How to Improve Employee Productivity: Unleashing the Genius in Your Business - ON THE MARK
29th November 2023

How to Improve Employee Productivity: Unleashing the Genius in Your Business

How to increase employee productivity (2)

Your organization is filled with unused human genius, energy, and engagement. Because you can readily see and quantify underutilized physical assets, you’re likely to recognize and act on opportunities to unleash their benefits. Recognizing and acting to unleash under-liberated human potential, on the other hand, is significantly different. Liberated human capability—and the benefits that brings to your organization—can be fully understood only after having been set free. 

With a physical asset, you know what it’s capable of producing. It’s easy to measure its previous output and compare it to its potential output. And because a physical asset functions in a machine-like manner, its potential output is relatively the same regardless of where it’s located. Human potential differs fundamentally. You don’t know the potential or limits of human capability in your organization because human performance is governed and constrained by the organization itself. Put the same people into a different organization and the results will be different. 

If you can intuitively accept the notion that untapped engagement and creativity exist within your organization, then you’ll start moving toward a triple win. Your organization will thrive. Your people will thrive. And you’ll be credited with improving employee productivity—and ultimately with having unleashed the true genius in your business. 

Improving Employee Productivity: The Benefits 

The benefits of liberated human capability to your organization are countless. Here are three: 

  1. Better Information for Decision Making and Informed Choice. Unleashing the genius in your organization leads to better information for decision-making. In its broadest sense, data that has always been locked away in the organization is brought into shared, less-filtered awareness. This is particularly important for organizations in which middle management suppresses innovative ideas or reshapes information into messages they believe senior leaders want to hear. 
  2. More Internal Commitment for Change. People support what they help create. Leaders who truly involve people in setting organizational objectives and devising methods to achieve them find that resistance to change is generally absent. They no longer need to push for change. Instead, they experience the pull of excitement, ownership, and commitment. Organizational commitment is a reliable outcome of involvement that translates into organizational culture if leadership sustains engagement as a key management mechanism. 
  3. A Culture of Engagement, Initiative, and Responsibility. If you want to raise your engagement scores, change the way you lead change. The way into a workaday, work-to-order culture is to tell people what to do and make workers feel like instruments of production. Alternatively, if you authentically engage workers in meaningful decision making, they will reflect your orientation through their own engagement with the business. Your leadership behavior can make workers feel the organization is theirs. People generally take good care of their own homes. 

Improving Employee Productivity: The Methods 

The path to a new and sustainable organizational culture starts with your business direction. If you want to improve employee productivity, then you must formally declare that this is how your organization will operate. You must place your desired cultural attributes and ways of working on equal footing with familiar guiding documents such as your statement of strategic position, competitive difference, and desired customer experience. Only afterward can you reasonably expect the organization to act in ways that consistently draw out the best in people and place your organization on the lists of the best places to work. 

You must also rethink your organization’s separation of planners and implementers. This fragmentation of organizational leadership is at the core of employee disengagement. It is an unintended parent-child relationship, and it’s ill-suited to complex operating environments. It’s true that higher-level jobs in all organizations have broader fields of view and longer time horizons of concern. That is the leader’s role to play. It is also true that middle managers and line workers better understand the actual work of the organization. That is their role to play. Bring these perspectives together in meaningful ways through planning processes that involve those who will implement the change activity. 

Practices for such engagement already exist, and you may be more or less familiar with them. The good news is that those practices are highly learnable. To drive this learning in your business, begin by reframing collaborative change as a strategic organization capability. Once those practices are developed, they will add to the agility of your organization. They will strengthen the innovativeness of your organization. They will support your recruitment efforts. And they will change the culture of your organization in ways that no programmatic efforts aimed directly at culture will come close to duplicating. 

Improving Employee Productivity: The Inhibitors 

The most common inhibitor to improving employee productivity in any organization is the organization itself. In many cases, leadership behavior places unintentional limits on employee contribution while not seeing the influence of those limits on people. Instead, they view current worker behavior as just the way things are. 

  1. Examine fundamental views about employees. Managers typically hold one of two basic assumptions about human nature and behavior. One is that the average worker has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can. For this leader, work practices must be defined into small pieces and tightly controlled and supervised lest the workers make a mess of things. This is sometimes called Theory X. It is a significant driver of the unintended limits leaders place on employee contribution. The alternative view is that people will take responsibility, care about their jobs, wish to grow and achieve, and, if given a chance, do excellent work. This is sometimes called Theory Y. Recognizing the normally subconscious view a leader holds about people is an important first step to liberating the genius in a workforce. Liberation is very difficult when Theory X views about people prevail. 
  2. Change leadership behavior from telling to convening. If you hold the Theory Y view, then you’re likely accomplished in this practice. The days when leadership had all the answers to organizational are over, that is, if they ever existed at all. Today’s environment calls for puzzle learning. Nobody sees the full picture, and only by working together can suitable solutions to organizational challenges be formed, planned, and put into action. Leaders play a role, of course. You must effectively sponsor action and make your contributions from your unique vantage point. 
  3. Stop hiring external expert consultants. This third inhibitor is a variation of telling the organization what to do. The difference is that the person doing the telling has been hired on contract. Consultants who work through the expert lens disempower the organization, promote disengagement, and frequently leave the organization in a more disabled condition than they found it. These consultants are fine people. It’s their method of practice that is damaging. There is another way. 

The Genius Is Ready to Be Unleashed 

Genius exists within people and your organization. Your role as a leader is to accept that it exists and direct the organization to unleash it. There are familiar inhibitors. One may be your own point of view about your role as a leader and your beliefs about human potential. At ON THE MARK, we’ve seen all types of leaders. Those who get the best from their organizations are not laissez-faire but democratic within boundaries. A leader is still accountable for the performance of the organization. This can’t be abdicated. The best leaders, however, know they are not operating a machine. They are leading people who must be willing and able to contribute their genius before the organization can thrive. 

Anything you can tell you can ask. This is a key wisdom about changing the leadership paradigm from one of telling to one of convening. The next time you have an organizational challenge to solve, make it a collaborative process. Invite your employees, down to the lowest ranking line worker, to engage in the challenge. Hire a consultant skilled in this approach to teach the organization how it’s done and how to build internal capability. Then, watch the genius flow into the opportunity.  

The Author

Dan Schmitz: Dan has 16 years of holding various managerial-level positions at Clorox. Prior to OTM, he founded a small consulting firm providing solutions in transformation. Dan also holds an MBA from Kent State University and a master’s degree in Organization Development and Change Leadership from Pepperdine University. He is a Certified Organization Design Practitioner (CODP).

Source Note: McGregor, Douglas, (1960). The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap