The success of most workplaces depends on the overall productivity of an organisation rather than the individual work efficiency. Whether you are running your own business or working in a leadership or management position, there’s a high probability that improving team productivity is one of the main objectives. And achieving high productivity ratio in present day’s globally connected or remote work environments is often difficult said than done. According to a study conducted, an average employee spends less than three hours a day doing actual work. However, team productivity is not determined only by employees’ work efficiency, but also on their work effectiveness.
Most of us are of the notion that a common solution to low productivity of a workplace or an organisation often is employee efficiency. To assess overall productivity of a team or a workplace, we should also focus on team’s effectiveness as much as we do on their efficiency.
We often use words efficiency and effectiveness interchangeably in relation to productivity even when they are different. Understanding the difference between these two terms can not only help you as a leader to motivate your teams to achieve more, but also help in improving the way you work to achieve high level organisational goals, be it corporate or business.
Efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right things – Peter DuckerTweet
Efficiency versus Effectiveness
Efficiency is executing our tasks efficiently in less time, with less effort and using fewer resources. It includes measuring means and focuses on inputs and outputs. For instance, efficient teams accomplish bigger projects with less cost or optimum resources. In other words, efficiency is doing more with less like completing your tasks with minimum wastage of time, effort and money, so that the work done is faster and in an error free manner. This makes it effort and operation oriented.
Effectiveness is mostly based on the quality of the outcomes we achieve. It involves taking a more focused approach by aligning ourselves as a way to work towards bigger perspective or high value goals. An effective team knows how to successfully prioritise, are goal-oriented, invest in results and connect their work to the organisational goals. Thus it is often measured in terms of end result or the extent of work done towards achieving a desired or a targeted outcome. Teams that are effective are more strategy and outcome oriented.
Why they are important for overall productivity
Though they are different, both are important traits when it comes to improving overall productivity of a team or employees in an organisation. For instance, a team may prepare a presentation quickly in short time responding to a client’s need, But failure to include valuable inputs that lead to client dissatisfaction may turn out to be ineffective. Similarly, a team might work together to come up with a system for solving a certain problem, but if they miss the stipulated time, they may still prove themselves to be inefficient.
As a leader, by prioritising effectiveness, you might ensure that your team is working in initiatives that help you move forward towards large-scale goals, but may lose out on creating a culture of efficiency in terms of completing projects in time or within the costs. They may not make most of their resources, so inefficiency might rob you of the actual productive time. And if your primary goal is to cut costs and minimise resources like time or effort, you might prefer to prioritise efficiency. But with low effectiveness, your team might probably undermine the quality of their end products or results.
Productivity is achieved only when you strike the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness. And everyone adopting to remote working, the number of distractions each one faces during their work time is highly probable. While it might be difficult to ensure both in team you are managing, it is not impossible. The first step in doing so is, instead of only looking at ways to get more done, it is always important to figure out what is damaging your team’s productivity before you find ways to tackle them.
- Poor time management. Missing schedules, delays, complex to-do lists, too many meetings or prioritising the wrong initiatives are some of the examples of poor time management by teams. Time spent on too many non essentials means less time spent on projects that otherwise need your attention.
- Non collaborative environment. Not having supporting working environment, poor communication culture among coworkers, and not having shared skills/goals or objectives often harm team productivity.
- Lack of clarity and transparency on big perspective goals or overall vision leads to lack of employee engagement, trust or enthusiasm. Lack of clarity on the role they are playing in the final outcomes also harms productive work.
- Burnout. Putting too much pressure on yourself or your team to complete ever extending list of tasks could result in long working hours, stress and burnout. It is characterised by exhaustion, increased distraction and reduced professional efficiency.
- Micromanaging. Controlling every aspect or task of team members will only waste everyone’s time and creates an unhealthy over-controlled environment where there is friction and dissatisfaction among employees.
- Information overload. Today’s work culture involves daily emails, app notifications, instant replies and messages. As human brain can only process limited information per day, need for constant connectivity reduces everyone’s ability to process necessary information, tasks and do quality work.
- Lack of meaning/motivation. Doing repetition tasks, or working on things that aren’t aligned with employees skills or having no room to exhibit their creativity ultimately leads to employee disengagement, absenteeism, and lost productivity.
How to improve your team’s efficiency and effectiveness
If you are someone managing or leading a team, ensuring your workforce is both efficient and effective is essential. Since employees’ inefficiency or ineffectiveness is never intentional, providing that little extra help in improving the way they work, or complete their tasks requires measures that should be more than just words of encouragement.
They can be anything up to helping your team members build productive work habits to focus, or providing some time management tools, or strategies to make them more responsible or accountable. Here are some ways to improve their work efficiency and effectiveness.
Give constructive feedback.
There is no way of improving team productivity if they don’t know whether they are being inefficient in the first place. Providing timely performance reviews and constructive feedback is essential in improving their productivity. Having known the areas or opportunities where they can improve motivates the team members to make changes in the way they work.
Use the feedback sandwich method. First, you can focus on the strengths, then you provide areas of improvement or those that are not up to the mark and lastly, you can round off with positive comments that are actionable. If there’s a problem with their effectiveness, point out the issues and explain to them how to improve. Rounding off the criticism with more positives reminds the team members to what they are doing right and reinforces the benefits of acting on your feedback.
Create positive work environment.
The work environment is an essential contributor in improving employee productivity. A good working environment has the ability to significantly influence how they think, perform and work. You can boost positive work environment by ensuring everyone feels like they are being valued, promoting idea sharing, allowing mental recharge breaks and creating support structures to lessen the load when they are overwhelmed.
Incorporating certain physical factors also can motivate them to do productive work. For instance, ambient interiors, bright lighting, comfortable seating and adding some natural elements like plants. Besides physical work environment, care should also be taken to avoid office gossip, politics, dominating one another or unhealthy comparisons or competition that can bring down their overall productivity.
Get everyone aligned on the big picture goals and objectives.
Your team can’t be effective without understanding how their work impacts large-scale goals. When people understand how their work fits into the bigger picture, they realise the importance of even the most mundane of their tasks. Making sure that your team has clarity on how they contribute to your large-scale goals makes their goals more meaningful to achieve. Defining these objectives and creating a clear roadmap for achieving them can help your teams use right resources, planning and determine the effectiveness of their strategies in reaching desired outcomes.
Carry follow throughs.
Once you’ve defined big perspective goals and objectives, it is important to carry follow through beyond the onboarding stage in order to make your team members commit to their role in achieving them. You can do so by measuring their progress and use the real time figures and insights to evaluate their performance. Discover the cause for missed deadlines despite making an effort. Uncover the root of the problem as to whether it is the wrong priority or workload or the person’s abilities not matching up. Reviewing their goals from time to time to helps you check their relevance, and whether or not they are on the right track.
Improve collaborative communication
Team productivity depends mostly upon the collaborative efforts between team members. Teams that could work well together and are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses are more likely to motivate each other to compete difficult tasks. Since teams involve different people, to clear miscommunication or differences, you can incorporate some team-building exercises to help them get to know each other better. Communication improves the compatibility and teams that have members who click often result in successful outcomes.
You might qualify micromanaging as actually helping your colleagues or employees be better at what they are doing. But in a way, it sends the message that you don’t trust the people on your team to do a good job on their own. Providing with clear tasks, as well as necessary tools for fulfilling them instead of telling them how to do their jobs at every step gives them space to make their own decisions and to be creative.
Rather than to correct the course after every task is complete, point them in the direction of the outcome you are trying to achieve and then give them freedom to choose how to get there. When they figure out that their decisions are making a difference and can impact the overall performance of the team. You can do this through allowing them to lead projects, handle the responsibility of a task or taking initiatives in idea generation or implementation.
Time management tools:
- Organise to manage time. Guide teams to identify the hierarchy of their projects, tasks, and sub tasks rather than making their to-do lists cluttered. You can create weekly task board to organise whatever your team is working on and list team tasks, priority, status, person, date and timeline. Managing time by week let’s you evaluate what your team can achieve in a week and what you can’t. It gives teams a realistic timeframe to stick by and gives them chance to stick to deadlines. Evaluating weekly tasks together as a team ensures that they are aligned with the bigger picture. Breaking up a large project into actionable bits can help your team to track progress, manage difficult steps and celebrate incremental achievements.
- Help your team set right priorities. If your team members are prioritising smaller tasks, there will be no time for bigger tasks, like strategic planning/thinking, ideating towards the most important projects or tasks. Communicate the priorities and streamline by setting top two or three areas where you want them to focus. Be specific about how much time they can devote to tasks that come up from time to time. Making clear of the quality of the work you are expecting can help your team prioritise tasks by significance. Don’t let your team to overcommit to too many initiatives or tasks. Be deliberate to encourage them to block off time for focused work.
- Distribute work responsibilities. Work overload can reduce their work efficiency. Be smart about even distribution of tasks, projects, or allocating number of working hours. Outline key goals and make them realistic by analysing your team’s ability to execute on them. Encouraging them to work in sprints so they can look back at what has been achieved during that sprint can help adjust and improve on workflows. This way, you can find the bottlenecks in your team’s work flow and review based on work done, time, and backlog.
- Have clearly defined purpose for meetings. The key to improving team productivity is to eliminate time leakages and replace them with value-added ones. You cannot completely get rid of meetings with your team as they are important to share information, brainstorm ideas and make important decisions. But you can make them more effective by reducing the number of meetings by clearly setting a defined purpose for each. Prepping the teams beforehand lets them come prepared with useful information as to what each one has accomplished and what they are planning to achieve ahead.
Questions for self reflection
How do you rate your team’s overall productivity? Are they efficient or effective or both?
Are the team members collaborative or competitive in their efforts?
How openly does your team members communicate their ideas, thoughts or insights?
Does your feedback helps your team to improve or to correct themselves?
Do you often align with your teams’ strengths and weaknesses while setting their objectives?
How often do you guide your team in overcoming challenging tasks?
What specific steps can you take to make your teams more efficient and effective starting from today?
There is no single way to empower your teams to be productive because productivity always is multidimensional and involves various components. However, you can always start with small consistent ways and practices to build a team that is both efficient and productive. By providing them with right tools and positive collaborative work environment, you can show them that you are committed to helping them make the improvement and encourages them to grow and build their skills. I hope that this article encourages you to enable your teams with right tools and strategies to improve both their overall productivity.