Over the past decade, there's been an explosion in the availability and sophistication of productivity-enabling business tools.
Automation and artificial intelligence have promised to make menial tasks a distant memory, allowing us all to spend more time on our other responsibilities so we can do even more within our 40-hour work week. However, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that productivity gains have been modest -- and even unpredictable -- in recent years. Since 2010, labor productivity has increased as much as 3.8 percent some quarters but it has also decreased by as much as 3.3 percent other quarters.
Although technology alone hasn't been successful in helping us operate at peak performance, you have the opportunity to assist your team in better managing their time and resources, so they are able to accomplish more with less.
At our company Amerisleep, we empower our managers to come up with solutions to boost their own productivity and their team's performance by providing a framework for evaluating decisions. First, the proposed idea must align with our company mission and brand values. Second, it needs to either grow revenue, increase customer happiness, reduce costs, or save time. Lastly, it should be weighed against alternative suggestions to minimize opportunity cost. This enables our staff to identify smarter solutions that are certain to have a meaningful impact on our business.
But first, there are four things we recommend leaders do to optimize their team's productivity.
1. Be clear and upfront about your expectations.
Lack of clear and consistent communication is one of the primary barriers to productivity. When people don't have the information they need from the outset, they spend time searching for solutions to problems that might not even exist.
Share your end goal with your team members, so they know exactly what's expected. Also, make yourself available when your colleagues have questions about results or strategy. This helps them receive the feedback they need to identify the perfect solution to their productivity problems.
2. Only commit your team to projects they can handle.
It's tempting to want to assign your team members to numerous initiatives when you believe they are the most capable project lead. But it may be wise to avoid overwhelming them since productivity should always be balanced against deliverable quality.
As a leader, it's your job to facilitate your employees' success by assigning them projects and deadlines they can comfortably handle. This allows them to utilize their best skills to maximize your team's overall performance.
3. Outsource some of their responsibilities.
To supplement the hiring process and tap into additional human resources immediately, partner with freelancers, consultants, and agencies to outsource some of your team's responsibilities. This frees up more of your staff's time to focus on other, higher-priority projects and allows them to develop their skills as project managers when they oversee your new outsourced team.
By strategically delegating some of their tasks to your contracted partners, your employees can leverage external resources to quickly multiply their productivity.
4. Track your results, and calculate your productivity gains.
If you are successful, you'll find opportunities to dramatically increase your team's productivity through the implementation of a new process, tool or contract hire. However, in most cases, you'll experience incremental progress based on the changes you institute. These improvements -- both drastic and gradual -- can compound over time to help your employees complete projects more effectively and efficiently.
Lastly, to ensure your initiatives drive tangible value for your organization, you'll want to diligently track your results, and calculate your team's performance and productivity gains. With the data in hand, you'll be able to make better decisions about pausing current productivity-related programs or implementing new ones.