Ruth Spellman explains how to maximise employee productivity while keeping everyone on board

Published: 01/07/2004, Volume II3, No. 5912 Page 36

The European working-time directive will focus attention on how employers can maximise employee productivity.What is the best approach?

Help employees plan priorities Help them structure their workloads by providing a set of relevant cr iter ia against which they can evaluate the urgency of each task.They can then tackle tasks systematically, enhancing their efficiency.Encourage open communication about changing priorities to ensure that colleagues are aware of the potential for missing deadlines.

Investigate the real issues As ever, you need to know where current and potential problems lie in order to address them.

Consider how you can identify issues faced by your staff - for example, through structured discussions with them or by introducing an activity log for a set period.Signal your willingness to make changes to respond to employee concerns.

Evaluate the working environment What materials do they need to do their jobs and where are these located? Are lighting and layouts a problem for some team members? Take a step back from day-to-day work, consult your staff; even ask contacts from other departments to give their views.

Identify skills issues Employees sometimes struggle because they lack the skills or confidence to perform the tasks they are being asked to do.Evaluate the current and desired skills profiles for your team, consider where strengths and weaknesses lie, and introduce any training and development support that is needed.Seek employee feedback and give them access to tools and information that could help them progress.

Consider greater flexibility Examine whether any changes to current working practices could enhance employee productivity.Do any employees struggle to balance their work with external commitments - for example, parental responsibilities? Could you introduce flexibility to help them?

Communicate available support Employees in need of help can often be unwilling to voice concerns.Use one-to-one sessions to explore their workloads.Letting them know about available support or showing them which colleagues can help will reassure them and help spread the load in challenging times.

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of Investors in People (UK).