Improving Work Productivity
April 28th, 2017

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As companies bounce forward from disruption, there are more demands placed on employee productivity and efficiency. All too often, this results in feeling overwhelmed — caught in a web of endless emails, excessive meetings, and unexpected phone calls.

Enterprise and individual productivity shouldn't be a battle. In fact, they rely on each other. When the two aren't in sync, one often acts as a barrier to the other. 

Here's how to align the misaligned, balance the workload, and unlock the full potential of both individual and enterprise productivity.

Obviously, the goal of every business is to be as productive as possible at both levels.  You need your individual employees to accomplish their daily responsibilities more efficiently if you expect your business to be more productive.

Yet, many enterprises are going about this all wrong. Considering what technology allows employees to do — work remotely, switch between spreadsheets, meet virtually, automate reports — things that weren't possible 20 years ago, you may assume that productivity has increased. But it hasn't.

The latest data from the United States Department of Labor shows that even with the technology boom, overall labor productivity fell at a 0.9% rate this year.

What does this mean for you? Well, it means you likely need to shift your productivity focus and how you manage it. Most executives believe enterprise productivity is simply the cumulative effect of individual employee productivity. And while that's certainly a factor, it's not quite that simple.

There’s a difference. And understanding these differences will enable you to foster both productivity types within your organization — which ultimately benefits your employees and your company's overall profitability.

What is individual productivity?

Some define individual productivity as getting a ton of stuff done in a timely manner. To others, it means setting and accomplishing personal goals. We say it’s a combination of the two.

Individual productivity in the workplace means completing tasks that put you closer to accomplishing your set goals in a timely manner and helps bring more balance and simplicity to your work-life.

When an individual's work depends on the works of many other people, what happens if communication breaks down? Time wasted. Money wasted.

Every company should encourage and make individual productivity possible by providing the right working environment and technology. From the C-suite down to the lowest employee on the totem pole, achieving personal productivity means employees have greater focus and are able to produce more results faster.

What is enterprise productivity?

Enterprise productivity is commonly interchanged with terms such as 'organizational productivity' and 'enterprise performance'. Every enterprise has a different definition of enterprise productivity and while there's no standard definition, it's easy to get the gist. Some organizations say enterprise productivity revolves around efficiency and working smarter. Others claim it means a lasting value that’s produced when you properly balance increased profits with effective use of assets.

It doesn't matter how you define enterprise productivity. What really matters is asking yourself this one question: What work drives value at my company?

It's tempting to think of productivity at the individual level. Your employees may be highly productive — in terms of getting a lot of their own work done. Of course, that doesn't do much good if what they're doing doesn't actually drive value to the company.

Don’t be like this billion-dollar tech company that found out 50% of their employee time had been spent engaging with partners — $200 million of annual employee time — and this time had zero correlation with their enterprise value.

Rather than waste a significant amount of time and money, find the right balance between individual productivity and enterprise productivity.

Fostering enterprise and individual productivity

A focus on individual productivity is a worthy and needed goal because improved productivity means you have highly-engaged and happy employees, while a focus on enterprise productivity is what makes enterprise businesses competitive and sustainable.

Company executives are constantly pressured to magnify workplace productivity and growth while optimizing their resources. So don’t think of this as a battle between the two. It’s clear that your focus needs to be on fostering both individual and enterprise productivity to really gain a competitive advantage in today’s highly-competitive business world.

So where do you start? Here's how to encourage both types of productivity:

Step 1: Shift to an organizational mindset

Being at the top of the company, your attitudes affect everyone else’s. Instead of thinking about productivity at the individual or team level, maintain an organizational mindset. Then, get every employee in every department to shift from their personal productivity mindset to an organizational one as well.

It’s human nature to be a little focused on what tasks you need to get done in a day or what needs to happen for your specific department to meet its goals. Show your employees what's in it for them! Demonstrate how an organizational mentality benefits them individually on top of benefitting the whole company.

Step 2: Utilize tools that enable total visibility

The right tools always help you get the job done (and done better). In this case, you need tools that will provide complete visibility into the daily work that’s being done and whether or not there's value being created.

You need workplace analytics, so you and everyone else has a better, clearer understanding of your company’s day-to-day activities. Visibility eliminates uncertainty, which has an extensive impact on your business structure and processes.

Step 3: Master the art of effective communication

When a company prioritizes visibility, the first step is having effective communication. Clear and effective communication is the key that unlocks true productivity. If employees are regularly reporting to department heads and teams are holding regular meetings to discuss progress on projects, then everyone is staying up-to-date and in the know on what’s happening around them.

Invest in collaboration tools, like real-time communication apps and meeting management software, to facilitate better teamwork and team unity, which leads to better individual and enterprise productivity.

You’ll know your efforts have succeeded when the gains of individual productivity actually add up to your enterprise-level ones.

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