PwC's Key Trends in Human Capital 2012 report reveals that productivity levels saw a sharp drop in 2011 and suggests that this is largely down to companies cutting back on recruitment during the downturn.
This has left companies with a higher proportion of experienced workers who command greater pay but are less motivated than before, giving companies a much lower return from their investment in their workforce. While employees have to take some responsibility for their own productivity, the environment in which they work can play a part so there are some things you can do to get more from your staff.
Have a clear chain of command from the top down helps employees know where they fit into the company and exactly what they are responsible for.
By being held accountable for their role and given targets to achieve, they will be far more likely to carry them out well.
Recognise and reward
One of the most motivating factors for employees is that good work will be recognised and encouraged. It's simple psychology – reward good work to encourage the same in the future.
Rewards could be in the form of an incentive or simply recognition of someone going the extra mile.
Employees need to feel as though they have the trust and freedom to do their jobs. If you assume people will act responsibly then, most of the time, you will be rewarded by greater motivation and loyalty.
Offer genuine prospects It is true that, before the recession in 2008, the labour market was a lot more mobile and staff would move on to find new challenges.
These days many employees stay in jobs for longer – this can be good for small businesses because it saves the cost of having to replace them, but it can also have an effect on productivity if the employee doesn't feel challenged. This can be overcome by offering training and a clear route for progression through the company.
Use performance reviews
The PwC report suggested that more vigorous performance management is needed to ensure employers are getting better value from people.
Regular performance reviews or appraisals can be useful for you, the employer, and the employee to monitor their progress, which can itself be very motivating.
Make sure that any targets you set them are measurable and realistic for them to be truly motivating.
It is worth reviewing your internal processes every so often to make sure that they are still as efficient as possible.
IT systems such as online accounting and CRM software can help to automate manual processes and free up more time.
Give employees the freedom to think creatively and be open to any new ideas they may have – if an employee can find a more efficient way of doing their job, you might be able to get more out of them and save money.
Spend less time in meetings
Depending on the kind of business you run, you may find time taken up by numerous, repetitive meetings.
While these are important for making key decisions in the business, make sure that clear actions and responsibilities come out of them and that they are followed up.
You can only tell if productivity levels are going up or down if you measure them on an ongoing basis. Put processes in place that will let you measure the company's performance against its targets and how many employee hours it takes to perform tasks or deliver a service.
This will highlight any areas where improvements can be made and, in turn, profits can be increased. Some of the points above are not quick wins which will make an immediate difference to your bottom line, but they will deliver value over the medium- to long-term.
For advice and support on performance management and HR, call us on 0845 130 1722 to find out how the Forum can help your business.
A recent report found that the productivity levels of European employees are at a five-year low. Here we give you our top tips for keeping your workers motivated, helping you to get a better return on your investment in staff.