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Increasing Productivity

Getting Employees to Love Their Jobs

Learn how to make work feel like play for your employees.

Paul Levesque

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I popped into a donut shop while doing research for my book on employee motivation.  Well, not just any donut shop – this happened to be the busiest Dunkin’ Donuts store in the world, located outside Boston on Route 18 in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. This one store serves between 2 000 and 3 000 cups of coffee per day.

I was there to speak to the fired-up employees who keep the lines of customers moving, and keep customers coming back. I wanted to know (as I always do when I visit high-performance businesses) what it is that motivates these people to work as hard as they do.

Amy McCaul, age 21 at the time of our meeting, works the front counter. Does her job ever become kind of boring? “No way,” she says with a big smile. “It’s fun. It’s busy, time goes by fast, you’re always doing something.”

Fun? Did she say fun? As a customer I have personally set foot in other donut stores, and whatever it was the employees there were having, I’m pretty sure fun wasn’t it. McCaul’s co-worker Tracy Brown works in the small out-building from which drive-through customers are served. Must be pretty dull work in pretty cramped quarters, right? “No,” she blurts without hesitation, “I like it. The time goes by fast, because I deal with thousands of customers every day.” Brown describes how her regular customers keep coming back. “I like seeing them every single day,” she says. “That’s what makes me happy.”

I ask Brown if one day she might like to own a business similar to the one she presently works for. Her boisterous reply is, “Yes, I would like this one.”

Both of these employees independently mention their impression that “time goes by fast” on the job. This is of course the very opposite of the traditional “clock watcher” image of an employee bored stiff. But why does time seem to pass quickly in this workplace (and in every other similarly energised business I’ve visited and written about)? Time passing quickly is a characteristic usually associated with a pleasant game, hobby, or pastime – forms of play. To help us understand how some businesses make work feel more like play, we need to review the four elements that make play itself enjoyable.

1. The element of challenge.

Ask any employee who dislikes his or her job to give a reason, and the reply will almost certainly include words like “boring”, “repetitious” and “pointless.”

Now, visit any bowling alley. Each time a bowler manages to knock all the pins down, a mechanical contraption promptly sets them right back up again. An observer unfamiliar with the game might conclude this must surely rank as one of the most boring, repetitious and pointless human activities ever devised.

Yet the bowlers themselves seem to having a grand old time. In fact, many of them can’t wait to get away from their boring jobs in order to pay money for the pleasure of knocking pins down over and over again.

Would bowling be even more fun if the pins were closer, and therefore easier to knock down. Everyone understands that it’s precisely the challenge of attempting something difficult that gives structured play activities like bowling, golf and billiards their basic appeal.

Children’s games like paddle-ball, leapfrog, skipping and others are often based on a “keep the kettle boiling” theme. In businesses like our donut store, the challenge is to “keep the lines moving through the store,” “keep the cars flowing through the drive-through,” “keep the shelves stocked with fresh product.” The whole operation is one big keep-the-kettle-boiling game from opening time to closing time, and the workers love the challenge.

2. A clear set of rules.

Another factor that makes play activities like bowling more satisfying than work: The basic objective – and the rules by which this objective can and cannot be achieved – are clearly understood by all the players. Everyone’s trying to accomplish exactly the same thing, in exactly the same way.

In most business settings, if there’s a primary objective at all, it can usually be boiled down to “make more money.” There’s no single clear approach, however, for achieving this objective. Priorities shift and change, and are often in conflict with each other. In this game, the rules are not only unclear, they keep changing. And in this game, a “win” is exciting news for management – but it doesn’t mean much for the employees who made it happen. The boss can talk about improved “job security,” but to the workers that just sounds like “plenty more frustrating and unfulfilling workdays comin’ your way.”

The kinds of high-energy businesses I profile in my book are all aligned toward a single clear objective: delighting every customer every time. The workers know in advance they won’t be able to achieve this perfect score, much as bowlers and golfers know ahead of time their own scores will not be perfect. But it is the pursuit of a perfect score that makes the game challenging and fun. In these businesses, everyone understands the rules:  You must do nothing to harm the organisation financially (or in any other way) while you strive to deliver a delightful customer experience. And in these businesses, a “win” is exciting for the employees themselves, because it translates into positive customer feedback, the most meaningful and lasting employee motivator of them all. (A win is exciting for management, too, of course, since higher levels of customer satisfaction generate repeat business, positive word of mouth and a powerful competitive advantage overall.)

3. A scoring mechanism for immediate feedback.

All play activities allow participants to track how well they and the other players are doing at all times. Would these activities be as enjoyable if this form of immediate feedback were removed? How much fun would bowling or golf be, for example, if the players could not see the pins or the cup, and had their scores mailed to them at home weeks after the game?

In many business settings, workers receive positive feedback about their work only during formal “performance review” meetings. From a motivational point of view, this is usually too little, too late.

Employees in places focused on customer delight receive immediate feedback every day in the form of appreciative comments from happy customers, generous tips and the cheerful return of “regulars.” Their work earns these employees a succession of “high scores” that keep them motivated.

4. The satisfaction of winning.

Our bowling alley observer watching the game for the first time may be surprised to see the reaction each time a player succeeds in knocking all the pins down at once. The spontaneous hoots and leaps of triumph suggest bowlers find this accomplishment extremely satisfying.

Understanding what this kind of satisfaction feels like is key to understanding employee motivation in the workplace. Knocking pins down over and over again may seem a pointless exercise – until it’s turned into a challenging competitive activity with clear rules and a means of immediately tracking performance. With these elements in place, the activity suddenly becomes fun and satisfying.

Energised businesses such as our busy donut shop challenge workers to attempt something difficult – keep a steady high-volume flow of customers happy and coming back. There are clear rules, and the employees receive continuous immediate feedback from the customers themselves. And when they “score” (i.e. when the feedback makes it clear they’re delivering a delightful experience and attracting business away from competitors), their satisfaction can be as great as that experienced by players in any structured game.

For managers in less enthusiastic business settings, the question should not be, “How do I change my workers so they’ll be more motivated on the job?” Instead, the question should become, “How do I change the job to make it more motivational for my workers?”

Virtually all businesses have a particular cultural element in common – one that does more damage to employee motivation than any other. Eliminating this one biggest motivation-killer can transform any workplace into a much more motivational setting for all employees.

Paul has spent 20 years as an international business consultant, specializing in the connection between employee motivation and customer service.

Increasing Productivity

Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have.

John Rampton

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Whether you’re running an early-stage startup or a fast-growing company, every organisation has a culture. And it can determine whether your business succeeds or fails.

Your company’s culture comprises the actual work environment for your team and the standards everyone is held to. It also dictates how colleagues interact and communicate and the values and beliefs of your team. In fact, one survey shows that 86 percent of employees believe their company’s culture influences how productive they are.

No wonder Arianna Huffington has described corporate culture as “a company’s immune system.”

“Ultimately,” she says, “your health depends on your immune system.” Here are four ways a healthy company culture boosts morale and productivity.

It makes employees happy

A study conducted by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10 percent less productive. As the research team states, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

If you have employees who dread coming into work and are spending more time looking at the clock than working, how productive do you really think they are? What’s more, happier employees tend to work better with others, solve problems instead of complain about them and make fewer mistakes. They also have more energy and motivation, which helps them learn faster and make better decisions.

Related: Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It

It promotes collaboration and stronger relationships

A healthy and positive company culture encourages your teammates to get to know one another. That friendly chatter eventually leads people to feel comfortable enough to share advice, opinions and ideas.

When there’s a large project looming, your team members will be able to work together faster and more efficiently because they know how to communicate. More importantly, this leads to your team building friendships – which has been found to increase productivity and engagement.

“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organisation,” says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, who co-authored “The Progress Principle.”

It inspires creativity

Let’s say that an employee or colleague comes to you with a suggestion. If you immediately dismiss her idea, do you think she’ll come to you the next time she has an “aha” moment?

Healthy company cultures encourage people to be creative through brainstorming sessions and new responsibilities. This not only gives them a chance to be heard, but it also helps them look for unique ways to solve problems.

It influences individual mindsets

Company culture also affects how each team member views his or her individual performance. It shouldn’t comes as a surprise, then, that healthy cultures foster more high-performing team members. Aaron Schmookler, leadership coach and co-founder of TheYesWorks, a training and team-building organization, calls this positive peer pressure.

“Why do aspiring Olympians train with other aspiring Olympians?” he asks. “In part, they want the high-performance drive to rub off on them if they don’t have as much of it as they wish.”

According to Schmookler, even when someone already has a high-performance mindset, she’ll want to keep it and deepen it so she can keep pushing forward. Being surrounded by others pushing for greatness makes the hard work feel easy.

Schmookler also says the opposite is true.

“We’ve all heard of workplaces where a new person comes into a low-performance culture and people tell them, ‘slow down.’ ‘You’re making us look bad.’ High-performance cultures have people who instead say, ‘Pick it up. You can do it.’”

Related: 7 Ways To Get Better At Working With Others

How to avoid toxicity

There’s a strong correlation between morale and productivity. If you want your team to be more productive, you’re going to have to foster a healthy and positive work culture. Emma Seppala, Ph.D., and Kim Cameron, Ph.D., suggest in Harvard Business Review that you can achieve this by fostering social connections.

Encourage your teammates to get to know each other by hosting social events or having them eat lunch together. You must also get away from your desk and have face-to-face interactions with your team. Go out of your way to help as well.

Leaders who are fair and self-sacrificing inspire employees to become more loyal and committed. If your team is swamped, step in to help. Encourage people to talk to you – don’t brush someone off when he has a problem. It gets the problem off his mind, which means he can focus on work.

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have. Culture exists, whether we actively cultivate it or let it develop on its own. To get the most productivity you can, make sure to build an environment where people feel respected and inspired. It will not only make your employees happier, but it will also fuel high-quality work.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Why You Should Gamify Your Business

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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Sweat pouring down his forehead, staring intently at the chessboard, an anxious Bobby Fischer faces imminent defeat. A few uncharacteristic blunders at the beginning of the game has the audience on pins and needles. It’s the height of the cold war and a stalemate between Boris Spassky has an unnatural weight for a chess match. The cameras cramp the space, distracting Fischer and causing him to throw the game. Then another.

Anxiety is higher than ever. Finally, Fischer demands that cameras stop piercing the so-called “Match of the Century.” Then, suddenly, he began to win. He won again and again until finally, he was unstoppable. Final score: Fischer, 12 and one half, Spassky, 8 and one half. Fischer was now the undisputed world champion and the world couldn’t stop talking about it.

Why games motivate us so deeply

How could a game, a game that later wasn’t even televised, capture the world’s attention? How could a simple chess match capture the imagination of an entire generation?

Games are powerful things. Unlike real life, games have clear goals, constant coaching, and immediate feedback. There are points, winners, losers, upsets, dark horses, and reigning champions. Everything is organised in a refreshingly understandable, trackable way. Experiences are tallied into points, matches are organised into tournaments with the promise of prizes, advancement, and adulation.

Gamification, in this sense, is actually quite old. It has been practiced for generations. For time immemorial, games have taught us important skills, both technical and social. Now, however, a few game changers are using gamification to create outstanding products and drive business goals.

Related: 3 Ways Workplace Gamification Can Backfire – And How To Avoid Them

 How gamifying a business task works

In business practices, you can use gamification to help motivate employees and to understand the motivations of your customers, clients, and business partners. When put into practice, this can mean major surges in productivity and profitability. Think about it: We often have friendly competitions among team members to help motivate them to perform to the best of their ability. This is a simple gamification strategy that can be implemented in any business to a wonderful result.

Gamification, according to Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification and pioneer within the gamification industry, is a mixture of game design, gaming dynamics, motivational psychology, user experience design, neurobiology, technology platforms, and behavioural economics. This may sound like a loose classification of complex and disparate fields, but it’s actually an adept definition of an all-encompassing philosophy on life and what motivates us to do what we do in our daily lives.

The drives that motivate us

What about gamification makes the philosophy so effective? There are eight core principles that are considered what is called the “octalysis,” a conceptualisation created by Yu-kai Chou. Basically, Chou posits that eight core drives motivate us in every facet of our lives. Not only can we use these drives in our personal lives, we can also use them in our work and business lives.

A mixture of drives can give us varying degrees of interest, dedication, and motivation. These core drives are as follows according to the octalysis: meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, unpredictability, scarcity, and avoidance.

The last three mentioned on the list can be used in negative ways to achieve participation. For example, using avoidance, or the feeling that you must act in order not to lose something can cause people to feel manipulated in the long-term. However, avoidance can be built into your motivation matrix if used properly and sparingly.

Truly, each drive has to be used with context, in the same way employing avoidance has to be monitored and managed. All these motivations can be employed to help better your organisation by finding those key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that help you accomplish your business goals.

Gamification is the simple practice of identifying motivating factors and qualifying them through a myriad of ways.

In some cases, gamification boils down to simply analysing our motivations accurately so that we can either change them or manipulate them to better serve us. There is no better arena for this time of analysis and planning than business.

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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Increasing Productivity

Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture

wiGroup has three underlying visions that form the basis of the business’s culture. Bevan Ducasse calls them the 3Ps.

Nadine Todd

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1. Passionate people

I loved the idea of starting a business and coming to work each day with passionate people who love what they do. Working in corporate there were too many people who just wanted to get to the weekend, and I found that really sad. You go through your whole life not enjoying what you do. One of the main books I read that got me there was Richard Branson’s Screw it, Let’s do it. His whole philosophy is about fun and loving what you do.

We even have a full-time coach that everyone can access. It’s up to you to book time with him, but everyone does, thanks to a culture of self-growth and personal development. His time is fully booked. I had to build a business case to justify the hire, but I worked out that If I increased the productivity of 100 people by 10%,  you effectively have ten more people working in the business. It’s hard to put a tangible number on it, but what we’ve seen is that the productivity, attitude, leadership and personal growth equates to roughly 20% across the organisation of 150 people.

I believe that great organisations find people and make them come alive in what they’re brilliant at. There are things I don’t like or am not good at that other people love. If you’re not good at something, get the right person in. Focus on what you’re brilliant at to move the needle. But do the same for your employees. We all have aspects of the job we need to do that we don’t love, but the core of what we do should align with our passions.

2. Remarkable product

We’re passionate about building solutions that add value to people’s lives. How do we add value? We never build products for the sake of it — everything we do fulfils a purpose.

Related: Strong Company Culture Fattens The Bottom Line

3. Profit

This speaks to the sustainability of the business, which ultimately comes down to balancing people, product and profit. Just chasing profit without a focus on product isn’t sustainable, and nor is looking after people and not profit. But you can never lose sight of your people either. If you’re running a company and focusing on your product IP, you’re missing the mark — this speaks to how fast things are changing. Your IP is your human capital. That is the one thing that will give you a competitive edge over five, ten or even fifteen years. The product you have now won’t give you the competitive advantage in ten years.

This vision is completely ingrained across our team: That’s what we’re about, seeing people come alive, building amazing products, and being sustainable in terms of the profits we generate.

Lessons Learnt

1. There’s no such thing as an ‘aha’ moment

It’s not about one good decision I’ve made; it’s about the thousands of little decisions we make every single day as a team that make a business. For me it’s about the fundamentals that you buy into, and that’s people, products and profit. We’ve launched products that fail and others that are a huge success. To get through the failures it’s important to focus on a philosophy of how and what we want to be as a company.

2. Add value first

Our mindset is to add value. It’s the grit that pushes us through failure and keeps 150 people focused and doing great things. I am one of many people. I have a strong role, but I’m still one of many. When you’re looking outward at what you do for others, you stay motivated. A lot of what we do is helping a retailer understand how to unlock third party value. We will connect two brands who we believe could work well together, like a Discovery and a Kauai. Did you know that you could drive value to this retailer, and that retailer could add value to you? We all live in our own worlds and verticals, but knowledge is power. The greater your understanding of the landscape and synergies around you, the more value you can add.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

3. Business is creativity

You need to be open and teachable and have a mindset that says ‘you’re never there, there’s always something more to learn.’ That’s how you foster creativity and innovation, by always asking what’s next, and how to make something better.

4. Never stop learning

You don’t have to read 50 books a year — two great books a year can give you incredible insights if you implement what you’ve learnt. There’s so much you can learn from the people around you too — ask questions, join networks and find a mentor.

5. Raise leaders, not followers

This is crucial. You need to find the right people, and then empower them to lead. I realised this a few years ago — if I really wanted to scale the business I needed to raise people who were leaders and wouldn’t just follow me. The top level of leadership is the ability to raise other leaders up, and that’s where we should all aspire to be. 

Related: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

6. Focus

This is a big one for me, and we learnt it the hard way. We were doing too much, we lacked focus and clarity. These are such powerful tools. If you can bring clarity to teams, you create a clear picture that everyone can follow. Delve into the details — what are you doing, why are you doing it, what does good and great look like, what are your timelines?

The clearer the picture, the exponentially higher the chances are of a team being successful. This includes targets. These shouldn’t be a shot in the dark — they should be unpacked, examined and clarified.

7. The best defense is a strong offence

Worrying about competitors serves no-one — it just keeps you up at night. Instead, you should be pushing yourself — how can we do this better? Keep looking for the next thing to do and improve, and then execute it properly. If someone disrupts us and I know we did the best we could and gave everything — I’ll sleep well at night. But if it’s because we became complacent and rested on our laurels? Well then, we deserved it.

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