Opinion | How to Keep Staff Productive

working from home

We caught up with Zac de Silva, profit and growth coach at Business Changing about the elephant in the room for many business owners and senior managers. The answer to the question, should the people in my team be relaxing at home, or should I keep them busy? And if I do keep them busy, what can I get them to do?

Zac has plenty of clients who have had these same questions.

I think the first thing you should be doing is asking them if they want to take the lockdown as a holiday — this might be a win/win for both of you, allowing them to happily sit on the couch watching Netflix and enabling you to relax, knowing they don't need "managing".

It's important to moderate expectations around productivity for team members who continue to work through.

As well as the challenges that come from working from home (juggling it with homeschooling and often sharing the communal dining table), some people are also fighting very real battles around being in lockdown. Being lenient and allowing a bit of chill time is a good idea as Covid-19 has been such a rollercoaster, and resting the brain and looking after wellbeing goes a long way to giving you a very positive future ROI.

That said, now is a great time to get teams to be proactive and do things that they usually don't have the time to do, even if it's for less than a handful of hours a day.

GIVE EACH TEAM SOME IMPROVEMENT AREAS TO WORK ON

It's an excellent time to take a bird's-eye view of the business and see where improvements can be made, especially around people and processes.

Individuals can decide on these tasks or with group brainstorming using Zoom or a shared Google doc.

Ask these questions:

  • What has been going well in our team of late?
  • What has not been so good?
  • What are our current frustrations?
  • What should we have fixed in our team that we still have not addressed?
  • What are we not taking maximum advantage of in our team that we should be?
  • If we could do anything (literally anything) for our team to work together better and achieve greater things, what would we do?

After answering these questions, identify the top three to five things that would make a real difference to your team performance. Then spend the rest of lockdown making progress on those three to five priority focus areas by solving the issues, working on better ways to do things, changing processes, upskilling, communicating as a team, etc.

These projects have one thing in common: for your team to perform better in the eyes of your internal and external customers.

NOMINATE A SPECIFIC WORK-RELATED PROJECT FOR PEOPLE TO WORK ON, EITHER INDIVIDUALLY OR AS A GROUP

  • Is your website copy overdue an update?
  • Are there case studies or testimonials you've meant to get post up on your website?
  • Do your pitch documents need finessing?
  • Are there any admin duties that your team has always been too busy to get to but need to do?
  • Is there a new product or service you've been eyeing up but have been too busy to research and put together a business case study?
  • Competitor studies?

Now is the time! Get on top of those niggly jobs that always tumble down the priority list but are important to the business.

USE LOCKDOWN TIME TO GET EACH INDIVIDUAL TO CONSIDER HOW THEY CAN GET BETTER WITH THEIR PERSONAL JOB PERFORMANCE

  • Get them to consider how they can address their weaknesses or personal opportunities.
  • What personal habits or self-beliefs does each individual have that's holding them back?
  • What new, good habits would be impactful?
  • What areas of knowledge could they upskill in — both personally and professionally – to improve how they do things?
  • Depending on how open your team and company culture is, you could have everyone share their individual focuses on increasing accountability to improve their areas.

The best sports teams have completely open feedback where each team member can suggest areas that others can improve for the benefit of their team. They literally sit in a circle and share constructive and positive qualities about one another.

It'd be great if your culture were open enough so that each person in your team wants to know how others thought they could do better. Once they've decided on their challenges and opportunities, a mountain of online resources can help, from webinars and YouTube to online workshops. They can even download relevant books from the library app Libby.

ENCOURAGE YOUR TEAM LEADERS TO DO SOME SELF-LEARNING ON HOW TO BE A BETTER LEADER AND MANAGER

You could get each person in your team and business to identify one or two things that they will do some personal research to improve their skills. It could be lean, strategy, innovation, customer experience, culture, finance, KPIs, management, negotiation skills, people skills, emotional intelligence, health and wellness, budgeting, and money.

As a leader, you could lead the way and nominate what one to two things you will do about self-learning.

Take this self-learning to the next level and encourage all in your team to share their assignment with the rest of the group at a set date in the future, talking for 10-15 minutes on what they learnt, what others might learn from it and how what they learnt will change how they do things.

People are more likely to complete tasks if they know others will see the results at a specific time.

IF THEY'RE UP TO IT, CHALLENGE YOUR TEAM TO DO A SIMILAR REVIEW ON THEMSELVES ABOUT THEIR LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK

They might assess how they perform as a parent, a partner, a friend, a family member, a community person or whatever. Get them to ask what they are doing well and where they need to focus more to improve. You might even do this sort of thing with someone else that you trust: someone from your team, your partner, another family member, a friend etc.

In theory, sharing where you can improve with others will help you be more accountable, especially checking two-way progress.

Sometimes this focus on individual performance and what-could-be elevates them out of the current negative situation and gives them the "why" that's so important in business and life.

The quietness of lockdown is a great time to truly consider what is going well and what you could be doing better, and things to start doing that help you be more successful as a team and as a person.

Just remember to be realistic about productivity and allowing for more downtime than usual.

Zac de Silva is a profit and growth coach at business changing, where he helps business owners and managers with strategy, planning, mentorship, leadership and accountability.

Zac de Silva, Business Changing: www.businesschanging.com