Ever wonder why it doesn’t matter how hard you beg, bribe or threaten your employees, they just can’t seem to get the job done the way you want them to?

Earlier this week I stumbled across an interesting article on employee motivation. Okay, I can’t really say “stumbled”. More like, “Was beaten over the head with a sledgehammer.” My brain is still throbbing.

I’ll save you the full recap, although if you’ve got time you should take a minute to go check it out. That article hit on something we’ve all known for a very, very long time. That nobody gets up, gets dressed and puts their blood, sweat and tears into a project just for the dollar signs they’re going to see at the end of it.

Are Your Employees Committed to the Cause, or Just Slogging Away for a Paycheck?

Like most people, I worked minimum wage jobs to pay my way through college. Waiting tables. Flipping burgers. Stocking books. Selling calendars. Cleaning the lab at the student clinic.

With the notable exception of the winter I spent mindlessly watching the clock tick from a mall kiosk, most of these jobs had some redeeming feature. Each and every one of them also came equipped with the co-worker that just doesn’t care.

You know why they didn’t care? Because they felt like they had absolutely no investment whatsoever in whether or not the company they were working for kept their head above water. If the company closed its doors, they’d just go work somewhere else.

Obviously, this did wonders for their commitment to getting to work on time. And taking care of their customers. And actually getting the job done.

Running an Evil Dictatorship Never Works Out the Way You Think It Will

When you step up to the bat on a project with a vision, you want to make sure everything’s perfect. So you lay down the project parameters, micro-manage everybody’s work, harp on your employees to make sure that deadline’s reached…and wonder why your team scatters like cockroaches the minute you walk in the door.

Draw your team in when you’re working together. Encourage them to provide input and offer suggestions. Make them feel like it’s their project, not your project.

You’ll be amazed by how quickly it makes a difference.

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Summer vacation is in no way, shape or form reserved exclusively for elementary students. Or teachers. Or high schoolers looking for summer jobs. If you haven’t already been overwhelmed by vacation requests, your employees are more ambitious than most! Psychiatrists keep telling us that letting employees out the door to make the most of their accumulated vacation time is a good thing. Clears the mind, prevents burnout, etc., etc. But how do you convince vacation to do what it’s supposed to do and actually increase employee productivity?

Is there any way to keep employee productivity on track when they've been bitten by the vacation bug?

I was reading a blog post yesterday that described the ages and stages of your employees’ vacation. For the week before vacation they’re distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate on the job at hand with freedom right around the corner. Couple that with a lighter workload than usual, since they won’t be around the following week, and you’ve got a notable drop in employee productivity. The next week they’re on vacation and out of the office, and the week after that they spend almost the entire week trying to snap their mind out of vacation mode and back into work mode.

That week-long vacation is going to wind up affecting their job performance for the better part of a month.

What you really need is a fly swatter to nip that vacation bug out of the picture, increasing your employee productivity instead of decreasing it. If you do it right, you may even be able to get them to the point where you hardly notice they’re gone!

If you’ve got a key employee going on vacation, be sure their projects (or certain phases of them) can be wrapped up before they leave. Make clearing their desk a priority. It’s amazing how much faster you can work when you know you’re going to be able to kick back and relax as soon as you’re done!

When another employee is going to be pinch hitting, let the vacationing veteran handle their training. The change in scenery (training instead of working by rote) will help keep their mind on the job, and when they know someone’s going to be taking their place there’s a good chance they’re going to put a little more effort into making sure their replacement doesn’t work any harder than they have to.

As often as possible, try to get employees started on new tasks or projects as soon as they get back. Their minds may be slow getting back into their old routine, but a new challenge makes their mind take a different path. After spending some time on the new and unfamiliar they should have no trouble getting back into the swing of things, and the excitement of a new project will usually compensate for any post-vacation jet lag in employee productivity.

Employee productivity isn’t measured in terms of the quantity of hours worked in most of today’s industries but, rather, in terms of the quality of hours worked. Play your cards right and an employee whose mind is rested, relaxed and ready to go after vacation is going to be put in a better performance all the way around.

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How many weekends do you spend in the office instead of out on the river? Working weekends isn’t as painful in the winter, when the great outdoors has gloom and doom written all over it, but as soon as summer rolls around the prospect of fun in the sun starts to sound a lot better than spending your weekend bringing your latest project in under deadline.

How do you curb those weekend heebie-jeebies and keep your mind on the job? And how can you help your employees keep on track, focused and motivated when they’re giving up their weekend on top of the Monday-Friday 9-5? Here’s what today’s business owners, motivational speakers and yes, even your employees have to say about working weekends:

1)      Make weekends casual. If your clients aren’t going to be coming into the office, there’s no reason not to let your employees kick back and relax a little.

2)      Half days and/or Flex time. Most of your employees won’t mind giving up their time on the weekends if they know they’re going to get to enjoy themselves sooner or later. 4 hour shifts, flex time (the option to sleep in and come in at noon rather than 9) and scheduling flexibility will go a long way toward making them feel less like martyrs and more like essential components of your team.

Working from home can go a long way toward making your employees happy(ish) about working on the weekend!

3)      Alternate weekends. Do you regularly operate on weekends? Or are weekend hours going to be a regular “thing” until you get a project back on line? A word to the wise: Asking the same employees to work weekends (and overtime) over and over again is going to dramatically increase your staff turnover. Whenever possible, have your team switch off so everyone gets to enjoy their weekend (sooner or later).

4)      Let them work from home. Do you absolutely have to be in the office to get done what you need to get done? If the answer is no, give working from home a try-all of you. Spending a Saturday in your pajamas with your feet propped on your end table and a laptop on your lap is a much more relaxed work environment than rolling into an empty office. That relaxation, and the absence of regular office distractions, can increase efficiency and creativity for maximum results on a project.

5)      Reserve weekend hours for absolute, unquestioned emergencies. Want to keep your employees on track and eliminate weekend lethargy? Save working weekends for when an emergency is looming on the horizon. That immediately infuses those Saturday hours with a sense of urgency that’s guaranteed to help keep your mind on the straight and narrow.

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