Greater productivity should be a goal of just about every organization. It is often challenged, however, by ever-tightening budgets and low employee morale.
Nevertheless, increasing productivity can be accomplished without a lot of money and ultimately result in raising employee engagement.
To do this, nothing works better than appealing to people’s intrinsic motivation and letting them decide how best to do the work. It is this combination of aligning people’s passion with the work they do and giving them the freedom on how to do it that results in greater productivity.
Passion leads to high performance. Find out what your employees are most passionate about by observing where they demonstrate the most energy. Ask them what they are challenged by and enjoy doing most—quite often these are one and the same. You’ll likely see the highest quality in these tasks as well.
See if you can optimize more of this by careful observation and checking with them on your perceptions. You could also provide them with opportunities where they may not yet have expertise, but want to develop in order to grow in their careers.
No one likes every part of their job and I’m not suggesting you do away with the parts that your workers don’t like. This is rarely possible, but it is important to rethink who does which task and evaluate whether that is the most efficient way to continue. Try transferring tasks to those who are most enthused about them if at all possible.
Liking tasks has a lot to do with the stimulation found in being challenged. It is not necessarily easy work that we find most appealing, but rather the things that are challenging yet where we ultimately have success. It’s about intrinsic motivation.
As I’ve written about previously, people with intrinsic motivation can do incredible things. Appealing to this internal motivator can be challenging, but ensures that your people are fully engaged in the work. And no amount of extrinsic motivators (e.g., increased salary, bigger job titles, enviable perks, greater benefits, etc.) can ever supplant the value of intrinsic motivation.
That’s because intrinsic motivation comes directly out of people’s passion. If they are doing what they are passionate about, they are likely intrinsically motived. And that means they are fully engaged in the work.
The second thing that can lead to greater productivity is giving people the freedom to determine how best to do the work. It’s important to tell your people what you want but not how you want it done. Nothing stifles motivation, creativity and productivity more than telling people exactly how to do something when there is the opportunity to enable them to do it in their own way. This is how you can you stir innovation and ultimately raise productivity.
Just because you’ve been building widgets the same way for years, doesn’t mean there isn’t a cheaper and perhaps more efficient way to do so now. Getting a new pair of eyes on an existing process regularly could very well lead to a better way of doing something.
If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up people to collect wood
and don’t assign them to tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for
the endless immensity of the sea.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Amy Arnsten, a neuroscience professor at Yale University, studies the importance of feeling in control. She explains that when people lose their sense of control, such as when tasks are dictated to them, the brain’s emotional response center can actually cause a decrease in cognitive functioning. This perception of not being in control then leads to a drop in productivity.
When a manager describes the outcome she wants, rather than specifying the steps to take, an employee can then decide how to achieve the outcome and preserve his perceived sense of control, cognitive function, and ultimately improve his overall productivity.
There is so often a tendency to reject new ideas by upsetting the status quo. Instead, you should be open to new perspectives even if you find yourself at first rejecting them. Ask yourself why and be challenged. Let your entrenched ideas be up for debate. You may find you can no longer justify why you are doing things the way they are currently being done.
By enabling your employees to follow their passions and enabling them to accomplish tasks in their own way, you’ll get them more fully engaged and you will raise overall productivity.