As the speed of business increases, on what feels like a daily basis, people often find themselves looking for ways to do more, better, faster. But without an intentional and thought-out approach, any productivity initiative is likely to produce more sizzle than substance and ultimately lead to lower productivity rates for your employees.
Here is how I approach productivity, both in my own career and at my company, Brokers International.
Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning
A recent Deloitte study revealed that companies that invest in their employees’ continued learning benefit from a 37% increase in productivity (along with greater likelihood of being a market leader). In fact, according to Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.”
But you can’t just tell your employees you want them to further their skills and leave it at that.
At Brokers, we actively incentivize learning. When an employee wants to pursue an industry designation, we offer reimbursement for that and may additionally offer time off for classes or study time. We also have a tuition reimbursement program for employees who want to go back to school. And if an employee has a designation and has required continuing education to maintain it, we support that both with subsidy and time off.
Empower Internal Experts
Brokers International utilizes small subcommittees. That might be a group of SMEs people can turn to for job knowledge, or maybe we’ve identified a group of individuals with knowledge about a specific company we do business with who can then teach their peers, rather than relying on management to pass that knowledge on.
We also are intentional to foster collaboration, something that has taken on a heightened focus since our employees started working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. We have an email address, askBI, and we encourage employees to use it to ask anything. The senior staff reads each email that comes in, and because our staff knows that we get some great ideas and feedback, which keep the company running smoothly. When our employees know that we take their suggestions and concerns seriously, it makes them more excited to come in (or log in) to work each day.
And whether it comes in through askBI or another channel, we give time to let new ideas come to fruition and reward/recognize people who come up with an idea. Because we give a percentage of the savings to someone who comes up with a cost-savings idea, Brokers’ employees are constantly looking for ways to streamline our operations.
Networking and Peer Groups
A company without siloed departments, where employees know others across the organization, feels a lot more comfortable, more like family, and leads to greater collaboration.
Pre-COVID, I had an expectation of my management team — once a month, they would take an employee who isn’t under their hierarchy out to lunch. I still have that expectation, but for now that might happen through electronic means. A manager will invite another employee to just sit and chat for an hour over Zoom while they have lunch. (I promise, it’s not as awkward as it sounds.)
While that’s an expectation of mine for management, I recommend all employees do that to create alliances within the organization. The more that happens, the more efficiently the company runs — if a situation comes up in the future that requires cross-departmental collaboration, those preexisting relationships help employees know exactly who they need to work with, and they’ll be more comfortable working together than if they were thrown together cold for a one-off project.
Beyond your own company, there are peer groups where you can connect and network with other professionals. Whether an online discussion forum or an in-person networking group, these are opportunities to get an outside perspective on issues you might be dealing with.
There are certain things that all businesses face, regardless of industry, and it can never hurt to hear how others handle the issues you’re being confronted with. Peer groups give you the ability to hear how other people do what you do. How do they hire? Fire? Do performance reviews? How do they recognize or reward employees? How do they select vendors?
It’s awesome to hear how 10 or 12 other successful people approach those universal issues, because undoubtedly, you’ll pick something up. And even if you don’t pick something up, you might learn what not to do, which is equally as important.