How Can You Develop and Maintain a Productive Work Environment?

Do any of these comments ring true in your experience?  “Oh boy, here we go again, another genius who is going to tell us what to do!”  “I just can’t get the owner to listen to me; I have a simple solution to his issue with sales!”  “I wish we all would discuss our goals for this next quarter, I am not sure we are all on the same page.”

Do You Get It!

Can you think of a time at work when people were not getting along, no one understood what was expected of them, and there was no agreement on what the goals of the business were?  Who did you look to for order, agreement, clarity, and direction?  Did you get it?

What Is Your Role?

Business owners and managers have an important role in business.  You are expected to establish a clear sense of direction, bring out the best in your employees, help to set up systems, policies, and procedures and you are expected to be the person with a clear vision of your business’ success.  You have a choice – you can establish order out of chaos – or – you can create chaos out of order.

Your employees can exhibit a variety of behaviors that impact their productivity, including focus, persistence, dedication, enthusiasm – as well as their opposites – discontent, ignorance, personal problems, and/or a feeling of being treated unfairly.

When Funny Things Start Happening, Then What?

Oftentimes these adverse behaviors can develop from inconsistent and ineffective communication patterns, unequal application of policies, reinforcing poor job performance by not correcting it, giving undue attention to poor conduct, or overloading a good employee with more work to compensate for poor performance by another employee.

A Role For Policies and Procedures?

In many respects the establishment of policies and procedures, practices, and principles help to structure the interrelationships amongst all the stakeholders in the business – ownership, management, employees, business partners, and customers. Oh yes, and formal processes and procedures and professional standards promote and enhance the positive aspects of performance and productivity – and improve workforce alignment.

Think for a moment when you started working at your first job.  What time did you report, when did you take a break, take lunch, and what time did you leave work?  How were you required (or not) to record your time?  The pre-existence of clear, reasonable rules helps establish an orderly work environment – in this example start and stop times and the reporting of hours worked.

Can you list your company policies for the following: processing invoices for payment, workplace safety, workplace violence, requesting leave or time off, use of email, social media, or the Internet?

Chances are there are several business policies in place in your business; most likely they are written, but they could also be unwritten, yet established perhaps by custom and prior practice.  Often when I work with clients I find that many of the policies and procedures are unwritten.  They are usually understood by employees; however, issues in their consistent application lead to the need to formalize them.

The more you can develop written procedures or policies and can explain these to your employees (as well as applying them fairly and consistently to all) the better chance there is that your employees will work more productively – and consistently.

Let’s face it – we are social creatures – we grew up learning cultural, educational, and societal rules – and these simply extend to the workforce.

Be The Change!

As a business owner and manager, it is incumbent on you to set the tone and be the example. Is it fair to ask you which rules should be developed through discussion with your employees?  Is it also fair to discuss with your employees which rules need to be adapted or changed based on changing environmental conditions in your business?  If you have trained your employees to problem-solve does it make sense for you to engage them in a discussion on rules?

If your “policy” for developing rules and changes in procedures is to ask for the input and recommendations of others what are the chances that your supervisors and employees will emulate you and do the same with each other when they need to consider developing rules and changes in procedures?

How clear and understood are your directions and instructions to perform certain work tasks?  Remember there is giving and receiving to communications – ask for feedback on your directions and instructions so that you will know your message has been sent – and received.

What Are Your Current Practices?

When an employee is hired in your company is he provided an Employee Handbook which describes all the personnel procedures and practices?  Is he provided a procedures manual or series of written procedures that will guide him in the performance of his job?  What is covered in your orientation process?  Normally business’ have bulletin boards that will post certain policies – for instance, hours of work, workplace safety, and what to do in case of an accident.  Are yours up to date?

Results Just Don’t Happen – And Neither Does Change

When company goals are established, and each employee understands the role he plays in helping your company to achieve each or several of those goals, a good communication practice includes regular, recurring abilities for employees and their managers to discuss work tasks as these relate to company goals and objectives.

It is during these discussions that you can understand better the challenges your employees may encounter in accomplishing company goals and they enable both you and your employees to engage in timely discussions that can lead to a readjustment of practices to achieve the goals.

As you work to improve your efforts to develop and maintain a productive work environment consider the application of formal processes and procedures and professional standards, as well as improved and effective communication practices to elicit and reinforce employee involvement in your company’s future success.  Let the fun begin.

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