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Unplug Your Workplace: The Blocks to Employee Productivity

By Dr. Donald E. Wetmore |

Most people intuitively and instinctively want to be productive. It makes sense. They will get more from their work, and so will their employers. Yet many elements in the workplace can build walls that block employee productivity.

From my experience, after 18 years of speaking about personal productivity, I have encountered five major blocks to employee productivity in the workplace:

1. Improper selection: When labor markets are tight, companies may be tempted to hire anyone with a warm body and a pulse to fill a slot rather than pay an adequate amount of money to recruit the right individual. No matter how tight a labor market is, there are always qualified people available if the compensation is fair. If you are baking a cake and you use the wrong ingredients, no matter what the reason, you will not produce the cake you desire.

2. Inadequate training: One out of three employees changes jobs annually. Companies that recruit poorly tend to train poorly as well. Training is not a one-shot enterprise; it is an ongoing investment to reinforce and advance skills and attitudes. Employers often get caught up in a vicious circle. They recruit poorly, then fail to allocate sufficient training resources. They figure, why spend the money on training when the employee won't be around for very long? Employees' performance suffers, their satisfaction levels are low, and they leave their positions, giving their employers the opportunity to start the cycle again. Employers ought to treat employees as an investment rather than an expense.

3. Overworking staff: Reasonable people will accomplish a reasonable amount in a reasonable time period. But you cannot put 10 quarts of water into a five-quart container. There is nothing wrong with shifting work from former employees to those who remain. Our capacity to produce will sometimes be enhanced as we take on more responsibilities. But there is a limit. Being truly overworked helps people do a lot of things poorly. It may be more productive to ask staff to accomplish fewer things effectively.

4. Poor alignment with personal and company goals: The employer has a life and a destination, and so do employees. If employees cannot align their goals with those of their employers, they will eventually seek greener pastures. Do your employees see their positions as vehicles to get them to where they want to go in life financially, professionally and socially? Or are their jobs an expedient tradeoff of their time for a paycheque?

5. Burnout: Most people leave their jobs voluntarily, and the major reason is "burnout." "Fed up! Can't take it anymore!" Unfortunately, burnout is not an overnight event but a gradual process, sometimes lasting months and years. During that time, productivity and commitment diminish. Burnout is caused in different ways but has a lot to do with the items mentioned above. Many employers fail to look for signs of burnout. If they are not cognizant of the problem, there will be no opportunity to prevent, respond to or rectify the situation.

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