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5 Ways HR Can Improve Employee Productivity

The role of the human resources department has expanded in the last few years to grow past simply enforcing policies and procedures, recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and people management. HR leaders now find that they must ensure a positive employer brand, create initiatives that increase employee engagement and productivity, and establish relationships between the company and employees beyond just their tenure at the organization. Because HR has so much to do, improving existing employee engagement and productivity is not always given top priority.

Often, HR leaders are focused on attracting new talent by designing bonus programs to keep compensation up-to-date with current market trends, and focusing on training and recruiting programs. Beyond attracting talent, HR departments can help keep recruiting and hiring costs down by focusing on keeping current talent productive and providing programs that encourage both personal and professional growth.

For a solid productivity plan to work, companies should be focusing on accomplishing future goals with strategies that increase employees’ overall productivity. HR can make employees happier and more productive by providing positive training and enjoyable work environments that help retain talent.

Interested in improving employee productivity? Get started by following these 5 tips:

Productivity tip #1: Conduct an employee survey

First, try to discover what roadblocks are impeding productivity through an employee survey. If you don’t already have systems in place, many online programs allow you to create surveys that can be sent in bulk.

Ask the obvious questions first:

  1. Are you happy at work? – Often, this isn’t a question some employers are comfortable asking, but you’ll never know if your employees are satisfied if you don’t ask. It’s a problem that can be easily rectified once you have the answers.
  2. Do you understand the company career ladder and promotions? – Most employees will stick with a company when they’re fully aware of the career ladder steps and how to climb them. If you receive negative responses concerning this matter, chances are your employees do not know how to move up in their careers within the company.
  3. What would you rate your work-life balance? – To remain productive, a balanced work and home life are crucial to employees. Should you receive negative answers about this question, it’s time to review the other factors that could be causing more stress to your employees.

Other questions could include in office settings such as:

  • Office environment
  • Meeting frequency
  • Distracting noises or employees
  • Flexible work options

Ask only the questions relevant to your company’s offerings. But, the overall goal is to uncover what is hindering employee productivity and eliminate it.

Key Elements that attract and retain talent

Productivity tip #2: Take a physical environment inventory

If you discover that the office environment is possibly the culprit of poor productivity, there are plenty of ways to rectify this issue. For instance, a common complaint among employees is bad lighting. Too much or too little light can cause eye strain. In addition, harsh artificial lighting can trigger migraines in some people.

If lighting is causing your employees to feel uncomfortable, find ways to provide a more natural lighting option. If possible, uncover windows or find window shades that can be adjusted to let in more, or less, light. If your offices don’t have enough windows, change the types of lights you use – take out bulbs and light sources that create harsh white light for those that simulate natural lighting. Improving eye health and reducing eye strain and headaches will improve overall productivity.

In addition to light, noise level and temperature also play key roles in employee productivity. A study conducted in 2015 discovered that temperatures below 68 degrees result in a 50% drop in productivity and an increase of errors by 44%. The ideal temperature for peak employee performance is 71.5 degrees. Keeping employees comfortable will increase the likelihood that they will want to stay in the office.

The recent trend toward open offices encourage teamwork and collaboration. It also raises the overall noise level and impacts concentration and productivity. Retain the open teamwork environment while reducing noise levels by reminding employees to be courteous and establishing a workplace culture that includes:

  • Taking long phone conversations away from where people are working
  • Keeping a low voice during conversations in work areas
  • Moving lengthy conversations to designated meeting spaces
  • Showing courtesy when walking through the office with others
  • Conducting planned meetings in conference rooms

Productivity tip #3: Consider offering flexible work options

Employers find that some employees are more productive when they are allowed to work from home, at least part of the time. A study conducted by Best Buy concerning their flexible work program saw a 35% increase in productivity. Depending on the role, flex-work programs increase productivity for employees by reducing environmental stress, allowing for better concentration, and eliminating impromptu meetings.

Flexible work options have proven to reap better productivity results, happier employees, and reduced costs. If flexible work options are not already in place, start planning now, being careful to avoid flex work arrangements that lead to lower productivity and loss of individual engagement. When considering a flex work program at your organization, some best practices include:

  • Create a plan with clearly defined policies and procedures
  • Set-up communication systems to keep in contact with remote employees – in addition to email
  • Train managers and team leaders to keep remote workers accountable
  • Start with a pilot
  • Re-assess the program every year, or more, to make adjustments

Productivity tip #4: Update technology and tools 

If you’ve managed to attract top talent and maintained a staff of stellar employees, outdated tools and tech can severely impede productivity and create frustration among your best employees. Since technology is growing significantly every year, it’s important to continuously update the tools necessary to keep business processes running smoothly.

Limited budgets make it hard for employees to excel and innovate. For instance, if your company is still using Windows XP, you’re not alone, but you’re sure to encounter problems. A report by Spiceworks indicates that 50% of all businesses are still using Windows XP—even though program support ended in 2014. Even if you’ve been able to attract talent in the past, having substandard tools will make it harder to retain those employees and attract the best candidates in the future.

In addition to slowing down employee productivity, older software and hardware is more susceptible to viruses and hackers, resulting in hefty costs to remedy. Some ideas to improve upon technology, includes:

  • Review the company budget to decide which areas require immediate upgrades of tools and software
  • Set up a software/hardware transition plan to upgrade to new equipment in groups
  • Prepare training materials and block out time to get employees up to speed on newly acquired technology tools
  • Monitor success of newly implemented tech and perform frequent software/hardware updates

Productivity tip #5: Support creativity and innovation

While it’s important to set guidelines, goals, and expectations for employees, it’s just as important to provide room for flexibility, innovation, and creativity. Limiting creativity and innovation in favor of doing things the way they’ve always been done or the “XYZ company way” is the best way to kill productivity and employee engagement.

When employees are allowed to be creative in their jobs, they’re able to produce more and potentially enhance sales or reduce costs. How is this done? Through appropriate training and incentives that boost creativity and encourage innovation. By reviewing specific areas in your company, you can create the programs necessary to cultivate a creative and innovative employee culture.

While it’s true that limiting creativity can hinder production, allowing for too much innovation and creativity without any guidance can also lead to minimal production.

Employees, while needing to express creativity and innovation, still require guidelines. Too much creativity can result in chaos and lack of direction that ultimately brings production to a grinding halt. Instead, maximize productivity by also incorporating rules or guidelines for creative individuals to follow such as:

  • Set up lines of reporting with the appropriate authority by making it clear which employees report to whom
  • Give employees control of their projects, but maintain firm project guidelines, goals, deadlines, and timelines
  • Give some power over decision making to employees to gain their input and use their suggestions where appropriate

A bonus tip

One of the ways organizations can improve employee productivity is by proving they care about employees, no matter where they are in the employment cycle – including when they leave the company. By providing adequate severance benefits, including career transition services for all employees, employers can do the right thing while saving themselves multiple negative consequences associated with workforce restructuring. Surviving employees are hyper-aware of how their employer treats exiting employees during layoffs. When employees see the organization giving their friends and colleagues the support they need to transition to a new job, they tend to stop worrying about the future and put their focus back on meeting business goals.

It’s not easy for any company to implement a perfect productivity plan. Given the current emphasis on employee engagement and the advent of the employee relationship economy, human resources leaders have a unique opportunity to create workplace environments and design programs that build highly effective teams armed with the right tools and resources to help them get the most out of their efforts.


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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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