Worried about falling productivity in your organization? You should be. The Brookings Institute study The Productivity Slump shows slowed productivity over the last decade in all industries, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows only low productivity growth. Productivity has a direct impact on business success and profitability, so low or dropping productivity means reduced revenue and reduced business opportunities.
What can you do to improve productivity in your workforce? Recent research shows that workplace checklists, wellness initiatives, and workplace coaching all have positive impacts on productivity. Read on to see the impact these trends have on workplace productivity and evaluate how they’ll fit in your organization.
Checklists are an important tool in improving workplace productivity. So important that there’s a National Checklist Day, October 30, dedicated to the use of checklists. National Checklist Day was created when checklists were introduced by Boeing as a result of a plane crash in 1935. The cause of the crash was determined to be human error: the flight crew forgot to release flight control gust locks causing the plane to crash immediately after takeoff. The complexity of safe takeoff operations was more than could be trusted to human memory, prompting the use of a prepared checklist going forward.
Today, it’s widely accepted that aviation checklists are an important factor in safe airplane operation. Pre-flight checklists, tailored to the airline and type of aircraft, are used before each and every flight by pilots and crew.
Checklists improve productivity in important areas. They reduce mistakes of omission, help organize tasks and procedures, and motivate users to take action without having to remember multiple steps or techniques. Studies show the dramatic effectiveness of using checklists to improve outcomes, especially in medical settings.
The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande discusses the 47 percent drop in deaths in major surgical procedures when checklists are used. Dr. Gawande recommends using checklists for communication in addition to tasks, and focusing on key routine items that regularly get missed. He explains that even good training should be supplemented with the use of checklists because people are not machines, and forget even basic things. If key tasks, steps, or procedures are getting missed in your organization, consider introducing checklists.
If you want to encourage and support productivity in your workforce, develop a company focus on employee health and wellness. A 2017 study by the University of California Riverside found that the workplace wellness program observed in the study produced a dramatic increase in employee productivity.
Professionals like scientist and researcher Dr. Martha Menard know that wellness programs improve productivity because they support employees’ physical and emotional health. Healthier employees mean they are out sick less, feel less stress, and can focus better on work tasks and responsibilities. Having resources to feel better and be healthier creates employee engagement and loyalty. Engagement and employee satisfaction are well-known to improve productivity.
Researcher and psychologist Dr. Ellie Cobb explains that any focus at all on wellness will boost satisfaction and thereby productivity. In fact, the more emphasis companies put on wellness, and the more wellness resources they provide, the more productivity improves.
Here are two trending and research-backed ways to improve productivity:
Standing desks: Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health’s study found that employees were more productive when using stand-capable desks than their seated counterparts. Not only that, the productivity of those using standing desks improved over time, to the tune of 23 to 53 percent.
Natural Light: Access to natural light improves productivity in important several ways. Dr. Phyllis Zee and doctoral candidate Ivy Cheung at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explain that light is “the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body,” helping normalize sleep patterns, moods, physical activity, and other aspects of health that affect ability to focus and improve productivity.
Workplace coaching is an effective way to improve productivity, as well as engagement and job satisfaction. Executive coach and HR leader Suzanne Coonan, writing for Human Resources Today, explains that additional coaching benefits include reduced costs and increased revenues and sales, higher employee retention rates, improved confidence and communication in the workforce, better working relationships, and more.
Recent research shows that workplace coaching results in up to 14 percent improvement in organizational performance, and up to 39 percent in individual growth. In an ATD study, nearly 69% of learning and business leaders believe workplace coaching drives productivity gains. In a recent Human Capital Institute survey, more than half of respondents said that increased productivity was one of the top 3 outcomes of coaching.
In a recent study we conducted with HR.com, 91% of HR Professionals said that managers in their organizations who are considered effective coaches have more productive teams than non-coaches.
When improving productivity in your organization, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Find a solution that fits into what your team is already doing. Consider these three tips as a starting point on your road to higher productivity. Whatever you choose, think about how you can implement changes organization-wide to have a lasting effect on company culture.
Learn more about the original research we conducted with HR.com (including a whole chapter on improving productivity) in this e-book.