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How to improve workplace efficiency for your employees

Workplace efficiency should be a major concern for virtually any organization in an industry. 

Ensuring that your team is working to peak efficiency can be tricky. But there are steps and measurements you can take to ensure that as many employees as possible are sustainably hitting their productivity targets.

This article will walk you through some of those steps, and offer insights into why you should make employee efficiency a priority. 

The importance of efficiency in the workplace 

Employee efficiency – aka productivity- is the value created from the time invested in a task or project. Or, the quality of output achieved for the input invested. 

Efficiency is most often related to the speed and accuracy of an employee or team in completing a specific job task, and how well they can optimize their work hours to produce the best results. 

These measurements are a helpful way to monitor an individual’s or team’s ability goals within the resource or time parameters allotted to them.

The importance of efficiency in the workplace is obvious: 

  1. Employees and teams do the right work in the right way, maximizing output for the company while minimizing input.
  2. Employees and teams can meet deadlines without spending too much time on any one project.
  3. The work done meets expectations and has tangible benefits for the company.
  4. There’s limited resource wastage because time and effort are being used efficiently.
  5. It’s an indicator that your teams are focused on the right and most impactful tasks. 
  6. Inefficient workplaces can risk burnout due to individuals and teams needing to work much harder to yield the same results. 
  7. Employees are happier, which has a net positive impact on retention, employee satisfaction, and engagement

More efficient employees mean that your human and resource allotment is being used in the right way. That yields better, faster, and more tangible task and project results for the company. As a result, employees feel that their jobs have a direct impact on the company, thereby increasing engagement and motivation. This effect snowballs into more sustained efficiency, which ultimately leads to better revenue and profit margins for the company. 

Workplace efficiency statistics 

Of course, employee efficiency is tied to more than just balancing input and output. There’s a very strong human element to this process as well. Specifically, engagement, communication, management, satisfaction, and workplace environment all play a role in boosting efficiency.

Consider some of these workplace efficiency statistics as an example. 

What do these stats tell us? 

For one, it’s that peak productivity in the workplace is much harder to achieve than you might think. It’s a fine balancing act between ensuring employees are engaged and satisfied, using the right communication channels effectively, empowering your productive workers, getting out of your team’s way, and offering work environments and schedules that unlock productivity.

There’s also the fine balancing act between individual efficiency and that of your company as a whole.

Employee efficiency vs. workplace efficiency 

Employee efficiency and workplace efficiency are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences that you should be aware of if this is a priority at your organization. 

Employee efficiency refers to the productivity of individuals or teams within your organization. It’s measured by how much output you are getting from specific people relative to input. 

Employee efficiency is impacted by a variety of factors on a micro level, such as:

  • Personal motivations
  • Work environment
  • Competencies
  • Engagement 
  • Satisfaction

Workplace efficiency, on the other hand, refers to the performance of your processes, systems, tools, and team structures relative to your company goals. 

Workplace efficiency impacts on a macro level by things like:

Obviously, a strong overlap between employee and workplace efficiency is ideal. If you’re looking to optimize efficiency, take a look at your organization on a micro and macro level to identify opportunities to improve individual efficiency as well as that of your systems and processes. 

Efficiency examples in the workplace

Before we get into tips for improving efficiency in the workplace, let’s look at some simple examples of what to look for.

  • Measuring the number of sales. Forecast the number of sales achieved per month that a team and individual employees need to make, and compare it versus real numbers. Next, compare the amount of time and resources it takes to achieve $XX in sales per employee. Compare results to targets. 
  • Measuring goals met. Repeat the same process as above but for specific goals given to teams. Measure real results versus expected results and compare the input and output of those activities. 
  • Measuring profit. Determine an ideal profit margin for the company. If it’s met, then that’s a good indicator that you are reaching your desired productivity. 
  • Measuring quality of work. Determine parameters that define a successful project. Count the number of projects completed by a specific team, and analyze the results relative to those success metrics. Measure how many of those projects meet your quality requirements, and what the output benefit is versus inputted investment. 

These are just four high-level examples of what might constitute efficiency in the workplace. This same analysis of input versus output can be applied in a wide variety of instances across your organization and workflows. 

How to measure employee efficiency 

Measuring employee efficiency can be a challenge. First, every position will have different metrics and indicators for what “efficiency” means in their given role. 

For example, an assembly line team would likely have daily completed products as a core metric, meaning speed and consistency would be a strong indicator of efficiency. A creative professional, on the other hand, will have more intangible success metrics associated with quality of work and impact with the audience over time. 

While it is important to find ways to measure efficiency and impact, you do run the risk of applying too much oversight or micromanagement to employees. Or, you could even wind up measuring the wrong things. Both of these situations are likely to have the opposite effect that you’re hoping to achieve. 

If you do choose to measure employee efficiency systematically, it’s important to get very granular with how you measure individual or team productivity. It is not a one-size (or one-metric) fits-all approach.

Here’s a shortlist of considerations when measuring employee efficiency: 

  1. Define a standard for output. What does success look like for individual roles, teams, and projects? What is the desired result? What is the desired timeframe?
  2. Determine how much “productivity time” is available. Take total workweek time and subtract “unproductive time” like breaks. This will give you a realistic amount of time that can be allotted to productive tasks each week, month, quarter, and year.
  3. Use that total productivity time and your standard for output as a baseline to measure individual output versus time put into an activity.

This simple exercise should give you a nice indicator of how efficient an individual or team is with the time they’ve been given. From there, you can turn your attention to either maintaining or improving overall efficiency. 

How to improve employee efficiency 

As mentioned earlier, there is a wide range of personal, procedural, and systemic factors that might impact employee efficiency. As such, there’s likely not one or two actions that can be taken to immediately make an impact on your workforce. 

Instead, we recommend using the following best practices to ensure that you’re maximizing employee engagement and satisfaction. Do that, and efficiencies are likely to follow.

  • Improve workplace conditions. For office workers, make sure you offer a comfortable work environment with plenty of natural light, plant life, comfortable seating, and quiet rooms. You should also consider flexible remote work arrangements that allow employees  to work where and when they feel most productive,
  • Match tasks to employee skills. Ensure that employees are working to their strengths. This will ensure that everyone on your team can leverage their knowledge, remove roadblocks without assistance, and achieve the best results possible.
  • Communicate effectively. Poor communication is the biggest drag on efficiency. Find ways to make team, departmental, and company-wide communication more efficient. Reduce email time where possible. Instead, use instant communication tools like Slack or Teams to enable quicker and more focussed team communication.
  • Keep goals clear and focussed. Ensure that all employees have SMART goals in place that cascade up to team, departmental, and organization goals. This makes the desired outputs for individuals clear and ensures that everyone is working toward a clear strategic initiative for the organization.
  • Empower your employees. Eliminate micromanagement. Give employees ownership over their tasks and results. Encourage innovation and experimentation to find efficiencies and better outputs. When needed, provide coaching to help employees reach the next level of productivity. 
  • Incentivize employees. Give employees something to work toward beyond impact on organizational goals. Reward them for a job well done with things like extended PTO, company-wide shout-outs, free meals. Better yet, offer promotions and employee raises who show a consistently high level of efficiency and quality. 
  • Cut out low-impact tasks and meetings. Your employees aren’t going to be able to complete all possible tasks given to them, attend all meetings in their calendars, and still be able to maintain the desired level of efficiency. If activities or meetings aren’t contributing to the goal at hand, then they should be cut. The goal is to remove as many roadblocks, time sucks, and resource waste points as possible to ensure that employees can focus on the most impactful tasks. 
  • Provide ongoing training and development. Efficiency is an iterative process. The most efficient workers on any given team are usually the ones who have been at it the longest. That’s because people need to develop to the point of peak efficiency. To help move that development along, work with employees to boost their competencies, knowledge, and abilities over time. Move high-performing employees into more impactful roles and give them more responsibilities to make a greater impact. 
  • Provide ongoing feedback. Take a page out of the Agile playbook and make ongoing, radical candor a cornerstone of your team. That means encouraging all team members to offer ongoing and transparent communication to one another, regardless of role or seniority level. This ensures that all team members feel comfortable calling out a mistake or identifying a potential issue before it becomes a big problem. Being able to receive, process, and adapt to feedback quickly will greatly improve your team’s efficiency and ability to adapt to new challenges on time.
  • Keep deadlines and end goals realistic. Lastly, sustainable efficiency can’t be achieved if your deadlines and goals aren’t attainable. Your team may be able to hit one project out of the park when given a challenging deadline or goal to reach, but this can quickly lead to burnout if it becomes the norm. This will always result in lower efficiency and productivity in the long run. Instead, take a realistic approach to a project or task planning, taking into account the time and resources available to you. Outline:
    1. What milestones will be used to measure progress
    2. What steps are required to meet the goal
    3. How much time it should take to complete the goal
    4. Any possible roadblocks or derailers
    5. What success will ultimately look like 

Remember: employee efficiency isn’t an event. It’s a trend that needs to be established and sustained over time. Achieving “efficiency” on one project at the expense of the long-term wellness of your employees and the sustainability of your output goals is not a sound business strategy.

Instead, you should take steps to identify what efficiency means to your team, what factors impact efficiency, and what changes you can make to improve output sustainably. 

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