Surveys often tell us that a full day, or more, of each employee's workweek ends up being unproductive. While it's easy to claim that workers are goofing off, smart managers know that they, not their employees, have the most direct impact on team productivity and efficiency.
Take this quiz to see how your approach measures up. For each item, score yourself from 1 ("rarely") to 3 ("usually"):
1. I set clear guidelines for my team about sticking to business during the workday.
2. I carefully monitor what work actually gets done.
3. I instill in my people a sense of urgency about their work and why it matters.
4. I keep everyone informed about our goals and how well we're doing as a group.
5. I offer more positive than negative feedback when it comes to discussing people's daily work.
6. I've thoroughly cross-trained my people so they can switch jobs and fill in for one another as needed.
7. I consciously involve my people in ongoing problem-solving, quality control and process improvements.
8. I keep the department planned, scheduled and starting on time.
9. I work out contingency plans for times when our regular workflow gets slowed or stopped for reasons beyond our control.
10. I stress results rather than activity.
11. I help people get themselves back on track when they've fallen behind on their work.
12. I reassign duties so that people have some change and variety in what they do.
13. I set an example by the way I manage my own time and my own attitude toward work.
What do your answers mean?
If you scored more than 30, you're likely in great shape when it comes to helping your people stay productive. In fact, if you scored more than 35, you might want to consider easing up a bit. While many workers thrive in a disciplined environment, if yours start to chafe, the challenges to your morale could backfire and drive your productivity down.
If you scored between 19 and 29, you're likely within a fairly normal range—productivity is neither as good nor as bad as it could be. Depending on the nature of your work and your workplace, this may not be such a terrible place to be. However, even if you're more focused on creativity or quality than on productivity, a more efficient use of time and energy will leave more room to pursue those greater goals.
If you scored below 18 points, you probably struggle with helping your team get its work done in a timely and efficient manner. Note the practices suggested by these items, which fall into four main categories: directing your people with clear goals and planning; monitoring their ongoing results; improving the way you do things; and reinforcing employees' morale and commitment. All four are vital toward maintaining peak productivity and efficiency.