What is sustainable productivity? In short, it’s what every company under the sun is striving for: continual growth and process improvements, a regular flow of new ideas and innovations, and an indefatigable optimism about the future of the organization. Here are five ways to cultivate this part of your company’s culture.
1. Provide an Example Worth Following
This first step sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. Maintaining a culture of constant improvement and consistent productivity has to start at the top with an example worth emulating.
As a workplace leader, your people look to you for inspiration. This includes everything from your work ethic to your optimism to your intellectual curiosity. They want to see someone who can power through those tough days with a smile, and somebody who strives to better themselves — including the breadth of their knowledge and the quality of their performance — every day. If you want to make your company’s growth and productivity truly sustainable, it has to start with you.
2. Map Your Processes and Data
Data is everywhere these days. Your company likely relies on capturing meaningful information to do its work and remain productive and competitive — including market data, transit times for shipments, work piece flow in your factories and more. None of this is useful if it can’t be visualized, though.
Achieving sustainable production means organizing your data and using it to make decisions in real-time. Sometimes, this means taking a top-down view of your company and its territories to highlight bottlenecks in supply chains and find untapped markets.
Other times, chasing down more consistent productivity means turning the spotlight on internal processes and how successfully your teams perform in workflows that require coordination. Productivity can’t be sustainable if you don’t know what it looks like or how to measure it.
3. Solicit Ideas From Everywhere
Achieving sustainable productivity requires a constant flow of new ideas and potential innovations — not a stop-and-start rhythm that occurs only during brainstorming meetings or company retreats. Good ideas and productivity-boosting suggestions can come from anyplace, at any time.
Make sure ideas can flow freely in your workplace. Be sure to make yourself accessible. Go out of your way to meet with change makers as well as folks you don’t know that well. Project an atmosphere of approach ability and amenability to change.
Cast a wide net, too. Set up a suggestion box or online survey employees can fill out at any time. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of suggestions you receive from all over the company. Whether they’re ideas for a new product, ways to reach more customers or a better way for teams to work together, all this feeds into your company’s overall success and productivity.
4. Help Your Employees Set More Realistic Goals
If you’re not yet familiar with SMART goals, they may just become your new best friend in the pursuit of sustainable productivity. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
For a start, it means encouraging your employees to think of their work in smaller, actionable pieces instead of overwhelming them with larger, overarching ones. Your company is always going to have industrial-scale goals: things like market penetration, outmaneuvering the competition across digital channels and pursuing new product lines. However, these company-sized goals are comprised of lots of smaller, individualized and specific tasks your employees can tackle every day.
There are lots of examples of SMART goals. Here are some that could have a direct impact on the sustainability of your company’s productivity and growth:
- “I will read four books on user experience this quarter.”
- “I will convert four customers from our new sales territory before my next employee review.”
- “I will respond to five online customer reviews this week, whether positive or negative.”
- “I will improve traffic to our new landing page by 15% within the month.”
Speak with your team members and help them come up with personal, relevant and measurable goals. This will help them contextualize the work they do within the larger picture, encourage a steady flow of productivity and new ideas, and make them feel more invested in their work and personal growth.
5. Make Sure Employees Aren’t Burned Out
You’ve probably heard of flow, which is where an individual enters a state of deep concentration to achieve an intense burst of productivity. There’s always going to be a time and place for this, but it’s just not sustainable over the longer term. Your employees need to recharge their batteries at regular intervals if you want their productivity at its best. Americans get less sleep today than they did in 1942 — and as one writer put it when addressing employers, “that’s on you.”
Even if they come to work feeling exhausted, you might get a couple of good hours of productive work, but things quickly go downhill from there. If you want your company to engage in sustainable, productive endeavors, it means helping your team members realize a healthier work-life balance, encouraging walks or yoga during breaks and ensuring your employees have the support they need for medical leave and vacation time. Americans are fairly notorious for not taking the vacations they’re due.
With these principles in mind, your company can begin to find its way toward more sustainable productivity in every department, today and well into the future.