Taking care of business, taking care of colleagues

As the old proverb goes, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”

The same can be said for employees - take care of them and they will take care of your business.

Businesses are always looking for ways to be more productive. It can increase revenue, impact the bottom line and help with achieving goals more quickly. But if businesses are only looking at traditional ways to increase productivity, creating a cut-throat, high pressure, winner takes all environment can be counterproductive and doesn’t necessarily mean getting the most from employees.

The truth is, there isn’t one right way to increase staff productivity, but there are a few basics you need to get right.

Start at the top with your mission statement

Do your employees know your company’s purpose, why you exist and what you seek to achieve? A clear mission statement can help to ensure everyone working in your business understands the direction of the company, and where they fit within it.

A mission statement is a short and concise statement that defines:

  • Your purpose, aims or goals for the business
  • The products and services you provide to customers
  • Your values and what you offer your employees

Mission statements could be viewed just as something that as a business you have to produce, and treated as a tick box exercise. But to do this is to miss an opportunity. Mission statements aren’t just beneficial for large corporations. A considered mission statement not only speaks to your customers but provides a sense of direction for employees and supports management decision making.

Consider these two examples:

“We are one firm, defined by our unwavering commitment to our clients, our shareholders and each other. Our mission is to build unrivalled partnerships with and value for our clients, through the knowledge, creativity, and dedication of our people, leading to superior returns to our shareholders.”

“Organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The first example comes from Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The second is from Google, which has taken its employees on its incredible journey from start up to provider of numerous internet services and products. A good mission statement, like that of Google, can help set the tone for the working culture you want to create.   

Think working culture not just environment

A good working culture is just as important as the physical working environment, and it needs to come from the top.

Establishing clear values for your business, that employees believe in, can own and demonstrate, creates a shared purpose and sense of direction for everyone to follow. It’s not enough to just include it in your mission statement, you must lead by example from the top, after all, actions speak louder than words.

A good working culture can improve your employees’ wellbeing and productivity. It stands to reason that someone who is happy coming to work is better placed to perform well. A University of Warwick study found that happiness made people around 12% more productive.

And back to the working environment itself, for some employees and some businesses, working from home can boost productivity. A study in a Chinese travel agency for example found that call-centre employees working remotely from home saw a 13% increase in their productivity.

There’s plenty that businesses can do to increase their productivity beyond asking employees to do more. And they don’t necessarily require a big investment – start small and consider moving one-to-one reviews from the confines of the office to a walk outside, introducing wellbeing themed days or visibly acting on employee feedback. If these deliver results, you can look to bigger employee-focused change.