Category Archives: performance management

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/

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Which Work Mode do you Prefer?

According to productivity consultant Veronica Brown we basically work in three modes: Production Mode, Collaboration Mode, and Service Mode.  In this article by Lisa Earle McLeod called ‘How to Get Things Done: Separate Your Work Modes’, Lisa gives a good description of each mode and suggests that while most jobs require you to work in all three modes most of us prefer some modes over others. The different modes are very distinct and trying to switch between them would offer the same results as multitasking. The solution – separate the modes; Let your phone (Service Mode) go to voice mail as you finish that proposal (Production Mode), Focus on the discussion at the meeting (Collaboration Mode) rather than let your mind wander to the budget (Production Mode) you need to complete.  Try it for an afternoon and see if it doesn’t make a difference for you.

I find it interesting that even with all the evidence against multitasking (see blog post Multitasking; Good, Bad or Downright Rude?)  as a good way to get things done people continue to multitask and to defend their right to do so. Thanks to this article ‘Multitasking Seems to Serve Emotional, Not Productivity, Needs’, I now understand why. Multitasking makes you feel good! Apparently it makes you feel more emotionally satisfied with your work.  Multitasking is a very good way to meet those emotional needs like fun, entertainment, and relaxing, you were probably not intentionally trying to satisfy. Even though you don’t do the job as well as you could if it makes you feel good who can argue with that? One word of warning though the research indicates multitasking can be habit-forming and with emotional rewards a difficult habit to break.

Do you keep a journal? According to the article ‘The #1 Productivity Tool You Aren’t Using’ that could be one of the best productivity tools there is. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, in her new book ‘The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work’, suggests keeping a journal is one of the best strategies for learning about yourself and improving your professional performance over time. I have tried keeping a journal a few times but for some reason it is not something that I choose to make time for. Perhaps now I will re-look at that.

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/.

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/.

It’s the Little Things

its the little things that make you productiveI am repeatedly reminded that in most situations it’s the little things that make the difference. Being more productive is no different. I have compiled quite a list of ‘little things’ that can make us more productive and today I thought I would share some of the pointers on that list.

Email is always a time user and there are a number of articles on how to do this better. 9 Healthy Habits to Manage Your Email Overload being one of them. But for a ‘little thing’ that works try the Barbara Hemphill FAT method; File, Act or Trash. If you need the email for reference file it, if it needs to be acted on and you can do it in less than 2 minutes do it, if it takes longer add it to a list, finally trash everything else. I know from personal experience having an empty inbox is a great place to be in terms of productivity.

Another of those little things: Write everything down. David Allen says “Use your head to have ideas not to hold them”. Great advice. Science says you need to deal with things or else they take up memory space. (see The Value of Focus) One of the ways to do this is to write things down.

Business Insider recently did an article where they asked 6 companies for tips on how to be more productive with technology. The companies included; Brother, Dell, Epson, HP, Local, and Research in Motion (RIM).  Most of the tips were backed up with justification and made sense. For example using all-in-one printer/fax/scanner units to maximize both cost and space or using a printer that allows printing on both sides of the page and a draft mode for internal documents.  As the Product Manager at Epson says, it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact.

Now here is an interesting twist on being more productive. Machen MacDonald suggests in the Business News section on TheUnion.com that you only need to ‘Follow your bliss to more productivity’. Basically MacDonald suggests you need to get out of your own way and be your authentic self. This is not usually on the list of productivity tools but well worth the read.

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/.

Getting Things Done

Jason Womack, author of ‘Your Best Just Got Better’, recently did an interview with Susan Heathfield in which he gave 8 tips on how to improve your performance. One of the first tips Jason gave has already improved my performance! As I have said before I have been a list maker for years but what Jason Womack suggested in this interview has caused me to refine my lists. Jason suggests we need three lists, no more, no less. The first list is ‘Things to think about some more’. This helps me by capturing those things for a later time and allows me to focus on the task at hand knowing they will not be forgotten. The second list is ‘Things you’re managing over the next 3 to 9 months’. This helps me see what I have going on in the future. Womack recommends updating the list monthly but reviewing it weekly. I really like this approach because sometimes if you tackle things too early the landscape changes and you have wasted your time. The third list is ‘Things to do in the next 96 hours’. So here is my To Do List, uncluttered with those things I need to think about and my future projects. Simple. Womack goes on in the interview with more tips – including maximizing interruptions. Well worth the read.

Now here is something to help you manage that ‘Things to do in the next 96 hours’ list. Have you heard of Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret? Seinfeld suggests spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. It’s based on the idea that daily action builds habits. Small improvements or actions accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides ‘compounding interest’. I like this approach because for me any lasting changes need to be incorporated in my lifestyle or they just don’t last. Adam Dachis who wrote this post uses this method for getting in better shape and keeping his apartment clean. For a more detailed explanation click here.

One last tip in closing today. When sending emails instead of putting a subject in the subject line, use an action. That will let the recipient know exactly what you are asking them to do – immediately, helping them be more productive in answering your emails.

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/.