Productivity is a hugely popular topic and there is no shortage of authors, teachers and ‘gurus’ out there to help you get more productive. You may be using Microsoft Outlook at work but if you do a search on ‘productivity apps’ you will get an avalanche of options for your laptop, phone and tablet. Productivity is a big deal and big business. It has advanced way beyond the days of sending people to a time management program and see them return with a paper planner in a binder. If you don’t remember those days you did not miss much.
Do you ever wonder why key strategic milestones and projects are not completed successfully and on time? Is your organisation slow to respond to changing internal external pressures? Are you only discovering failed or stalled projects when it is too late?
Organisational and team productivity is not always a sum of the ‘parts.’ Every person in a team may be highly productive but this does not always translate to overall productivity when measured by successfully achieving objectives. As a leader you need to take a deeper dive and build processes that will ensure productive activity achieves outcomes.
Our process on a high level includes the following and we may go into a deeper dive in subsequent posts. In addition we have a number of tools to help teams and managers execute tasks and achieves tasks more effectively.
- Your corporate or organisation’s strategy must be clearly ‘cascaded’ to the individual level. Each person must have ‘line of sight’ from their role to the overall strategy.
- Your strategy should be broken down into goals, objectives and tasks in alignment with your structure and the strategic horizons assigned to roles and job titles in your business. This is a very simple structure.
- The most difficult phase of achieving excellence in execution is changing the way people work together and introducing systems and discipline in at least one management process. This process includes the following steps:
- Weekly team meetings with a structure set of questions coupled with accurate note taking, task creation, task assignments and follow up. The manager meets with the team every week.
- The agenda is fast and focused.
- What are you working? Is it on your work plan and/or task list?
- Is there anything or person disrupting or distracting you from achieving completion?
- The manager asks, “What can I do to ‘clear the path’ or support you in achieving your tasks?” This is recorded as well.
- The manager has one day or less to follow up with the person on actions taken.
4. The meetings are fully documented and retained. I have clients who use OneNote or Evernote to record these meetings. The information captured is excellent for use in management meetings, reporting up the organisation and for performance reviews with the manager and team members.
This can be a major change program depending upon existing systems and processes in your business and the culture you have. This type of process must be implemented at all levels of the organisation and not focused on one business unit or functional area. All managers who will be conducting the weekly team meetings must be trained in how to conduct them and record information. If a manager is away for any reason the weekly meetings must still occur.
The end in mind for this change initiative is achieving higher levels of engagement, adaptability and competitiveness. You achieve these outcomes by enabling people to work effectively to achieve your strategic objectives.
There is a case to be made that this final tactic is the most important. Feedback is critical to employee engagement, yet for some reason feedback is often done so poorly it is harmful if it is done at all. I take a broad brush to defining feedback.
Feedback is collaborative, open, honest, recorded and linked to further actions. Feedback can be ad-hoc/informal or more formal in scheduled meetings with agendas. I have listed some forms that feedback may take and how they are implemented in an organisation.
Performance appraisals and reviews are the most common formal means of delivering feedback. Performance appraisals are often despised by both managers and employees. Some appraisals are complicated with scoring schema, formulae, and complex questions. Whether electronic or paper based, appraisal completion rates in some companies may be as low as 30%. If there is no follow up or corrective action taken this form of feedback, performance appraisals destroy engagement and culture.
Annual performance appraisals are not sufficient as an effective feedback mechanism. You either increase the frequency of the appraisals or implement the next tactic; weekly review meetings.
Weekly individual and team meetings are one of the key planks to my recommendations to improve productivity and execution. I recommend using an agenda, note taking and next action lists linked to workflow management tools. These meetings should also include project teams. I recommend the managers conduct the meetings on a set weekly schedule. Here are some ideas for an agenda:
- Ideally each person is working on tasks and projects aligned with the organisational strategy, [line of sight].
- Each person updates on the progress towards completion of their tasks and objectives.
- Next actions are identified for each tasks and projects.
- Priorities can be assessed and adjusted as needed.
- The manager asks each person for feedback.
- Each person has the opportunity to request help from the manager in removing ‘roadblocks’ to progress.
Some attributes of effective feedback:
- Feedback must be delivered for both positive and negative events and behaviours.
- The feedback must be honest and truthful. It should never be cloaked in politics or other agendas.
- Make sure your feedback is consistent and continual. It must be part of the managers’ modus operandi.
- Feedback should be conversational and not a monologue one way delivery.
- The manager should invite feedback from the employee and make the session reciprocal.
- Timeliness is essential. Delivery of feedback should be as close as possible to the subject of the feedback.
- In these days of global workforces, face to face feedback is not always possible. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, use video calls to get as close as possible to a face to face conversation.
If you would like to explore some options for building and sustaining a ‘feedback culture’ please get in touch.
It used to be a joke that if you had a job title change to ‘Special Projects’ you were headed out the back door of your employment. Maybe the joke still lives. However, I have met plenty of very talented problem solvers having a job title the same or similar to ‘Special Projects.’
This tactic requires a bit of a mind shift on the part of some leaders and managers who are wedded to the traditional job description without flexibility. It is time to re-consider how we structure work in our organisations to enable people to more fully utilise their skills, creativity, problem solving and decision making. How do we do this? Projects.
Projects is a big word with a huge spectrum of complexity. For the purposes of this tactic you can control the size, scale and complexity of projects based on your organisation and the people you have on your team. I like this definition of ‘project’ I found when I ‘Googled’ the word,
‘an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.’
People at all levels of your organisation can work on a project basis. My clients have struggled at times to structure a position into a project framework. This problem is commonly encountered with jobs involving repetition and reactive work; office administration, personal assistants, reception, manufacturing, warehousing etc. For these types of positions, I recommend looking at option 3 in the list below.
The entire job description is documented as projects –
- Full project descriptions, plans and resources
- Project titles/outcomes are included in the position description and the employee creates the project plan and resources
- Projects are added to the job description based on current skills or skills that are to be developed.
I have included a short list of some of the attributes and benefits to an organisation and its people when the project framework is applied to job descriptions.
- Provides a sense of personal responsibility to be accountable for project outcomes.
- Projects can enable employees in repetitious and/or reactive positions to have a ‘release valve’ to tap into their interests and develop their skills. This is definitely a boredom prevention strategy.
- There is less risk of ‘task’ and ‘focus’ drift with defined tasks, milestones and completion dates.
- Projects are conducive to manager – employee collaboration to address performance hurdles, roadblocks, training needs and other important relationship building interactivity between managers, supervisors and team members.
- Project methodology leaves less room for vagaries in an individual’s or team’s performance.
- Successful execution of projects creates positive momentum in a person’s career and often contributes to a greater sense of meaning about their work.
This tactic can be implemented in a pilot roll out for selected positions within your organisation or for new inductees. By implementing as a pilot you can devote some time to testing and evaluating new work flows, reporting and performance systems. The manager and supervisors impacted by this pilot will likely require some training and coaching to facilitate and support these changes.
If you have the opportunity you should check in with your ‘C’ level and/or senior management to learn how they structure their work. You should find that they are all outcomes focused and often their work plans are very close to project methodology. If this is the case you have a golden opportunity to garner support for this and other engagement tactics.
Would you like to explore this tactic in more detail? Get in touch and we can help you get a plan together.
When you were taught how to swim did you experience the shock and awe of being forced to enter the water while consumed in fear? Or were you first coached on the pool deck and acclimated psychologically and physically for the inevitable entry into the unknown environment of a large body of water?
If you have been in the workforce for some years, chances are you have experienced the shock and awe and/or the coaching method of training and development. If you have been around as long as I have you have probably experienced both to differing degrees.
Training and development is not an optional tactic – it is a critical component to your engagement strategy. It demands its own structured strategy and measurements to ensure it is delivering results for your organization. The training and development starts on day one [or before] with an effective on-boarding program and continues thereafter in a roadmap of personal and professional development that enhances a person’s ability to contribute to the organization and grow as a human being. Lofty? You bet.
Here are a few prime elements that I have found contribute to a solid and effective training and development tactical component to your engagement strategy.
- There is a linkage between a person’s position or job title to at least one of their learning pathways. This is often compliance based.
- The learning and development has a mix of modalities and these do not need to be concurrent – they can occur at different times and for different purposes. For example:
- Quality online self paced learning programs.
- Webinars, seminars and discussion groups.
- Targeted coaching programs with agendas and feedback.
- Mentoring programs – particularly effective for succession planning.
- The business owners and/or leaders are engaged and committed to the learning and development activities in the organization.
- There is alignment between the organisation’s strategy and the learning and development programs down to the individual level.
- Learning activities of employees are visible to managers.
- Learning and development is included in the performance management strategy.
- Learning for personal development and interests is included in the offerings for all employees. [I cannot count how many clients initiate an LMS implementation with compliance and corporate learning the only pathways].
I realize I could go on and on with this list. Give me a call or email me and we can share some more ideas. If you are seeking some ideas or help in developing or implementing an engagement strategy, I can help you out.
Client: Charles Clayton, Learning & Development Consultant
Industry: Healthcare provider
Location: Dallas, TX, USA
Organization: Baylor Scott & White serves North and Central Texas through 46 hospitals, more than 500 patient care sites, more than 6000 affiliated physicians and 36,000 employees.
Current Situation: BSWH was looking to improve employee engagement and purchased Vado’s 85 courses specifically targeted to increase engagement and retention. BSWH selected five units with high employee turnover and low employee satisfaction to pilot the courses. BSWH conducted a pre-pilot survey to measure current employee satisfaction. They analyzed the results and for each unit identified three areas to improve. To improve in those areas, the managers were directed to the Vado courses mapped to the selected area. After the managers implemented the courses, they re-surveyed to assess if employee satisfaction improved. One manager in the pilot commented that they liked having resources to address their challenges.
Customer Success: Across the five units, employee satisfaction improved across the three areas on average by 6.56%.However, for the lowest employee satisfaction score in the pre-pilot survey, the average employee satisfaction improvement was 12.65%!
Customer Comment: Charles shared that these employee satisfaction increases are “statistically relevant”. Due to the success of the pilot, BSWH renewed their Vado license and will be rolling out the courses more broadly.