Managers and small business owners know all about productivity. You wouldn’t be in charge if you weren’t productive on your own, after all. The key to successful management is increasing the productivity of the people you supervise. Here’s how I did it in my insurance agency.
Be crystal clear. Make sure your employees understand the mission and purpose of the business. Make sure they understand how to achieve goals. In my insurance agency, I wanted to boost sales. I did so by using “batting averages”-dividing the number of sales each employee made by the number of quotes he or she gave in a monthly period. These numbers were not secret-in fact, they were posted on a weekly basis publicly in the break-room. Each month there was an incentive. Sometimes the employee who scored the highest batting average got a bonus. Sometimes the entire office got rewarded for achieving a total corporate batting average. Everyone knew at the first of the month how the incentives would be rewarded, and everyone saw the progress toward the goal on a regular basis. Clarity paid off. Our sales soared and my employees showed their satisfaction with the system by increasing productivity.
Be upbeat and positive. No, work is not always “fun.” However, it doesn’t have to be soul-sucking drudgery, either. If you’ve hired carefully, you have employees who are willing to work. Assume that they want to do their jobs well and to improve unless they give you clear indication that their priority rests elsewhere.
Face problems head-on. Don’t let disciplinary issues fester. Don’t let problems grow and pretend that things are just fine. Keep clear-cut disciplinary processes and don’t deviate from them. This not only keeps productivity increasing and morale from flagging, it can keep you out of legal trouble. Make sure everyone knows the procedures during orientation and be firm, fair, and objective in dealing with people problems.
Set the example. It’s natural for employees to assume that their boss leads a cushy life of sitting on her behind in the executive office while they labor in the salt mines. Again, use clarity to overcome this mindset. Make sure that your employees understand that your job is handling customer service problems so that they are free to succeed in sales, for example. Then do that work well and let them see that your efforts increase productivity, too. Make sure your employees understand that you’re not leaving the office for a three-martini lunch with a potential investor just for the fun of it. Everyone’s job security depends on your work, and your employees need to know that you’re committed to their success. Your job contributes to the success of the business in a different way than theirs, but your people need to see that you work even harder than they do in your role. Put in the long hours. Do the grunt work.
What’s In It For Me? Bottom line, people aren’t working for fun. They want rewards, so use incentives of all kinds to reward your people. Everyone loves a cash bonus but that’s not the only incentive you can offer. When we set sales records, the entire staff went out for dinner together because the sales people needed the clerical staff to do their work well in order to succeed. Because sales reflected the hard work of everyone, everyone got the goodies. Sometimes recognition is enough. A plaque, a trophy, something to hang over the top producer’s desk may provide strong incentive. NASA rewarded their employees with the coveted “Silver Snoopy” award, and since we lived and worked on Florida’s “space coast” I used the concept to reward my own employees.
Make time for people. Put it on your calendar-you need time with your employees. You need to see the challenges they face in their work. You need to be present so that they relax enough to show you what they’re capable of doing. In my insurance agency, I scheduled several hours a week on the sales floor to deal with customer service problems so that my employees could focus on sales. I learned a lot about their strengths and shortcomings, sometimes I even learned a sales tactic or two. My people grew so accustomed to my presence that they forgot to be self-conscious. A big part of a supervisor’s job includes modeling, teaching, and correcting employees. That’s hard to do when you don’t spend time with them.
You’ve spent money hiring and training your employees. Now kick it up a notch and help them increase their productivity and job satisfaction.