Category Archives: motivating employees

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


Internet Meetings or Send a Memo?

I recently ran across a post on 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

Drawing, Mingling & Training, All for Productivity

As I have said before (see The Innovators Quandary, December 21 post) I believe productivitydrawing helps you become more productive in business is a result of and closely linked to creativity often disguised as innovation so when I came across the article ‘7 Ways Learning to Draw Can Improve Your Productivity’ I was quite intrigued. Will Kemp on his website ‘Lateral Action’ suggests “Productivity is often linked to a fear of failure, an obsession with thinking rather than doing”. He goes on to offer specific links between learning to draw and how that could improve your productivity including; willingness to actually start doing, focusing instead of multitasking, and unlocking your creativity. I like having new tools in my tool bag as I truly believe that old saying – the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results.

Does your company offer opportunities for employees to get together outside of work? A recent study by The Creative Group said employees who socialize outside of the office enjoy more productive working relationships. The benefits included learning those extra skills colleagues have and changing the mindset creating better buy-in and more team players. So before you decide whether or not to have that company picnic consider this and perhaps there are other things you can do to encourage the people who work for you or with you to invest in their work relationships.

If you are on the lookout for incentives and best practices to help retain employees then you need to have a look at Mark Graban’s Lean Blog post for January 10th.  Not only does Mark suggest a great practice but one that also contributes directly to the bottom line.  Cross training when implemented appropriately offers significant savings and taps into that intrinsic motivation that is critical for engaging employees.  Combine cross training with empowering employees to implement continuous improvements in their day-to-day tasks and you have engaged employees and a more profitable business.

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

Engaged Employees, is that enough?

Not according to the latest research. Apparently Canada is not alone in the productivity battle. According to the Hay Group who carried out research of over 400 companies globally, employee engagement is only the entry point to increased productivity. After you have that the next step is enablement. 

The Hay Group found that on average 15% of employees are engaged but not enabled. What this means is that employees go from being engaged but finding roadblocks preventing them from being productive, to being frustrated and looking for work elsewhere. The answer; in this article the Hay Group identifies 9 drivers of productivity; clarity and direction, confidence in leaders, quality and customer focus, reward only the best, the ROI on reward, performance management, your workforce is critical, collaboration innovation, structure work and processes.

One of the things identified in performance management was the importance of having courageous conversations to lift performance improvement. There is nothing that will destroy workplace performance faster than employee behavior and poor performance that is not being dealt with. I am sure you understand as I do that these conversations are never easy! This past week I was fortunate enough to be at a presentation by Susan Scott, the author of Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership.

Susan believes that conversations are not a soft skill – that they can be a learned behavior. According to her website the book ‘Fierce Conversations’ promises ‘Readers will master team conversations, coaching conversations, delegation conversations, and confrontation conversations.’ Now that is something all managers need to be able to do. I plan on reading the book but if you have done so already let me know how well it lives up to the promises.

 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

Motivating Employees with a Thank You Card

I recently came across an article on called ‘7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Your Employees‘. The one I saw the most value in was from Stanley McChrystal, the retired four-star U.S. Army general. Stanley served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and was once ‘boss’ to more than 150,000 service members. In a keynote speech at the 2011 Inc 500|5000 Conference  the general said he sent out more than 2,000 thank-you notes to his troops each year. “I used to get thank-you notes for my thank-you notes,” he said in his keynote speech . “I’d find them framed in [the troops’ bunk] areas.”

You don’t have to be in charge of a large number of people to apply this tip. I used make a point of sending out thank you cards every year at Christmas. I would sit down and hand write a thank you note to every one of our employees. In the note I would write how much I appreciated their contribution to the business and what qualities I admired in each of them. It always came from the heart and I could tell how much the notes were appreciated as I too got thank you’s for the thank you’s. Showing people how much you value them is a great way to keep them motivated and productive.

Now here is a tip from another former U.S. Army member, former captain Gary E. McCullough. In a 2009 interview with The New York Times Gary says “When people ask me for time, they generally don’t need the time that they ask for. So my assistant asks people, ‘How much time do you need?’ If they say an hour, we cut it in half. If they say 30 minutes, we cut it to 15, because it forces people to be clearer and more concise.”

That makes sense to me. If I have only 15 minutes to make my point I am going to really think about what is important and focus on that. Gary seems to be using Parkinson’s law (See blog post ‘Do your tasks take too long?) specifically to focus others so they are productive with his time. Could you apply that method to the meetings people request with you? You could take that one step further and apply it to the meetings you request to have with someone else. I bet that would create a lasting impression!

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

Give Gifts to Improve Productivity?

According to a recent survey I came across, holiday gifts improve motivation and can in some cases improve  productivity. The survey suggested 75% of employees said that receiving a gift improved their morale, 60% said the gesture encouraged them to like their company more. About 33% of respondents said a gift provided incentive for increased productivity. Here’s the kicker – the survey was sponsored by Staples Promotional Products. Sounds a bit self-serving to me. From my experience I would say it isn’t nearly as simple as that. I would even go so far as to suggest gift giving to employees is a bit like money in terms of motivation (See blog post ‘Do you know what motivates your employees?) it doesn’t have too much of an effect as long as they are receiving a gift but it is demotivating if they expect a gift and don’t get one.

That does not mean don’t give gifts as that has a wonderful side effect all by itself. In his book The Happiness Equation, John A Hallward cites evidence that our brain rewards us when we are nice to others and he also states recent scientific studies have shown a longer lasting feeling of warmth due to the act of giving to someone. Moral to that story is give because it makes you feel good not to motivate someone else to be more productive.

Last week I read a blog post by Lifehacker out of Australia that suggested if you are serious about being more productive you should really start working on Sunday and then take Friday off. I really haven’t decided if this has value but the arguments made sense in terms of being more productive – take care of those important tasks on Sunday without interruption; get really ready for the rest of the week; and Fridays are usually unproductive anyway so don’t work! The post even suggested you could sleep in on Sunday and gradually ease in to the work. The comments that followed the post told a story. Most were adamantly opposed. I did like one comment in particular it suggested ‘start Monday with a Sunday attitude’.

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

Training, How Important is it Really?

I came across the report Gearing for Growth: Future Drivers of Corporate Productivity, recently released by RICOH (a global copier company originally from Japan – they purchased IKON in 2008). The report is based on a survey of over 350 senior executives. It is not surprising that those companies overwhelmingly see managing human capital as the most important way to improve productivity. The report also suggests that managing human capital presents challenges. Executives especially in Europe cite a lack of engagement and motivation as their biggest challenge. Doesn’t seem that different here! It is interesting to note that those same executives ranked using the best available technology as only the third most important factor in improving productivity, behind human capital and good strategic decisions. 

So what is the answer? This report says Functional Training is seen as a key tool for improving productivity. Training is not usually seen in as something we want to spend a good deal of money on in our area. After all it is difficult to prove any return on investment. When the economy was booming the standard excuse for not investing in any training was ‘why bother they will just leave anyway’.

Dr. Laurie Bassi is the CEO of McBassi & Company, a consulting firm that specializes in human capital analytics. She is an economist, author, speaker and researcher. According to her; Companies that fail to invest in employees jeopardize their own success and even survival. She writes that organizations that make large investments in people typically have lower employee turnover, which is associated with higher customer satisfaction, which in turn is a driver of profitability. A second driver is manager proficiency  good managers determine if people stay or go, and this is also influenced by training and development. She further writes that the education and training variable is the most significant predictor of an organization’s success. Bassi puts her theories to the test her and a fellow partner launched an investment firm that buys stocks in companies that invest heavily in employee training. From what I understand it is very successful.

You don’t have to go far to find excellent employee and management training in our area. If you are interested send me an email at and I will point you in the right direction.

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

32% More Employee Productivity with Plants?

I recently came across an article on New Zealand Business news called Growing Productivity with Office Plants. According to the article the trend over the last few years to a ‘lean, clean office’ really impacts employee productivity in a very negative way. But wait – before we throw lean out the window we need to look a little deeper. The problem is not the lean clean, but in fact the lack of employee involvement. According to British researcher Dr. Craig Knight businesses can improve staff well-being by up to 40% and employee productivity by up to 32% by first “enriching the space” then allowing staff to stamp their own identities on how it looks. If management can see their way to letting go a bit and allowing staff into the decision-making around their own environment the result is the optimum solution for productivity – no matter what the work space ends up looking like.

Do you encourage your employees to be active? A study in Australia recently had one group of employees walk 10,000 steps a day and another not only walk the steps but add some resistance training 3 times a week. (For a comparative a typical office worker walks about 2000 to 3000 steps a day and on average walking 18 holes on a golf course is about 12,000 steps.)

What they found was the employees’ measurable components of brain function, including the ability to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions was improved by 2% for the walkers and 4% for the group that had extra activity. Add to that their stress levels were also reduced.  Now 2% might not sound like a lot but as I have observed with the sport of curling a 2% better performance can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Now here is a real simple test for the health of an organization from the online toolkit of Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive;  the Reich’s Pronoun Test.  Robert B. Reich is a former US labor secretary. He devised a simple tool for measuring the health of an organization. When talking to employees he listens to the pronouns they use. Do the employees refer to the company they work for as ‘they’ or as ‘we’?  ‘They’ suggests at least some amount of disengagement, ‘we’ on the other hand suggests some ownership and possibly the employees feel like they are part of something meaningful or significant.

If you are hearing a lot of ‘they’ perhaps you need to invest in some plants and allow your employees some control over their work space  😉

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

Do you Know What Motivates Your Employees?

In our area things are heating up again just like they were a few years ago when employees could not be found, let alone one with the skills to do the job right. For the next couple blogs I would like to focus on a few little tips that hopefully not only help with productivity but maybe help with keeping the employees we have now.

Let’s start with employee motivation.  Do you know what motivates your employees? It goes without saying that an employee who is motivated is more productive but that is just the start, they are also more creative.

It wasn’t that long ago that I had a conversation with a business owner who really felt that if he could find and implement the right monetary incentive program his employees would not only be motivated to do good work but that they would be less likely to leave. He was convinced money was their main motivation. I asked him what was his motivation, because it certainly wasn’t money. He worked long hours and would have been paid way more with less stress working for someone else. Now that made him think! Why would his employees be all that different?

If you too think employees main motivation is money I strongly urge you to have a look at Daniel Pink’s You Tube video on Drive and Motivation. It’s about an 11 minute video that is well worth the time. Daniel Pink gives some great evidence to support the idea that you need to give people enough money to take money off the table but after that it is really autonomy, mastery, and purpose that inspires people to do good work.

What about your personal motivation? Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed? Let’s face it there are always too many things we want/need to get done and not enough time to do them. Interestingly enough I came across a blog post also by Daniel Pink  yesterday advertising a cool new (free) productivity tool called IdoneThis. According to Daniel you sign up and every evening you receive an email asking what you accomplished that day. IdoneThis then compiles your responses in a calendar and you can see just how productive you really are. Cool! I signed up because all too often I forget just how much I accomplish and it is easy to be hard on myself and think I should be doing so much more just because there is so much to be done.

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