10 tips for promoting a more efficient company culture

Flexible hours, streamlined communication, meaningful incentives and regular performance reviews can help you improve productivity and morale in your workforce.

As daylight saving time approaches, it’s a good time to think about, well, saving time.

Employees are spending more and more time at the office, exceeding the standard 40-hour work week. However, increasing hours worked does not necessarily translate to increased efficiency.

So, how can leaders and managers improve employee productivity while still saving time? Here are 10 ways:

1. Delegate.

Your company is your baby, so you want to have a direct hand in everything. Of course, there is nothing wrong with prioritizing quality, but checking every detail yourself rather than delegating duties can waste everyone’s valuable time.

Instead, give meaningful responsibilities to qualified employees, and trust that they will perform the tasks well. This helps your employees gain skills and leadership experience that will benefit your company. You hired them for a reason; now give them a chance to prove you right.

2. Match tasks to skills.

Knowing your employees’ skills and behavioral styles is essential for maximizing efficiency. For example, an extroverted, creative thinker is probably a great person to pitch ideas to clients. However, they might struggle if they are given a more rule-intensive, detail-oriented task.

Asking your employees to be great at everything isn’t realistic. Instead, before giving an employee an assignment, ask yourself: Is this the person best suited to perform this task? If not, find someone else whose skills and styles match your needs.

3. Communicate effectively.

Seamless communication is the key to a productive workforce. Technology enables us to contact each other with the mere click of a button, but a McKinsey study found that emails can take up nearly 28 percent of an employee’s time—the second-most time-consuming activity for workers (after their job-specific tasks).

Try social networking tools (such as Slack) designed for even quicker team communication. You can also encourage your employees to communicate face to face as much as possible. Having a quick meeting or phone call can settle a matter that might have taken hours of back-and-forth emails.

4. Keep goals clear and focused.

You can’t expect employees to be efficient if they don’t have a focused goal. If a goal is not clearly defined and achievable, employees will be less productive. Make sure employees’ assignments are as clear and detailed as possible. Let them know exactly what you expect of them, and specify what impact this assignment will have on companywide objectives.

Make sure your goals are “SMART”—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Before assigning an employee a task, ask yourself whether it fits all these requirements. If not, ask yourself how the task can be tweaked to help your workers stay focused and efficient.

5. Offer incentives.

One way to promote efficiency is to give employees an attractive reason. Recognizing your workers for a job well done will make them feel appreciated and encourage them to continue increasing their productivity.

When deciding how to reward efficient employees, consider their individual needs or preferences. For example, one employee might appreciate public recognition, and another would prefer a private “thank you.” In addition to simple words of gratitude, here are a few incentives you can try:

  • Paid time off: Instead of a bonus or raise, you can offer your employees additional PTO without having to use their vacation or sick time.
  • Treat them to a meal: You can take the team out to lunch, dinner or happy hour. Maybe even allow them to leave work early to do so.
  • Send a handwritten note: This shows you recognize the great work your employees have done and that you care enough to put your own personal time into thanking them.
  • “Lazy Monday coupons”: Another option is a “Lazy Monday” coupon, which allows employees to arrive late on a Monday morning.
  • Tell your boss: If you email the team or team member thanking them for their work, considering copying your boss on the email.
  • Boost their health: Consider implementing a workplace wellness program to cut down on the number of sick days and reduce your company’s overall health insurance costs.

6. Cut out the excess.

If possible, try not to give employees smaller, unnecessary tasks when they are focused on a larger goal. Look at the team’s routine, and see whether there is anything that you can cut to give employees more time to focus on higher-priority assignments.

Is that daily report essential? If not, cut that requirement. That will save everyone time.

7. Train and develop employees.

Beyond their original training, encourage continued employee development. Helping them expand their skillsets will build a much more advanced workforce, which will benefit your company in the long run. There are several ways you can support employee development: individual coaching, workshops, courses, seminars, shadowing or mentoring, or even just increasing their responsibilities. Offering these opportunities will give employees additional skills that allow them to improve their efficiency and productivity.

8. Embrace telecommuting.

Research shows that people who work from home are 13 percent more productive than in-office employees. Letting employees telecommute will save them time that would otherwise be wasted. Beyond the daily commute itself, other factors apply.

Maybe an employee is too ill to come in to work (or is simply worried about infecting their co-workers) but can still be productive. Perhaps an employee would have to miss an entire day of work for that three-hour window to get the cable installed or the refrigerator fixed. Allow your employees to work from home so they can maximize what time they do have available.

9. Give each other feedback.

They can’t improve if they don’t know they’re being inefficient, so performance reviews are essential. Measure efficiency and productivity, and then hold individual meetings to let them know where they are excelling and what areas they ought to work on.

After reviewing your employees, ask them what you could do to help them improve. Maybe they would like more guidance or a little more creative freedom. Feedback not only gives you clear, immediate ways to help employees improve, but also encourages a culture of open dialogue to foster development over time.

10. Look at the big picture.

Things that might seem inefficient might help you in the long run. So, before vetoing an apparent misuse of time, ask yourself how it could benefit your company.

A version of this post first appeared on the Zenefits blog.

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