How to Keep Your Employees Productive

If you watch the evening news, you know that the economic decline — in one way or another — tops the story list just about every day.

Newscasters tell us about joblessness and the unemployment rate, detail the struggling housing market, and profile jittery consumers who have shunned spending. In June, they reported a productivity increase in the United States — a 6.1 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010.

While on the surface this sounds promising for America's businesses, productivity is truly a double-edged sword. Producing more with fewer workers undoubtedly helps bottom lines. But as a human resources expert, I know that underneath the statistics lies the distinct possibility that companies have maximized their employees' abilities. While cutting back on the number of people they employ, they have called upon those remaining to do the jobs terminated employees leave behind in addition to their own.

Thus the very real questions for employers are these: How long will your employees be able to continue? And what can you do to help them remain as productive as possible?

Now I'm not an economist, and I can't tell you when the economy will rebound or when companies will begin hiring once again. But I do know about employees and what makes them productive. In my experience, employees who are most productive share three characteristics. They are engaged, equipped and aligned. Let's look at each.

• Engaged:
Do you remember your employees' first days on the job when possibilities, loyalty to your organization and determination to succeed seemed limitless? How much more productive would your employees be if they were as engaged on day 100 as they were on day one?

The most productive employees are fully involved in their work. They're enthusiastic. They care about the company's future and exceed duty's call to ensure that it succeeds.

But employee engagement isn't so much about the employee; it's really about effective leadership. It's up to the leaders in your organization to connect with your employees, share your company's vision and purpose, and maintain an ongoing dialogue with them.

Are your employees engaged in their work?
Are you and your managers leading effectively?

• Equipped:
Imagine that you have to deliver one message simultaneously to 100 people across four different time zones. Easy if you have email. Challenging if not, regardless of your motivation and commitment. Similarly, good intentions won’t build a house unless you (or your contractor) are equipped with the right tools. Being equipped also means being well trained. The most productive employees I see tend to work for organizations that provide effective "on boarding," job training and ongoing development.

Do your employees have the tools and resources they need to
work effectively and efficiently? Are they equipped?

• Aligned:
In many businesses, when one person leaves a position and another steps in, the replacement's skills differ from those of his predecessor. It's also likely that the job description no longer reflects the current duties of the position. Given these circumstances, even engaged employees can become unproductive. That's a shame, especially when they want to perform. A solution? Conduct periodic "job description inventories" to ensure that every jobholder's capabilities match their job descriptions.

Are the work processes and systems
in your organization aligned with the jobs?

Helping your employees achieve these three characteristics is important during "normal" times, certainly…but it is more important if you are working with a lean employee group, or if you are planning to increase your staff.

So keep the following in mind: If you want happy, satisfied, effective employees — whether you're operating with a lean or an ample staff — you need to do what is necessary to keep them engaged, equipped and aligned.

Tips: Seven Tips for Keeping Your Employees Engaged

In business, we use — and overuse — a lot of buzzwords. One of the most overused is "employee utilization."

Frankly, few people outside the companies who use employee utilization techniques fully understand the term. Yet, it's one of the most important elements in productivity and important to a company's success.

So what is employee utilization? Maximizing the efficiency of a company's employees.

Said another way, it's people strategies. And the most successful people strategies, I've found, fully depend on management practices that place real value on employees.

This last point is important, so let me say it again: The most successful people strategies depend fully on management practices that place real value on employees.

So how do you place real value on employees?

We've talked previously about how to keep employees engaged, but it never hurts to review. Therefore, here are seven tips to help you keep your employees engaged:

  1. Communicate. Share your company values and vision. Employees perform best when knowing their role in the overall success of the company. Communicate your expectations and do it often.
  2. Manage fairly, consistently and transparently. Provide direction and establish work expectations and goals. Communicate clearly with all employees and listen to their opinions. Regularly review your processes.
  3. Give employees what they need to do their jobs. Begin by asking, "Do you have what you need to be as efficient and competent as you can be?" Then remember: Needs change often.
  4. Get to know your employees. Get to know their stressors and goals, what excites them and how they define success. Show interest in your employees. Take steps to help them feel more fulfilled when appropriate.
  5. Give your employees appropriate training. Help them build their talents into strengths with workshops and development programs.
  6. Challenge your employees. Most people leave jobs because of monotony. To stimulate your employees, introduce them to a variety of jobs. Challenge them to think "out of the box."
  7. Reward and recognize employees. Catch your employees doing things right and recognize them in ways meaningful to them (You will need to know your employees!) Additionally, reward accomplishments and efforts. Recognizing effort boosts employees working on long-term goals.

Some people inherently give all and do their best no matter where they work. Most, however, require guidance.

By following these seven tips, you can help give your employees a sense of purpose and energy for what they do and, along with this, build and sustain employee engagement. Just as important, you will be well on your way to maximizing the efficiency of your employees.

Your Solution Toolbox: Making Employee Utilization Easier

Measuring What Matters

Does the prospect of maximizing your employees boggle your mind?

You'll be pleased to know that there are human capital management tools that make employee utilization easier to achieve than you might think.

Let me tell you about two from Profiles International: ProfileXT™ (PXT) and Workforce Analysis Profile™

ProfileXT™ Helps You Match Employee to Job
The ProfileXT™ is called the Total Person Assessment because it evaluates thinking and reasoning skills, occupational interests and behavioral traits. It helps you select as well as manage employees by predicting job suitability and accurately matching people with the work they do.

With PXT your leaders can assess current talent inventory and understand future talent demands. You will find you can use PXT successfully for:

• Initial job placement
• Evaluating the best person to promote
• Succession planning
• Coaching and self improvement

Measure Employee Engagement and Motivation with Workforce Analysis Profile™

You can never know enough about your employees, and with Profiles Workforce Analysis Profile™ you can collect vital information often missed.

Profiles Workforce Analysis Profile™ reveals employees’ concerns and measures job satisfaction. And, it provides insight into employees’ needs, job preferences and what motivates them at work.

You can then use this information as a road map for developing a highly engaged and motivated workforce.

To put ProfileXT® and Profiles Workforce Analysis Profile™ to work in your organization, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to

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