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How to improve the productivity of your team at work

So here you are. Maybe you've just been promoted, and want to make a great first impression on the higher-ups. Or perhaps you've been at management level for a while but just can't shake the feeling that things could be better. "How to improve my team's productivity" is a question that bosses of all stripes often have to ask themselves.

Good communication is essential for a productive team

Communication is at the core of practically any workplace, and until this year, it's been easy to take many aspects of it for granted. Some of the key elements of communication that managers need to master include:

  • Virtual communication: It's important to get used to modern communication tools, especially in 2020. Services like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom and WhatsApp all provide a range of direct and asynchronous communication options to help you and your team collaborate effectively even when you're in separate locations. Some of these tools can even help with idea generation and innovation. For example, Slack enables you to set up channels for different areas of discussion.
  • Goal setting and clear expectations: As a manager, it's your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page. This means not only ensuring that the projects your team are working on tie directly into broader company objectives, but also helping your employees to see the connections between these organisational goals and the work they're doing. This can encourage your team to do their best work, because they'll understand the impact it could have. Using a pre-established framework like Objectives and Key Results can be really helpful here. Then there's the issue of managing employee expectations, which is essential for safeguarding your team's productivity. When a job doesn't live up to expectations, it can cause the employee in that role to become disengaged. So it's important for managers to set realistic expectations as early on as the recruiting stage and the onboarding process, and to revisit those expectations in future discussions and performance reviews.
  • Active listening: The question "how to improve my team's productivity" isn't worth much if you don't pay attention to what your team is telling you. Whether it's in a 1:1 or a weekly team stand-up, a good boss should not only listen to, but actively engage with what their employees are saying. If everything your team says goes in one ear and out the other, they'll soon realise it. If you always ignore your team's concerns and suggestions, they'll quickly learn not to bother, and you'll lose out on valuable insight and opportunities for innovation.
  • Emotional intelligence: While emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or "œEQ") can be very valuable in terms of self-regulation, for a manager, its most important application is in dealing with other people. The question, "how to improve my team's productivity" is often an issue of understanding the stressors affecting your team and finding ways to alleviate them. Emotional intelligence can help you support your team's mental health by spotting issues with their wellbeing before they reach breaking point. While it's definitely something that some people have more natural aptitude for than others, you can still take steps to practice and develop your emotional intelligence to be a more effective leader.

High-trust workplaces are much more productive

One of the best answers to the question "how to improve my team's productivity" is to build a relationship of mutual trust in your workplace. To say trust is important in the workplace would be the understatement of the decade. The fact is that workplaces with high levels of trust are much more productive than those without. A survey of over more than 1000 US workers found that high-trust workplaces are 50% more productive and over three quarters more engaged than employees in low-trust workplaces.

Earning the trust of your employees basically comes down to fairness, consistency and transparency. But it's also a matter of having their backs when things go wrong. If your team doesn't feel like they can trust you, they might hesitate to bring issues to your attention for fear of how you'll react.

However, it's not enough for your team to trust you. Bosses generally have a lot on their plate at the best of times, so it's vital for managers to be able to trust their employees. In other words, you have to rely on your team to be able to get on with their jobs. By all means, keep an open door and let them know to come to you if they need help. But if you can't shake the habit of breathing down your team's necks and demanding constant progress updates, then you need to ask yourself why you feel the need to micromanage to such a degree.

The role of leadership in team productivity

There's no magic bullet to solving performance and engagement issues, but "how to improve my team's productivity" is a question all managers need to ask themselves at one point or another. But if you keep making changes and enacting new workplace policies only to find that productivity isn't improving, then you might be what needs to change.

If you've spent any time at all on our blog, then you'll know how important employee engagement is for productivity. With that in mind, it's worth noting that previous Gallup research shows that managers account for 70% of variation in employee engagement.

This is exactly why proper management training is absolutely essential. The costs of poor management training are hard to pin down, but we know enough to see that it's astronomical. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) estimated it to cost UK businesses £19 billion a year, whereas the OECD puts it at over £80 billion. No matter which side you come down on, the cost is eye-watering. This is just one reason why we at Weekly10 believe that workplace education should be one of the top priorities for employers today.

We hope this article has given you some ideas about how to get the most out of your team. If you're still finding yourself googling "how to improve my team's productivity" then we also have a list of top tools and tips that might answer that question for you. To learn more about employee engagement and the Weekly10 platform as a whole, visit our blog today!

Weekly10's powerful employee engagement and performance tools help maximise the effectiveness of your people. Why not check out a demo with one of our team?