6 Ways to Monitor Employee Productivity | MCI Solutions Australia

6 Ways to Monitor Employee Productivity

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As a business owner or HR manager, monitoring workplace productivity is part of your role. But in the rapidly changing modern business landscape, what’s the best way to do it? There are a lot of ways to monitor employee productivity, and it doesn’t always require micromanagement.

The importance of monitoring productivity

It might sound silly to ask why productivity is important. Every business wants to be more productive and achieve better results. Some businesses need to cut expenses and achieve greater results with fewer resources. So, addressing issues of poor productivity is all part of that. However, monitoring productivity has many more benefits than that.

When performance and productivity become part of the culture, a workplace can thrive. Everybody has clear expectations, performance is monitored, and issues are addressed quickly. That’s the ideal workplace in theory – you just need to find ways to make it a reality.

In addition, monitoring productivity has a profound effect on staff engagement. If you do it poorly, it can reduce staff morale, increase staff turnover and create an unpleasant work environment. When it’s done well, employees see that everybody is held to the same standards and those who don’t perform are managed accordingly.

Monitoring productivity for remote teams

It’s worth mentioning that remote workers, virtual teams and hybrid workplaces present a different challenge when it comes to performance monitoring. In a normal office, even without looking over people’s shoulders, you can get an idea of whether people are at their desks or not. These traditional signs of productivity aren’t as easy to spot when people are working remotely.

The suggestions listed below should work equally as well in a virtual environment, so you can ensure that all staff are managed the same regardless of their location.

How to measure employee productivity

There are a lot of ways you can measure productivity in the workplace, but probably the most obvious one is to look at results. Many employers get bogged down looking at hours worked, how many coffee breaks someone has had or whether people have taken an afternoon off. The reality is, if you have clear expectations for what people should be able to achieve in the time you pay them for, does it matter if they take an extra coffee break?

Ultimately, results are the main guiding factor behind measuring productivity, but there are still plenty of ways to ensure you’re managing performance properly.

1.      Understand what you’re monitoring

The very first thing you need to do when monitoring productivity is to define productivity in your workplace. Are you focused on business outcomes? Sales? Do people have certain projects or tasks to complete within a deadline? Every workplace values different achievements, and within each workplace, there may be teams or staff members who have different expectations according to their roles.  

There is a big switch in recent times for businesses to focus more on outcomes when measuring productivity. Rather than worrying about how long something takes, businesses are rewarding quality of work over speed. Of course, there are limits to this and most tasks still have a deadline to be met. It can be a balancing act, but the key point is to work out what you’re monitoring.

2.      Provide clear expectations

Once you’ve established what productivity means to you, it’s time to communicate these expectations clearly with your staff. Monitoring performance and productivity is useless if people don’t know what they’re supposed to be achieving to begin with.

Set clear expectations with your staff, preferably in written form so that there is always a record. You might choose to set blanket expectations for all staff, but if you have different teams and jobs to manage, this can be problematic.

Try discussing expectations on a monthly basis with individuals. Aligning their performance to career advancement or other opportunities is a great way to show how high productivity can benefit everyone.

3.      Use project management software

The great thing about project management software is that it removes some of the need for micromanaging. Most people don’t enjoy being micromanaged, preferring some autonomy over how they get their work done. However, someone needs to be responsible for performance and deadlines, and that’s where project management software can help.

With clear and easy systems in place, you can assign tasks, set deadlines, create calendar reminders, collaborate on projects and do much more. Best of all, it’s easy for a manager to track the progress of a project. If it looks like certain steps or tasks are taking too long, they can intervene and find out why. It’s a lot better than watching over someone’s shoulder every day.

4.      Daily check-ins

Again, we’re trying to avoid micromanaging, and some people may think that a daily meeting veers a bit close to ‘Big Brother’ behaviour. However, when done right, they can be a valuable way to track and monitor performance. Some companies choose to have a quick meeting at the start of the day, and this can be done virtually or in person. The idea is to simply check in, let people know where your tasks are at and what you’re working on today.

If this sounds a bit like micromanaging, don’t worry. It’s all about how you conduct those meetings. Ideally, you’re giving people a chance to raise any concerns or blockers to getting something done. Rather than being a witch-hunt, it’s a supportive mechanism to ensure that resources are being used appropriately every day.

If someone is struggling with a deadline, you may find another staff member doesn’t have as many pressing issues. Perhaps they can help the struggling team member and ensure everything is completed by a deadline. If meeting that deadline keeps a valuable customer happy, then it is an important exercise.

5.      Technology is your friend

When monitoring employee productivity, there are plenty of employee productivity measurement tools out there to make your job easy. We’ve already discussed project management software which usually helps to keep everything on track. But what if you need to delve a bit deeper into someone’s performance. Particularly in hybrid workplaces or virtual teams, it’s more difficult to see what people are up to.

One of the biggest issues that business owners and HR managers have is working out how employees spend their time, especially when working remotely. Again, it might feel like micromanaging but the reality is, if an employee has the luxury of working from home, they should expect a degree of monitoring.

Tools such as TimeCamp or Toggl let you see who is online. There are even tools that take random screenshots while an employee is logged in for work. So, if you do have any concerns, you can check to see that they’re actually working rather than reading the news! Remember though, you want to focus on the quality of work, not hours worked.

6.      Take a supportive approach first

When monitoring employee productivity, how you deal with issues is just as important as how you monitor them. Ideally, you never want to appear as though you’re micromanaging. That’s why you should try to take a ‘support first’ approach when discussing performance concerns.

Rather than bluntly asking why a task hasn’t been completed, try to find out why it hasn’t been. Are there technology issues? Did the task rely on input from others? Does the employee have external factors affecting their work? There can be any number of reasons why productivity slips, and it’s best to find out the cause early.

Allowing poor performance to go unchecked is bad for business, but it’s also bad for your employees. Being supportive shows that you actually care about them as people. So, even if they do feel a little micromanaged, they’ll likely also appreciate that you’re taking a solutions-based approach rather than making them feel worse.

June 17, 2022

By Dr. Denise Meyerson

Dr. Denise Meyerson is the founder of MCI and has 30 years' experience in vocational education. In that time, she has developed deep expertise in the design and delivery of a range of qualification programs to major corporates and to job seekers via in-person learning methodologies as well as innovative digital learning experiences.