Do employees struggle to get things done? Or worse, do you have productivity problems throughout the company?
The problems may not be where we tend to point fingers – people, processes and policies that seem to be slacking.
Instead, researchers find the problems with getting quality work done on time aren’t in how or when employees do them.
It has more to do with how leaders communicate before, during and after the work.
But communicating more isn’t the answer: People will still fall short, despite the plethora of communication channels we use every day.
Communicating with quality and consistency is the cure, says Daniel Markovitz, author of The Conclusion Trap.
Here are four ways leaders can communicate to help everyone be more productive:
Huddle in tiers
Many organizations and/or managers host daily huddles – brief group meetings where they cover the day’s priorities, assignments and any information they need to share – remotely or in person.
To beat productivity issues, Markowitz suggests you ditch the traditional huddles. Instead, try tiered huddles. Tier:
- 1: Front-line employees meet at the start of the workday.
- 2: Supervisors meet 30 minutes later.
- 3: Managers meet 30 minutes after that.
- 4: Directors or VPs meet 30 minutes later.
- 5: Executives meet last.
This way, people address problems at the lowest possible level. If one group can’t fix the problem, they can kick it up the line. They keep communication flowing and stay connected across levels.
Make more work visible
Most people bury work in their computers and heads. Others don’t know who’s overwhelmed or ready to take on more at any given minute. That can lead to unnecessary status checks and excessive messaging.
To avoid that, Markowitz suggests using physical or virtual task boards. Try an app or post a large, easily seen white board. Add cards for each task, then specify who’s handling it and the status. This eliminates time-wasting status checks via messages and in meetings.
Create your ‘bat signal’
In fictional times of crisis, police call out to Batman for help by projecting his signature bat symbol in the sky. Try to implement a similar tool to help employees recognize the difference between an issue and true emergency – and respond accordingly.
Without a “bat signal,” employees often waste time checking every digital platform (and even the grapevine) on issues that don’t deserve the attention.
Set up a communication protocol to help everyone understand what needs attention when. For instance, for true emergencies, make calls and drop tasks. For less urgent issues, use Slack and expect responses within a half-day. When people need to share information, they can use email and not expect responses.
Align responsibility with authority
Productivity problems rise when leaders assign tasks but don’t give employees the authority to deliver results. Employees who don’t have autonomy disengage from their work. They can’t focus and won’t get things done.
“If an employee is responsible for an outcome, they should have the authority to make the necessary decisions without being forced into an endless string of emails, meetings or presentations,” says Markovitz.
Give employees the training and authority to make low-risk decisions on their work. Ask them to seek advice and/or approvals on high-risk decisions.