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8 reasons why employee productivity may suffer


Employee productivity is a core area of focus for leaders. Your business is only as good as your employees. If they’re not performing to expectations, productivity — and the bottom line — are destined to suffer.

This is especially important today, in a post-pandemic workplace. According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee productivity is down 4.1% on an annualized basis; and managers are seeing its effect in a Great Resignation era and now the onset of the quiet quitting phenomenon.

Now is the time to make sure your organization is prioritizing employee productivity, which is less about how much you can squeeze out of your workforce and more about recognizing that people aren’t robots. If you want to be sure your employees deliver their personal best, take a close look at your company’s environment and stamp out these productivity killers.

1. Lack of big-picture view

Employees want to know how their work impacts the overall success of the company, and they want to feel personally connected to that mission.

Every company should identify components called key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate success for each employee’s position. Show team members how their piece of the puzzle fits into the organization’s goals.

Once KPIs are identified, monitor them and measure compliance. Without using scare tactics, let employees know the risks of not meeting goals, such as downsizing or losing market share. Other than KPIs, you can also connect employees to your company mission through:

  • Regular communication (from direct managers and in broader company meetings) of the company mission, vision and values
  • More opportunities to utilize shared decision-making
  • Feedback received from employee surveys
  • Rewards and recognition

2. Poor supervision

If a group’s productivity is lagging, consider a closer look at how you, other leaders or the direct managers are missing the mark. Managers sometimes miss the mark by:

  • Not being consistent or transparent
  • Micromanaging or not giving enough supervision
  • Not providing enough time to complete tasks
  • Playing favorites

The remedy here, whether it’s in self-reflection or in partnership with other leaders on your team, includes:

  • Asking your employees:
    • How can I best support you?
    • What resources do you need to succeed?
    • There is an issue I’m seeing with productivity; how can I help?
    • Because of x, y, and z, we need to make these following changes. Do you have any questions? 

Be proactive to include managers in decision-making and help them feel supported. Meet with them consistently and encourage open communication to be sure KPIs are on target.

3. Poor communication

Communication is a two-way street. You need to communicate with employees, but you also need to provide opportunities for employees to voice opinions and concerns.

Feeling like management doesn’t listen is a common reason employees don’t feel engaged. It’s important to create a safe place for employees to vent their opinions — good, bad or indifferent — and be sure the venting doesn’t show up in their reviews.

Good communication is especially important in hybrid workplace, where it’s even easier to have information lost in translation across dispersed teams.

Improving communication happens at all levels, but is especially important for direct managers. Consider:

  • What avenues do your employees have to share feedback? (Surveys, one-on-one meetings, team settings, etc.)
  • Are you taking moments to build connections, or are you heavily focused on task completion?
  • If you have an employee who is showing lower productivity, is this normal? If it’s a change from historical behavior, there is potentially something else going on that hasn’t been communicated.

4. Lack of delegation

 Leaders are notorious for not being able to delegate because they don’t want to cede control of their baby. This results in an overworked leader as well as a workforce with low self-esteem and team buy-in.

If a supervisor continually leans on one person, that person becomes overloaded, and the rest of the team becomes disengaged. The overloaded employee burns out, eventually joining the ranks of the low productivity.

5. Inconsistency 

When a work group constantly changes direction or doesn’t value consistent processes, it’s often because those at the top don’t have a clear understanding of the group’s role or the company’s goals and vision.

If the rules are always changing, employees may be too distracted to get the work done or, worse yet, just give up.

Inconsistency at the top has a downstream impact on every department, and consequently on the client. Work to:

  • Set a clear vision and objectives for the company and each work group
  • Monitor and measure KPIs for all positions
  • Be transparent and communicate any changes to that vision or direction at regular meetings

6. Weak company culture

Whether it is something big like violating company policy or corporate integrity to something smaller like office rumors or unclear dress codes – or even having limited flexibility as to when the workday starts or ends – all make up a negative workplace culture. This can cause discomfort, distraction and in the end, low productivity.

Employees may suffer anxiety and sleepless nights wondering what’s going to happen at work the next day. This could slowly lead to quiet quitting.

If the issue is bigger and related to company policy, you can help mitigate this by providing a risk-free environment for expressing concerns, without the fear of retaliation. Creating a culture that employees love plays a major role in how they work.

7. Inadequate technologies

Technology changes quickly, and if your employees are working with old tools they will not be as effective as they could be. Stay up with the trends used by your customers and competitors.

Ask your employees what they need to be more effective and efficient. They likely have a better idea than you do, and they’ll appreciate your interest.

You don’t need to make any commitments. Just listen. Maybe you can say, “I can’t make any promises, but I’d like to get your suggestions.”

8. Lack of acknowledgement

When one member of a team goes above and beyond, co-workers see that. They also see if it isn’t acknowledged and figure, “Why bother?”

The stellar employee feels it, too, and most likely will be sending out resumes soon.

We all like a pat on the back when we’re doing a good job. A casual “Well done!” in the hall or calling the person out in a meeting is sometimes all it takes.

If you’re thinking of starting an employee recognition program, it has to mean something — or it’s just white noise. Since preferred methods of recognition are different for each person and work group, consider a survey to identify what employees prefer.

Seeking more ideas to optimize output? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.