5 Ways to Measure Productivity in the Workplace

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What is Employee Productivity, and Why is it Challenging to Define?

Measure Workplace ProductivityWorkplace productivity basically comes down to output: what can employees accomplish in a given day/week/year?

Back in the industrial era, we used to be able to measure output very concretely. For example, it’s pretty easy to quantify the number of car parts a line can produce in an hour.

Sometimes that’s still possible, but in an information economy, output often becomes much more slippery, for a few reasons:

  • Modern job roles are often complex, with varying degrees of distance from money-making activities
  • Knowledge and creativity can be hard to measure
  • Goals are sometimes less tangible

Why is Productivity Still Important?

In any industry, increasing what you and/or your employees can accomplish in a day has a direct impact on how well you can compete.

There are more priorities competing for employees’ attention than ever before. Keeping people’s focus and engaging them in their roles determines the performance of your business as whole.

5 Ways to Measure Productivity in the Workplace

Understanding how to measure workplace productivity often comes down to the way you define your goals at an institutional level. You can’t increase how well you’re doing unless you know what the benchmark is.

The way to accomplish this depends on the size of your organization; in general, the goal is to align employees’ goals with company objectives but maintain a way of measuring performance on an individual level.

Depending on your business, one or more strategies might be effective:

  1. Sales or profit tracking. Especially in small businesses in which each employee has a defined value-adding role, it may make sense to watch only the bottom line. Sales departments, for example, are often easily tied to outcome-based metrics that can numerically measure productivity in the workplace.
  2. Service measurements. In industries in which customer service determines business success, the quality of output matters as much as the quantity. Customer satisfaction scores can often be used as proxies for employee output.
  3. Time management. The way people are spending their time in the office can also provide a measurement of how productive they are being. Recordkeeping alone has been shown to give employees a better sense of how they’re directing their time, reducing wasted time and keeping them on track. It can be difficult to do this accurately, and overemphasizing time management can feel oppressive to employees. However, there are a few time-keeping software programs that can measure how much time it takes staff to complete given tasks.
  4. 360-degree measurement. Employees can evaluate both their own productivity and the productivity of their co-workers. In small departments or businesses in which employees work closely with each other and are familiar with each other’s roles, have employees evaluate each other. This method requires training in objective feedback and a positive work environment.
  5. Quality measurement. In some businesses, it makes the most sense to only track whether individually assigned tasks get done on time. Productivity software like Asana and Basecamp keep track of this automatically and provide a visual record of what employees have done.

Productivity and Happiness

Talking about “maximizing workplace productivity” often conjures images of the production line and micromanagement in which breaks are measured down to the second.

But in fact, giving workers more autonomy is often the key to improving productivity. People who are happy and invested in their work get more done.

That might sound obvious, but it can be difficult to accomplish in practice: almost two thirds of workers in the U.S. don’t currently feel all that engaged in their jobs.

How to fix this? In short, managers need to:

  • Involve people in defining what success will look like for them (in alignment with company-wide objectives).
  • Measure their own productivity and involve employees in self-evaluation and goal setting.
  • Make the impact of employees’ roles visible – people are more invested in the success of a task when its importance is clear.
  • Assign tasks so that employees work to their strengths.

Productivity Doesn’t Have a One-Size Fits All Solution

Entire books can and have been written about how best to maximize workplace productivity. The way work is done is also changing rapidly – in other words, businesses will need to keep experimenting and creating new systems to improve and measure outputs.

We’ve discussed a few methods above, but it’s also important to be open to flexibility for measurement – each organization can work different guiding principles. Individuality is part of a successfully productivity equation.

Feel free to contact us for further information on productivity measurement.

We’d also love to learn more about how your organization measures productivity. What are your favorite methods, tools, or tips to boost how much you or your employees can get done?

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