The pervasive nature of social media and smartphones can make it easier for employers to keep tabs on activities that staff may be doing throughout the day. However, those same tools can make it harder for employees to truly stay on task. So what’s a boss to do?
Today, the team here at Corporate Essentials has done the legwork to bring you 20 top tips for tracking and measuring employee productivity. And we have scoured the app stores to find 9 solid software options that will help you track, log and organize your people and their projects with greater ease. So stick around, grab a cup of coffee and consider the ways which you can accurately track employee productivity.
1. Measure tasks
Rather than counting the number of minutes people spend tethered to their laptops, count the tasks they are completing. Set projects up with incremental goals that are easily measured and aim to keep the productivity focus on the achievement of those goals.
If everyone in marketing genuinely has their work done. By measuring tasks instead of time, you give people the liberation to focus on getting their work done rather than fretting about the timeline of the working day. Task tracking does double duty, improving the atmosphere in the office by empowering teams and individuals with a sense of accomplishment as deadlines are met with less stress.
2. Create short term and long term goals
Further, aim to have short and long-term goals toward which your people can work.
Studies have shown that employees who are able to see a direct connection between their productivity and company goals are far happier (and therefore more productive) than those who don’t see how their work affects company goals. So when establishing milestones within a project, be clear, concise and most of all, make them SMART goals.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. By providing SMART goals, you give team members and managers the ability to track and self-regulate their workflow. This creates an air of openness and a climate of improved trust, which ultimately makes employees more productive.
3. Feedback cycle to and from employees
Making sure teams and individuals receive feedback and have the opportunity to provide their own feedback is another important way to bolster employee productivity. When people know whether their work meets, exceeds or falls short of expectations, it is easier for them to make appropriate adjustments and move on, continuing to progress toward milestones.
For employees who do not receive feedback, it can be difficult to maintain motivation to keep working productively, particularly with repetitive tasks. As with other communication-based exchanges, it is important that employees have the ability to provide feedback as well. This serves two important functions.
First, it feeds an overall culture of openness as freer communication between all parties helps people feel more included in what is going on at work. Secondly, allowing feedback to be provided on a proverbial two-way street shows employees that all input is valued. Both of these factors go toward improving the workplace culture, which has a direct impact on productivity.
4. Keep tabs on sales productivity
This is an area that can be difficult for many companies. You want to give your sales staff the flexibility to truly meet customers’ needs in variable market conditions, but at the same time, you need to be able to track progress and general productivity.
Often, the solution is having fixed sales targets and various metrics that can be compiled through reports and other means of accountability. This can often lead to discord, as people may feel that they are being micro-managed when asked to come up with comprehensive data about their activities. And, depending on the area of business in which you are involved, tracking sales productivity can be a complicated process.
Our recommendation is that you find a simple way to track the basics for a given time period: sales, new customers, cost of sales, renewals and any other pertinent data points for your specific business. You should do well to make the collective productivity data available to all team members, but should steer clear of making it a pressurized competition.
5. Measure time management
We started off by saying it was more important to measure completed tasks that the time it takes to complete them, and the majority of experts agree with that standpoint. However, it is also important to know how much time things are taking so that you can have a clear picture of the actual cost of projects, particularly large ones.
So, without micro-managing people or adding an undue burden of “extra paperwork” to an already busy team, work to track the hours which staff at all levels spend to complete key tasks. Again, make the data available to everyone without making it a competition – and aim to use the information you collect to help address training and resource needs.
Generally, when staff can see that the point of timekeeping is mutually beneficial, they are more than willing to fill in the forms as needed. Overall, teams see a boost in productivity when time accounting is easy and has relevance to those asked to track it.
6. Communicate expectations
As managers and team leaders, we must do more than keep track of the work that is getting done – we need to be sure it is up to scratch. A big part of making sure work completed meets the brief is clearly communicating expectations in both directions for the project teams.
Make sure the people doing the work, whatever the work is, are well informed of how their work interleaves with their colleagues’ work in other teams. If the schedule or the client’s demands change, as they invariably will, or if team members are rolling on or off the project, it is vital that this information gets to the team members promptly.
No one can be expected to meet a deadline if they were unaware of it or to loop Jim from accounts on the emails if no one knew he was part of the group. It is also very important to communicate with the team as you notice their achievements. A little “well done” here and there goes a long way toward improving employee productivity, particularly on assignments that seem to drag on and on for months.
7. Manage quality of work
More than managing tasks with achievable metrics, keeping tabs on the quality of that work is vital to ensuring productivity in the workplace. So, set a standard for work – whatever the given tasks may be – and make sure that your team members know what the expectation for quality is.
Working with them to ensure they are on-task is pointless if they are writing lists of bullet points when you expected them to craft essay-style passages on a series of given topics. There are few things that destroy morale faster than a pervasive feeling of having one’s time wasted.
Clear standards, shared expectations and frequent review or collaboration on project phases are the best ways to protect the quality of finished work and boost employee productivity along the way.
8. Update each other daily
While we would never advocate for a formal meeting every single morning, we do think there is something wonderful about taking the top ten minutes out of your day to give a bullet-point update to your coworkers.
From a management perspective, this gives you the opportunity to know what people have done toward their milestones already, as well as what their focus will be throughout the day. This is good as it gives you a chance to see where things are headed, as well as an opportunity to catch things that might be going off track before they drift too far from targets.
From a teamwork perspective, the morning meeting is a gift that allows you to brag a bit about what you have achieved, ask for help or insight in areas where you are struggling and even a shot to showcase your skills when others might need assistance. Who knew productivity could be such an all-around rewarding pursuit?
9. Document the deliverables
While making sure people understand the expectations to which they are held is vital to employee productivity, it can be easy to overlook the specifics of the deliverables in question once deadlines are met and tasks are flagged as complete.
To get a real productivity bounce out of your task tracking, produce visuals that show how project deliverable metrics stack up against one another across the year. This can be a beneficial exercise, as it helps people to clearly see how many hours went into meeting the targets for which various teams are responsible, and more importantly, how their work interleaves together to create a finished product.
10. Manage deadlines
One of the simplest things to ensure that employee productivity meets expectations is simply meeting deadlines. Perhaps more importantly, make sure that the milestones along the way are on track – and when they are not, seek to adjust the deadlines as you go rather than launching a Hail Mary in the presentation room an hour before the client shows up for their final review.
Keep projects from ticking over by reminding people not only of the deadline that comes this week, but also the next two or three deadlines relevant to them. (Bonus employee productivity points for helping staff understand the deadline pressure that their coworkers on other teams may be facing.)
It is far easier for teams to work together collaboratively if they understand how the timetable for the entire project is structured. A little reminder now and then that missing a deadline has a negative impact on someone else’s ability to meet theirs can be useful for employees at all levels.
11. Reward progress
Incentivize deadlines for your teams by providing rewards at key points. This does not have to be expensive or time-consuming; something as simple as providing a special badge icon or team t-shirt for finishing a key project or reaching a particular annual goal is sufficient as a reward.
The recognition that a token reward provides goes a fair distance to promoting an air of appreciation in the office, which is a key component in boosting employee productivity. As a bonus, having a stock of rewards to track allows you to keep a visual record of how many among the team have met their goals.
12. Celebrate milestones
Similar to rewarding progress, calendaring in a bit of time to celebrate milestones on project work and within the company as a whole can be a good way to help others understand the commitment their coworkers have to the company, and achievements their colleagues have made through the course of a given project.
This is another way to measure progress and productivity that does double duty by providing a solid source of food for your company culture. You give people perks, they feel more motivated to progress through tasks at a consistent pace, and productivity is accurately tracked without people feeling like you are constantly spying on them or demanding burdensome paperwork.
13. Give staff an arsenal for success
One of the key complaints people give when leaving jobs is that they felt unsupported. While having expectations for staff is important, providing the training and resources that people need to achieve their goals is doubly important to them meeting those goals.
Keeping track of progress and productivity along the way is easier when people have access to what they need to complete projects. Whether that is approval of managers to move forward, special printing supplies or a crash course in the new version of your client’s favorite software, the reality is that when people have their needs met, it is easier for them to rise to the challenges their work brings.
14. Enforce fun
Learning about the interests your team members have outside of work is a great way to be sure that you can provide solid stress relief options, worthwhile perks and solid motivation. This is a useful piece of the employee productivity tracking puzzle because it allows you another avenue to keep tabs on things unobtrusively.
Again, we feel this is a simple concept that you can use within existing frameworks – and it does not have to be costly. Aim to have weekly trivia breaks or other opportunities to down tools and encourage people to gather together in the break room for a quick bite or drink.
15. Be decisive
As a minor part of our point on supplying your staff with whatever they need to achieve their goals, we included a nod to management. In addition to being responsive, managers should be decisive and clear in their communication in order to keep track of employee productivity accurately.
Having clear expectations, and backing those with clear answers to key questions along the way, is a big part of keeping projects on track.
16. Be available
If you think about it, one of the most important things you can do to better measure employee productivity is simply being available to your staff when they need you.
Knowing that software updates caused a two-day delay in production, or being aware of illness and absence among colleagues, can be vital in keeping a project from falling hopelessly behind. As a bonus, managers who are available to their staff tend to have more cohesive teams with more satisfied staff.
17. Lead by example
Another simple solution for tracking employee productivity is that you lead by example. In this case, our suggestion is that you operate a transparent office where the calendar is available to others.
Publish your tasks and deadlines so that others can see what you are up against, and have a clear picture of how their own work interlocks with yours to complete projects that are in progress. In doing so, you are able to show people the value of tracking their own productivity openly – allowing others to feed their goals and achievements into the bigger objectives along the way.
18. Have a level playing field
The point of leading by example is to create a less hierarchical workplace – a level playing field for all. Doing this allows everyone involved in achieving a goal, whether a company-wide sales target or simply rolling out a great looking annual report, to own their own progress in that process and understand how the pieces of the puzzle go together.
Removing barriers that rank and seniority can throw up in a workplace gives everyone equal footing as a stakeholder in the project’s success. This makes employee productivity easier to track because it goes further toward cultivating that open workplace culture toward which many firms are learning today.
19. Respect and understand “whole” people
While many managers feel it is counter productive to engage staffers about their off-site activities, the truth is having an understanding of the things your employees are interested in outside of work helps you better enable them to balance their work commitments.
Overall, providing boundaries between work and personal time that encourage a solid work/life balance for staff creates a productivity boost – and simultaneously allows for a bump in overall employee productivity by encouraging clear scheduling and information sharing.
20. Provide solid training
We have repeatedly mentioned the importance of giving staff access to the skills and resources that they need to get things done, but there is just one last point on the importance of training. Particularly if you want people to complete task sheets or collaborate via an app on productivity points, it is important you give them clear instructions and, when necessary, training in using the productivity tracking system of your choice.
Asking people if they understand how to do something is great, but sitting down with them to work through any new process is preferred. When you offer training in any new system, you confirm to staff that the system has value and importance through that investment.
Great Apps to Measure and Track Employee Productivity
Setting yourself and your staff up for more productive days is one thing – but being sure people have the tools to achieve their goals is another animal entirely.
To help you on your way, we offer this list of great apps picked by experts across the nation as top tools for boosting employee productivity. In no particular order, our favorite apps are:
Asana is one of the leading cross-platform task tracking and project collaboration apps on the market. Good for visualizing the ratio of completed to in-progress tasks, sharing motivation and group messaging. Asana plays nicely with apps and services your team likely already uses, such as Chrome, GitHub and DropBox.
Basecamp provides easy access to task tracking and the ability to break projects out into measurable steps. Basecamp integrates well with a suite of applications to support most management needs, allowing contributors to customize their experience and providing you with an on-the-fly overview of everything you need to know.
23. Google Apps
While each individual app Google produces offers tremendous productivity power, put them together and it is difficult to think of a need they fail to meet. From the simplicity of Gmail to the collaborative power of shared Calendar, Task and Docs, Google Apps deliver where some productivity suites fall short – perhaps because the power of standard office software is assimilated within the collection.
If your teams fall down at the communication hurdle, HipChat is a great productivity solution for you. More than a simple chat app, teams are able to share files and more across platforms with ease.
Working with people spread across a building, city or even the world has become easier thanks to “the cloud”. In DropBox, managers find a great tool for secure file sharing and storage.
26. Rescue Time
When your productivity-tracking journey is just starting and you are unsure what needs to be done, RescueTime can help. Use it to identify patterns and habits, then move on to blocking problem sites/apps and logging accomplishments.
For those with multiple projects on the go or massive projects to handle, Toggl offers a time-tracking interface that allows you to streamline tracking and billing processes with color coding, sweet graphics and flexibility for multiple platforms, as well as off-line use.
Solid task and to-do list option with calendar integration, subtasks and easy sharing.
Stalwart of the productivity world, Evernote has added boatloads of integration and includes bolt-ons that let users integrate everything from their email to their caloric intake in one place.
Giving people training resources they can access is vital to both productivity and success. WalkMe is a solid solution for providing both user engagement tools and enhanced training results.