Today’s business environment of disruptive innovation and ever-changing market conditions can make driving consistent performance a challenge. Traditional performance-management strategies aren’t always effective at addressing productivity issues for a number of reasons:
- They’re reactive, leaving little time to make adjustments.
- They’re inconsistent, making it difficult to achieve consistent levels of productivity.
- They’re prescriptive, lacking much room for personalization.
In essence, traditional performance management, which relies heavily on a formal review process, is inefficient in a constantly evolving marketplace.
Employee productivity levels will naturally fluctuate throughout the year, but there are a few ways to encourage consistency.
1. Encourage productivity during traditionally slow periods
Just as markets fluctuate throughout the year so does employee performance. This progression varies depending on the organization—for instance, retailers tend to do significantly more business in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
When these slow periods approach, managers can encourage consistent performance by aligning business goals with employee needs.
2. Offer flexible working hours
During particularly busy times of the year, employees may not be able to keep up with their workload during normal business hours. When many employees take vacation days, for example, during the summer or holidays, it can put additional stress on other team members.
Flexible hours are a powerful perk and motivator, with 80% of employees citing this as a key differentiator when choosing a job over one that doesn’t. By giving employees the ability to choose their working hours, they have more opportunities to reach their objectives.
3. Boost morale with bonuses
When workload is high, employee stress levels can skyrocket. Managers may not be able to reduce workloads, but they can ease the pain by offering bonuses for hard work. Holiday bonuses, for example, show employees that leadership recognizes and appreciates the work done throughout the year.
4. Let employees work from home
At particularly stressful times of the year, it might make more sense to simply let employees stay home. Family responsibilities, inclement weather and other distractions can make it difficult to stay focused at the office.
In fact, a two-year Stanford study found that work-from-home employees increased their productivity by the equivalent of a full day’s work. By avoiding a commute, employees were able to work a true full-shift rather than arriving late or leaving early to beat the traffic.
5. Understand how time of day impacts performance
Productivity peaks and troughs at the macro scale of a full year are reflected on the smaller scale of a single business day. Though each individual’s prime working hours will be a little different, there are a few commonalities.
- Mornings tend to be better for tasks that involve decision making. At this time of day, and individual’s cognitive abilities are typically at their highest, and they’ll decrease throughout the day.
- Afternoons are often slower, especially as employees are processing their lunch. Still, it’s a good time to work on lower-priority tasks and establish goals for the next day.
When possible, managers should work with employees to determine what type of schedule is best. Night owls may prefer to do their creative work in the evenings, for example.
6. Resisting the impulse to multitask
Studies have shown that human brains just aren’t built for multitasking. Short-term gains in productivity aren’t sustainable; employees who focus on too many tasks at once burn out quickly.
Encouraging single-tasking may be a good way to drive more consistent performance from teams, and thus the organization as a whole. Concentration, it turns out, should not be undervalued.
Many factors impact employee performance. Managers can build more predictability into their teams’ output by:
- Offering greater levels of flexibility around traditionally slow parts of the year.
- Raising team morale with bonuses.
- Scheduling high-priority tasks early in the day.
- Understanding the value of deep concentration.
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