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Increasing Productivity

How To Know If You’re Focusing On The Wrong Types Of Staff Skill Enhancement

Inhibiting your employees’ sense of purpose can obliterate team morale or job satisfaction. It’s the death knell for productivity and overall profitability for any business.

Pieter Scholtz

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You feel compelled to grow your business; why shouldn’t your employees feel compelled to grow as individuals? That’s why we can think of no better way to improve your business’s bottom line than to improve the skills of your employees.

Upskilling your employees boosts productivity by instilling confidence, making employees less reliable on external resources and allowing for more work to be done, and promotes business growth and employee satisfaction.

These are all indicators of a successful business. But many employers focus on the wrong types of skill enhancement, ultimately achieving a poor return on investment [ROI).

With a business to worry about, frivolously spending resources on skills transference will only put you in the red. You need to be strategic about how you provision training and focus on achieving tangible results from your investments.

That’s why skills enhancement should always begin with a good induction for new employees, not just because it costs little but goes a long way to establishing the right attitude and work ethic in employees.

A formalised, structured induction will let employees know what is expected of them and establishes the short-term skills necessary to start working immediately. It should assist in preparing new employees for the culture of their new workplace — assisting their integration into teams.

Another fairly cost-effective but potentially beneficial consideration is to focus skills enhancement initiatives on an employee’s weaknesses.

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

Employees will naturally educate themselves in the fields that interest them. But supplement that by encouraging them to subscribe to relevant content like webinars or seminars, read more about their interests, and spend free time researching those topics. 

Improved ROI

Working on their weaknesses that inhibit optimal productivity means generating a potentially huge ROI. Solving problems by eliminating their cause rather than attending to the symptoms is far more productive.

Complement this practice by identifying future supervisors and leaders and giving them the tools necessary to fill those positions. If they’re able to communicate and lead a team, they will be able to put out fires — should they occur — without you needing to step in.

Modern businesses are increasingly flexible, innovative and adjustable to customer demands, or alternatively, they disrupt the market with new products or services.

Rather than outsourcing those skills, incentivise employees who take on new responsibilities with soft skills that benefit their new position, then promote them to a permanent role. It will affect your bottom line by improving productivity and preventing reliance on costlier external skills.

transfer-of-skills-studying

Small shifts

There are other relatively inexpensive methods to transfer skills. One-on-one mentoring, for example, lets new and junior level employees have close working relationships with more experienced staff members.

All that is required is a commitment to set aside some time each week or month to provide feedback, assist with decision-making and direction, and offer general support and encouragement.

Related: Can staff training increase my turnover?

Think of it as an extension of onboarding. Perhaps the most effective solution to permanent skills enhancement is creating a workplace culture that encourages learning. Because it requires limited investment, it optimises ROI.

A continuous programme of ongoing skills development adjusts your spend to what’s required from employees on the fly — a flexibility that should match your business.

Skills quickly become obsolete in the digital era, and front-loading your employees with a list of skills, while beneficial, is costly and may prove pointless if not put to use.

Effective communication with your staff will give you a sense of what is required while they’re updated on what is expected and, together, you can fill in the gaps with appropriate skills.

It means building the right attitudes; encouraging leaders to step forward and boost team morale by encouraging collaboration — something that mentorship will echo.

Pieter Scholtz is the Master Licensee for ActionCOACH South Africa. ActionCOACH is the world’s largest executive and business coaching company with operations in 41 countries. It is also on the list of the top 100 franchises globally. As a highly successful Business and Executive coach, Pieter is a master of teaching business owners how to turn their businesses around and accelerate their growth. Email him at pieterscholtz@actioncoach.com or phone 082 8813729.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Even the most subtle things can make an impact.

Nina Zipkin

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The most important thing to remember about productivity, is that unless you are actively procrastinating, there is no way that you can actually do it wrong. Everyone has their own strategy for accomplishing their goals.

Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck swears by doing her work in the quiet of the 4:00 am hour. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer blocks out his time in three-hour uninterrupted chunks to power through his biggest deadlines.

But while you can plan as much as you like, there are actually some unexpected elements, in addition to elements like exercise and sleep, that can impact the efficacy of your work.

Multitasking

While it may seem like a straightforward way to get things done, it turns out that multitasking can actually make it tougher for you to be productive. Researchers from Stanford found that even if you’re highly skilled at doing many things at once, while you’re doing the process it actually makes you less adept at taking in and retaining new information and switching gears if need be.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Humour

Cracking jokes with your colleagues isn’t just a fun way to pass the time and build rapport,  but according to a study from the University of Nebraska and Vrije University Amsterdam, it can actually make the group more likely to perform better as a team, leading to “positive socio-emotional communication, procedural structure, and new solutions.”

Temperature

thermostat-and-airconColder temperatures having a chilling effect on focus and productivity. A study from Cornell University found that as the temperature increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, employee typing errors decreased by 44 percent and their output increased by 150 percent. Not only that but it affects the bottom line. By making it warmer, the study found that employers save roughly $2 more an hour per employee.

Colours

If you have a say in what colours you paint the walls of your office, stay away from beige, grey and white. Though these hues might seem clean and simple, you could very well be contributing to your employees lack of productivity. A study from the University of Texas found that green and blue lend themselves to improved focus and yellow lends itself to innovation and creativity.

Related: Leadership – Lead Your Team To Dizzying Heights Of Productivity And Business Success

Cuteness

If you feel your concentration waning, and you suddenly have an impulse to go watch some cat videos, a study from Japan’s University of Hiroshima suggests you’d do well to embrace that instinct. Researchers found a link between improved performance and focus after the study participants looked at pictures of cute animals. So go ahead, go down that cuteness rabbit hole and watch that puppy’s Instagram story.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Facebook’s Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity

The open office was an exciting innovation in 1900, and people didn’t like it then, either.

John Rampton

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For as long as there have been businesses in operation, leaders have been looking for ways to boost productivity in the workplace. In 1856, the British government conducted a report on office space layouts.

The report said, “For the intellectual work, separate rooms are necessary so that a person who works with his head may not be interrupted; but for the more mechanical work, the working in concert of a number of clerks in the same room under proper superintendence, is the proper mode of meeting it.”

Fast-forward to 1906 and the opening of the Larkin Administration Building. Dubbed the first modern office, the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and highlighted an open office plan.

Related: How To Create A Productive Office Space

The open-office concept continued throughout the 20th century, but it really took off in the 2000s, thanks to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook embracing the open layout.

When Facebook unveiled its new campus in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” The campus, which is actually a single room stretching 10 acres, was designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Some Facebook employees, such as product designer Tanner Christensen, believe the new campus encourages productivity, collaboration and creativity. That’s because the open design focuses on mobility, empowers individual boundaries and encourages chance encounters.

Is open plan the right move?

That may be true in some cases, but most employees don’t share the same excitement. In 2015, The Washington Post published an article that boldly stated that the open-office trend “is destroying the workplace” at places like Google because it’s too “oppressive.”

In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple wasn’t happy with the open-office design: “Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.”

While neither shares Facebook’s version of an open workspace, both articles highlight the fact that companies are prioritizing design over function.

Related: Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

What’s more, two-thirds of the 42,764 respondents to a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction found “open-plan layouts showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than enclosed office layouts.”

In fact, researchers stated, “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.”

Besides employees being dissatisfied with open office plans, they’re detrimental to productivity. That spells bad news for Facebook going forward.

Harder to focus, with more distractions

This should be obvious.

Everyone has that one teammate who’s so loud (and perhaps so obnoxious) that he distracts the entire office. Instead of being able to close a door to enjoy uninterrupted work, colleagues are pulled to engage in conversations. Research has even found that hearing one side of a phone conversation is more distracting than listening to both sides of an in-person conversation.

Professors Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks note in their article “Who Moved My Cube” that “some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

Even more, as pointed out in The New Yorker, “Psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.” Overall, employees claim they’re losing 86 minutes a day to distractions.

Stressed or sick? Probably both

stressed-or-sick

A study conducted by Dr. Vinesh Oommen at the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”

Another study of 10,000 workers, funded by Steelcase, reported that “95% said working privately was important to them, but only 41% said they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to get work completed.”

Of course, when more people get sick, there are more absences. The New Yorker states that companies with an open-office design can anticipate employees to take 62 percent more sick leave.

Related: The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

But that’s not the only way office mates in the open concept affect each other’s actions: Research from the Auckland University of Technology also shows that open offices often can lead to antisocial behaviors.

Researchers have found that in shared working spaces, there are increases in “employee social liabilities.” This includes “distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened.”

That’s because employees don’t feel as if they have supportive supervision. Additionally, between the lack of support and the noise, employees in open offices eventually “become more irritated, suspicious and withdrawn.”

Busyness as a proxy for productivity

As defined by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work,” “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”

Newport goes on to explain: “If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems… all of these behaviors make you seem busy in a public manner.

If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.”

This is what happens in an open office: Managers tend to evaluate their team members on how busy they appear. That’s because they look out on the floor and see people on their computers, but they could be playing a game or updating their social media accounts instead of working.

Ending the nightmare

If you’re designing a new workspace for your startup or business, you can consider some alternatives to an open layout.

Hub and Spoke is actually a hybrid of an open office and a closed office. While there are central spaces and hallways that are open, there are still individual offices. M.I.T.’s Building 20 is an excellent example of the Hub and Spoke approach.

Eudamonia Machine comes from Newport himself; in this concept, offices are divided into five spaces: the Gallery, Salon, Library, Office and Chamber. You must pass through each room to get to the next. However, each room encourages more concentrated and focused work.

Writer’s Cabin doesn’t have to literally be a cabin. It’s actually any location where you can get serious, uninterrupted work done. It could be your local coffee shop, the library or even a tiny house in your backyard.

Related: 5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Open offices may have sounded like a utopian dream to many entrepreneurs in the last decade, but seeing how they’ve played out in recent years proves they’re a nightmare for productivity.

Leaders looking to keep their teams sane — and working — would do well to explore other options. Design over function is a fun way to run a business, but it’s not a very smart one.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Keep Up The Momentum 

The year has kicked off with a whirlwind ride and already the first quarter is done and dusted. It’s important not to lose the momentum. 

Uwin Iwin

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Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere.

A powerfull driver

The statistics here are unambiguous and speak for themselves: Research shows that companies with motivational programmes outperform those that don’t by 30% to 40%. This figure is not to be overlooked. Increased productivity will mean, at the very least, lowered costs in production and improved profit margins.

Related: Have Your Incentive Scheme In The Palm Of Your Hand

The role of employee motivation is a significant element in the chain of value production. There are various means to increase drive, and ‘progression’ is one of the strongest among them. It’s important to note that ‘progression’ doesn’t only imply change, but the movement towards a target. This means that progress needn’t be confined to upward development: Instead, a manager may set up goals that an employee will find rewarding either in terms of:

  • Learning,
  • Personal development, or
  • Tangible returns.

This last element is where incentives come to the fore. Incentives provide recognition and material reward to those who have earned it.

As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.

Stagger the awards

It has been a long few months since the Christmas bonus and January, February and March are traditionally ‘lean’ months. It might be a good idea to have quarterly award payouts to just keep employees motivated to perform.

Increasing normal rewards

There is nothing that destroys motivation as quickly as boredom. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible. Keep it interesting and you will keep the employees’ interest.

A targeted approach

When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way to determine them is to ask staff members to suggest their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole team.

Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.

Appropriate rewards

The challenge that many businesses face when planning their reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day-to- day necessities.

Money uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card (www.kudosh.com) that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.

Rewards beyond gift cards

Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is earning days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.

Communication is key

Communication about the incentive scheme is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation. The trick here is make the communications so powerful that they keep the momentum.

Incentives are an extremely powerful tool that business owners and managers can implement to assist with motivation and performance. It has to be done properly though, which is why investing in a professional platform is an imperative.

Ask Uwin Iwin to help you relook your incentive programme. We will come up with the perfect solution tailormade for your company. For more information, visit www.uwiniwin.co.za, phone +27 (0)11 557 5700 or email info@uwiniwin.co.za

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