IAN FERGUSON: How to boost productivity without micromanagement


Ian Ferguson

With skilled labour in relatively short supply, thus increasing the need for employers to maximise the productivity of each worker, human development strategies are essential to achieving better results. Micromanaging workers has proven dangerous and counter productive in seeking to increase productivity. People work better in comfortable environments where they are held accountable for the results.

The question, then, that we answer in this week’s column is how do we hold staff accountable to high standards without hovering over them or hiring overlords to run the plantation. Here are eight suggestions for how to do this seamlessly.

1 Hire employees who have a great track record of high accomplishments.

The pre-screening, interview process and background checks for each employee should provide you with all the information you need to make a sound and solid decision about the candidate. Hearing the verbal testimony of two former employers and supervisors, and having the employee share examples of what they accomplished in their previous job, provides the evidence - or lack thereof - which should inform your final decision.

2 Hire managers and supervisors who are great at coaching, mentoring and modelling the behaviours and actions you want each employee to demonstrate.

Your middle management team sets the pace for the level of productivity you will get on the ground. Tired and lazy managers will produce low-functioning employees every time.

3 Make each deliverable clear for all employees and supervisors to understand.

You cannot manage what you have not articulated. Create a project management process with clear action steps, measurement timelines and identify who takes the lead for each part of the process.

4 Have clear lines of communication where employees can reach out for support when they need it with projects.

A project is useless without a communication plan. Let the team know the role they have in bringing life to the project. No one should be left out, no matter how minor their responsibility in the process.

5 Provide clear project check-in dates where team members understand and respect deadlines for assignments.

Benchmarks and timelines are crucial in holding employees accountable. After you have delegated, do not allow employees to dump projects back in the deck. Hold them to the date and the required standard for the completed project.

6 Outline clear consequences for team members who consistently do not deliver on project deadlines.

Watch, and manage, systemic failures to deliver on project dates and deadlines. Some work cultures and supervisors are quite relaxed to the point where people feel they can constantly fail and still survive. Keep this in check. Constant failure may point to a greater issue of the employee being overwhelmed, under-skilled or under-funded.

7 Provide clear, positive reinforcement, rewards and recognition for team members who consistently deliver on their project deadlines.

Celebrate those employees and teams who are consistent in their delivery of project success. This serves as motivation for those doing their jobs, as well as those who are not. People need to know that the extra they do matters, is seen and appreciated.

8 Provide employees with the budget allocation and resources, including human resources, required for success in each project.

Sand alone cannot build houses. Even great leaders fail when they do not have the resources needed to succeed. Ensure that the right amount of funding and other resources are provided to succeed. While it is understood there are no perfect scenarios, one employee can only be judged on one employee's amount of work.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organisations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.


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