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Empowering Employees Through Freedom

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Contemplating how to improve productivity in the workplace is certainly not uncommon. But when it comes to addressing it between employer and employee, it can be a sensitive topic of discussion. So is there a good way to broach the subject matter without creating tension or anxiety?

Robby Slaughter, founder and principal of AccelaWork, discussed this particular topic in the monthly NewFocus HR newsletter. In his article, Asking For More Productivity, Slaughter highlights three standard methods that companies lean on to improve employee performance: training, tools, and team building. Yet, according to Slaughter, these solutions can leave little to no effect on office productivity:

There is a thriving market for retreats, conferences, ropes courses, and other group activities. Any of these techniques might result in a bump in productivity, but we’ve all seen significant investments in these sorts of programs that seem to have no effect whatsoever. Is there any way to reliably increase the quantity and quality of employee work? The answer is easy to state but extremely difficult to put into practice. We know that individuals accomplish more when they are empowered, respected, and supported. In the entire history of the human resources business, that message has been a constant thread that employers and consultants have long struggled to put into practice. Instead of authoritatively sending people to training, we get more results by asking if they’d like to take any training classes and encouraging them to research and select programs on their own. The same logic applies to tools and team building. If we reach out to employees with ideas and seek their feedback, we’re much more likely to foster a true sense of ownership and camaraderie.

Take a well-known, concrete example: installing dual monitors at employee workstations. Multiple studies have shown that adding a second screen can increase performance by nearly 50% and reduce errors by one-third. The cost of the additional display is easily recovered in a few weeks, if not sooner. Yet forcing employees to use this technology is likely to hurt morale.

Personally, once I went to two monitors, I couldn’t imagine a life without both of them. But someone may be resistant to the idea. Forcing them to use technology they aren’t comfortable with isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, by giving the employee an option, you’re allowing them to feel like they have a say in their work destiny. And it’s more than likely that almost everyone is going to respond positively to your request. If someone doesn’t, then maybe that can be an opportunity to find out why they’d be hesitant to such a change. It’s a simple act, but it can improve everyone’s experience in the workplace, from top to bottom.

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Improving worker productivity is a topic that AccelaWork discusses quite often in conjunction with stakeholder satisfaction. We strongly believe that empowering employees to analyze and implement business processes through the freedom of knowledge, responsibility, and authority is the best way to increase productivity. In conclusion of his article, Slaughter takes the opportunity to highlight this exact point:

Often, the best way to improve productivity is to grant others a little bit of freedom. Empower them to succeed by giving them the opportunity to explore. Seek their counsel on ways to transform their own work and ask for their guidance on how to make your office more efficient. You just might find ideas tucked away and undiscovered. Sometimes the smartest move of all is simply to listen.

To learn more about improving productivity and satisfaction in your office, reach out to our our productivity consultants today.

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