Listen Up, Business Owners – Here’s How To Make Your Employees Productive

I love my job

In the last couple of weeks, I have received several complaints from several entrepreneurs bordering on employee productivity. Many have been full of lamentations. Most of them were very specific. They claimed that many employees are:

  • Lazy
  • Tardy
  • Lack initiative
  • Do not show sufficient commitment to their employers
  • Are unproductive.

This sounds almost like straight out of that Douglas McGregor’s book, The Human Side of Enterprise, where he wrote his famous Theory X and Theory Y article.

One even told me that I was lucky to always have a wonderful set of employees around me.

Well, I admit that I have had tremendous cooperation from a lot of the teams I have worked with over the last 15 years. But raising the right kind of team is a tough job for any entrepreneur or supervisor. I have been an employee and I have also been an employer also. I have worked with very great subordinates and I have I also encountered loafers in the workplace. So, I know what my friends feel.

It is not at all surprising that the complaints that I have received are mostly from small business owners. Most large and structured organizations seem to have successfully devised measures to keep these complaints at a minimum.

So, here’s my list of some key areas that small business owners should focus on to save themselves from curse of poor employee performance.

  1. Get Your Staffing Right – That’s The Foundation: This is all so obvious. However, it is usually overlooked by many business owners. Maybe not deliberately. The rule is that if you do not get the right person to fit the right role, you are in for a very frustrating experience. To get this right, you will need to have an effective recruitment process in place. Not many small businesses have processes in place. Not many can afford to. Not many small business owners even understand that selection, recruitment and placement are specialist functions. So, every business owner thus thinks he can decide on whom to recruit.  Now, if your business is too small to have a specialist HR function, there are two things you can do. You can undertake a 3-day course on HR Selection, Recruitment and Selection or you can ask a consultant for help.
  2. Set and Communicate Clear Goals: I have found out that many employers ask employees to assume roles without a clear set of deliverables from the roles and without communicating the expectations. Employees are more likely to perform better when they have a clear idea of what is expected of them. That’s the whole essence of a Job Description. Beyond the job description, however, it is important for an employer to continuously talk to his employees.
  3. Provide Appropriate Work Tools: It breaks my heart when I see or hear employers complain that an employee is unproductive only to find out that the employee has not been provided with the appropriate tool or equipment required for the job. There is nothing an employee finds more frustrating than not having the he tools or equipment to do their job well. What is required could be a chair, a table, a computer or some personal protective equipment. And dear Sir, the employee does not have to pay for the tools he needs to work for you! I was aghast when someone mentioned a particular organisation that gives employees laptops to be able to do the jobs they were employed to do and deducts the cost of the laptops from the employees’ pay!
  4. Train, Coach and Mentor: Quite often, I hear employers telling nearly-recruited employees that they must “hit the ground running”. My take on this is that even when you expect a top-level employee to “hit the ground running”, you must give him the right “coordinates”.  Part of the process of giving the right “coordinates” is the induction or on-boarding process. Many will require some structured trainings before they settle fully into their roles while other will require some “hand-holding” for a while. The message is that you must invest in your people and provide coaching and mentoring for most productive outputs.
  5. Monitor Performance and Provide Feedback: Every employer should have a performance management and feedback system that lets employees know how well or badly they are performing. It is equally important for the feedback to be specific about what they are doing or not doing well. Such appraisal must be objective, constructive and timely.
  6. Reward Your Employees: Rewarding your employees can be a great motivation factor. Truth is, everyone likes to be appreciated. When you do reward people excellence, chances are that they will keep striving for excellence. Rewards often take several forms. Know which is appropriate and commensurate with the effort and apply it.
  7. Pay Your Employees Adequately: I was going to lump this up with the last point but thought to treat it distinctly because of its importance. Many years ago, while still doing my mandatory national service, I came across an advert that read: “Any company that pay’s peanuts will end up with monkeys”. That is so very correct. Many business owners pay their employees very poorly but live very loud lifestyles. Your employees are not dumb. Believe me, they know when the business is going through a rough patch and when business is good. Sometimes, the pay in some organizations is just not up to scratch. Compensate them well. You can have 3 well-paid and motivated employees instead of 10 poorly-paid and consequently unproductive employees!
  8. Lead By Example: The work ethics of an employer or a supervisor will eventually rub-off on the employee or subordinate.  A disciplined employer who works hard is always a great motivating force for his team. Many on his team would begin to mirror him. The reverse is also the case.
  9. Engage Your Employees: It is always very important to continually engage your employees and to communicate with them. Where appropriate, it would be proper to consult them, share the company’s goals and successes with them and make them have a sense of belonging.
  10. “Loose Him and Let Him Go”: Most employers I know hire to retain. It is hardly ever the intention of a rational employer to hire someone just to fire him. Sometimes, however, it does not work out and at such times, an employer requires courage to cut such an employee loose for the sake of workplace harmony or peace of mind. No employer should have any qualms firing an unproductive employee who has been given all that he requires for the job. And once the decision is made, it must be executed without delay.

So, over to you.

You can follow this writer on Twitter @ehissman