission statement that is hanging on a wall somewhere.  What does the organization bring to the community? And does the culture reflect that? If not you have some serious work to do!

Over to recruitment, in another article I found on Forbes George Bradt suggests there are only three true job interview questions.

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

I really like this. It comes down to the potential employee’s strengths, motivation and whether or not they will fit into your organization. All questions and research on the potential employee are really inquiries to determine the answers to those three questions. Simple right? Well probably not as simple as it sounds but a clear understanding of what you are trying to determine when you are in that recruitment process definitely helps.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Internet Meetings or Send a Memo?

I recently ran across a post on Entrepreneur.com called 7 Ways to Kill Your Meetings and Unleash Productivity. While a few of the 7 ways were things we talked about before there were a couple of new ones I thought were worth sharing. One method I felt was intriguing was to use the internet for your meeting. You don’t have to leave your desk which has its advantages. There is a software called Campfire that is designed exactly for this, reasonably priced, and you can try it for 30 days free. A word of caution – those meetings that need to be face to face where all forms of communication need to be employed, including body language, would not work well with this method.

memo illustation for small business productivity blogNow here is something from the past – if the purpose of the meeting is to inform, for instance new policies or procedures, why not just send a memo? The more modern version may be writing a post for the company blog or newsletter. If you are looking to get a little more creative why not make a video? Wouldn’t that be more fun than a meeting?

Are you still stuck in the 8 to 5 world? This article for Asia One Business News cites another survey, this one conducted by Regus, suggesting flexible working practices let workers feel more energized and motivated. Such practices also helped firms retain talent by improving workers’ morale and health. The report even states 66% of the companies linked increasing revenues directly to the flexible work practices. This survey of over 16,000 senior business managers from around the world confirms the business case for flexible work practices revealing that global businesses see increased productivity and greater revenue generation and directly link that to flexible work practices. Perhaps it is time to see if your company can be more flexible.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Wasting Time

Lately I have become aware of how much I get annoyed at having others waste my time. For example when I fill up with gas I pay at the pump. I think going inside to stand in line behind someone purchasing lotto tickets wasting time includes standing in lineis a total waste of my time. You can imagine how choked I get when I have to go inside to collect my receipt. Another time waster for me is meetings that don’t start on time. This is wasting time for a number of people and in my world that is totally unacceptable.  Turn that around and to the contrary I am ok if a friend is late for a scheduled visit (it doesn’t happen very often as I have a reputation I’m afraid). This is because I carry a note-book with a couple of things listed in it that I need to accomplish so I am prepared for that gift of extra time. It all comes down to managing expectations. How well do you manage yours?

Now here is something that is a little controversial – pay your great people slightly more than the market dictates. According to a study conducted by the Nobel Prize in Economics winner George Akerlof and his wife Janet Yellen; Paying great people slightly more than the market demands helps attract bet­ter talent, reduce turnover, and boost productivity and morale. They found that the firms that paid their employees more rather than construct elaborate incentive systems, outperformed their competitors. I just want to add this note from Daniel Pink: ‘Policy makers and business leaders take note: money matters. But often the best use of money as a mo­tivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table—so that people can focus on the work rather than on the cash.’

Let’s take this one step further and have a look at paying people commission. Both in the UK and in the US some companies have found that commissioned sales were not leading to better performance. In fact according to one company ‘By their very nature, individual commissions discourage collabo­ration. Why help ‘Mary’ close the deal when she’ll get the gains from the sale? The comp plan was dividing people.’ When the companies changed the system the managers, instead of spending a huge amount of time and effort policing the compensation system, could focus on more productive activities. Collaboration and better team work were also benefits.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.

Productivity Do’s and Don’ts

There has always been some difficulty around how to define productivity. I recently came productivity graph to illustrate productivity do's and don'tsacross an interesting post called ‘Uncasting the Spell of Productivity’ by Jessica Lawrence.  She suggests we have gotten away from the original definition of productivity – being as efficient as possible in a set period of time, to – a productive person is one who never stops working. You can tell from that where she is in her life. I suspect a lot of people are there especially in this age of super connectivity. Jessica recommends stripping away anything excessive and unnecessary. That sounds suspiciously like applying a ‘Lean’ methodology to me, casting yourself in the role of the customer and eliminating anything that doesn’t provide you with value. Interesting.

In that same post Jessica offered a link to a short video (1 minute 35 seconds) on ‘lost time’ and how to take advantage of it. The video makes sense but I would suggest you take it one step further and actually plan for the ‘lost time’.  I had a meeting with someone the other day and due to circumstances beyond their control they were late. Because I plan for this kind of thing I had my notebook with me and I did some planning for a course I am giving next month on becoming an entrepreneur. It wasn’t just having the notebook but having the plan of what to do that made the difference.

Are you hindering your employee productivity? I came across this list of 5 Management practices that kill employee productivity and felt it was worth posting here. Some of these things I have talked about before such as ignoring top performers (see What are You Rewarding Employees For?) and ineffective meetings (see Meetings; Good, Bad, or Just a waste of time?) but I encourage you to check out the other 3 to see if you are contributing to the problem. Till next time I will leave you with my definition of Productivity:

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/.