12 Ways To Make Your Most Important Brand Ambassadors — Your Employees — More Productive
How do you keep your employees happy and productive? Columnist Steve Olenski offers up these 12 techniques to help get you started.
When it comes to startup ventures, employees are a big part of your brand — they’re brand advocates, they represent your company in social media, they help recruit other great staffers, and many of them have direct contact with your customer base — so their productivity and enthusiasm about their jobs are critical to your marketing.
Many entrepreneurs and startup founders have their hands full running the day-to-day operations of their business. If they’re fortunate, they work with great teams of people who make life just a bit easier. The only problem is, no matter how incredible the team is, sometimes we all need a motivational push to accomplish goals and objectives.
If you’ve come to that point in your startup venture, then try using these 12 techniques to help your startup team get more productive.
1. Communicate Goals Clearly
Emergenetics International’s Geil Browning states on Inc. that through expressiveness, you can give teams a sense of direction by communicating goals clearly — which will improve productivity. To communicate your goals clearly, follow these suggestions:
- Company goals can be set forth for everyone to hear at a large staff meeting, but it is also necessary to meet with people one-on-one for an introspective goal-setting level.
- Communicate the vision and the process via different methods — some will need to talk it through, whereas others will simply take in the information before responding.
- In brainstorming or problem-solving sessions, don’t put pressure on everyone to be creative or find the answer immediately. Whenever possible, accept suggestions or ideas after the meeting.
2. Improve The Workspace
Research conducted by the University of Exeter discovered that “people working in enriched spaces were 17% more productive than those in lean spaces.” Even more interesting was that employees who were “sitting at empowered desks were even more efficient — being 32% more productive than their lean counterparts without any increase in errors.”
According to Dr. Craig Knight, who conducted the research:
When people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings they are less engaged — not only with the space but also with what they do in it. If they can have some control, that all changes and people report being happier at work, identifying more with their employer, and are more efficient when doing their jobs.
3. Offer Personal Perks
Have you ever wondered why companies like Google and SAS have topped the Fortune’s 2014 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For in the United States? It’s because they offer everything from free meals to on-site fitness centers to work-life counselors.
However, as The New York Times reported, some research has shown that “highly competitive workers are more interested in the individual rewards they can receive for their performance than what goodies are available for everyone.”
While having something like a dog park on your roof is a great way to boost morale, you should focus on personal perks instead.
Scripted, an online marketplace that connects businesses with writers, recommends that you send out a questionnaire to employees “that asks about things like their favorite candy, music, hot and cold beverages, local restaurants and leisure activities.” By knowing this information, you can reward employees with the things they personally like and enjoy.
4. Have Smaller Teams
According to Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, bigger isn’t better when it comes to teams. In fact, Bezos has famously coined the “two-pizza” rule. The rule is simple: If a team can’t be fed with two pizzas, it’s too big. Apparently, there was a lot of truth behind this philosophy.
The Buffer blog found that “each additional person increases total productivity of the team but at a decreasing rate.” The late Harvard psychologist J. Richard Hackman backed up this statement by proclaiming, “Big teams usually wind up just wasting everybody’s time.”
Larger teams also create “social loafing” (the larger the group, the less responsibility an individual feels) and “relational loss” (team members feel less support as it increases in size), according to Buffer blog. To keep the size of your team to a minimal level, Buffer contributor Janet Choi recommends that startups do the following:
- Use the right communication tools
- Make teams feel smaller by getting to know each member
- Become transparent
- Give constant feedback
5. Change Of Scenery
Sitting in front of a computer screen all day can become a bit tedious — I know from personal experience, and I bet you feel the same. That’s why it’s always a great idea to shake things up a bit.
Besides relocating around the office throughout the workday, you can also host meetings at different locations.
Former Cisco Systems VP Marie Hattar shared on the Cisco Blog how she hosted a successful get-together at her house. Hattar states, “The relaxed environment helped team members get to know each other better and meet others that weren’t in their core group.”
6. Keep Everyone Healthy
As an entrepreneur, you know there are no sick days. However, research has found that “poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year.”
Even more staggering is that 39 percent of that total, or $227 billion, is from “lost productivity” due to employees being absent because of illness, or even so-called “presenteeism,” when employees come to work but being sick prevents them from performing well.
Instead of waiting for legislation here in the United States, consider offering team members paid sick days. According to the Washington Post, a study of Connecticut’s paid sick leave law showed that “employers saw little effect on their overall expenses, while 15 percent saw increased productivity, 20 percent saw a reduction in sick workers coming to the office, and 30 percent saw a notable improvement in employee morale.”
Even with paid sick leave, Hattar says she kept her team healthy — both mentally and physically — by having morning chats to discuss what’s on everyone’s minds and encouraging fitness competitions.
7. Encourage Learning
If you want to make sure team members are on the same page and up-to-date with what’s going on in your industry, then create reading lists of articles and books you may find helpful.
Marco Benvenuti from Duetto told me in a conversation that he recommends you:
Let team members learn in their own ways. Different people learn in different ways. To make a startup more productive you want the smartest people on your team. On our team we have some of the brightest individuals on the planet. Not every one of them will learn in the same way. Encourage people on your team to always be learning.
You should also encourage team members to attend webinars, workshops, or conferences to not only learn relevant skills or knowledge related to their jobs, but also as a team-building exercise. If you really want to be clever, however, reward employees by giving them a trip to a conference or industry event.
8. Play Games
Believe it not, you can actually play games at work in order to increase productivity. For example, you could reward team members with play money — which they’ll exchange for a prize like a gift card — or a trophy whenever they have achieved goals.
There’s also “gamification,” which has been a buzzword for the last several years. Gamification in the workplace could be something like using The LiveHelpNow Challenge for customer service reps. LiveHelpNow monitors how well teams handle questions or resolve problems in order to earn points and level achievements.
Just keep in mind, as Gartner’s Brian Burke noted, you can’t simply reward employees with badges and points and expect that they’ll magically become power-producers. To be effective, a game has to be “immersive, engaging, and supported by employees.”
9. Be Assertive, But Flexible
As Browning plainly states on Inc, “Ensure a collegial atmosphere to help keep spirits high, but add in a competitive nature to drive others forward.” Browning also reminds us, “Not everyone will drive forward on goals aggressively,” and that’s OK.
While you should be assertive, you also should be flexible. According to Browning, “Prioritize goals to help people know when it’s OK to change focus to another project, but have a defined deadline to help keep the team focused.”
Also, make sure you allow the voices of team members to be heard whenever a change of plans has to be made.
10. Publish Results
TGG Accounting’s Matt Garrett, via Entrepreneur, suggests you track and publish performance results of your startup’s goals. According to Garrett, “By tracking the results of performance closely and publishing them publicly, positive peer pressure emerges and peak performance is reached.”
11. Use Project Management Software
If you want to help your team keep tabs on the progress of a project and collaborate more effectively, then consider utilizing project management software, such as Trello, Salesforce, Basecamp or Wrike.
However, as Salesforce’s Drew Beechler reminds us in a blog post, “Find a software that fits your team and will help you prioritize and collaborate better with your team.”
12. Match Skill Level and Behavioral Style
Finally, remember to match the skill level and behavioral style of your team members. Beverly Flaxington shares on Small Biz Daily that she’s a “great outside-the-box thinker and very creative in my approach,” but she doesn’t do well looking over spreadsheets all day to find errors. “Asking the employee to be a jack-of-all-trades will hinder efficiency and productivity.”