You know your team has everything it takes to succeed. They’re smart, they’re talented, they’re productive...at least, they’re productive most of the time.
Most teams go through periods where they struggle to get things done, and this happens for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a lack of motivation, low morale, or interpersonal issues getting in the way of collaboration, team productivity can take a major hit.
As a manager, you want to figure out the root cause behind your team’s productivity issues so you can address the problem, and get your team back on track. But how, exactly, do you do that? What strategies can you use to improve team productivity? We've outlined ideas to help you get your team back to doing their best, most productive work.
What is team productivity?
Team productivity is how your team performs as a whole; it’s your team’s ability to effectively manage their tasks, make progress, and get things done as a unit.
This is a little different from employee productivity. While it’s important for people to be autonomous and get things done on their own, you can have a group of individually productive employees and still have an unproductive team. This is especially true if team members can’t figure out how to work well together.
Team productivity is all about collaboration. It’s about each employee’s ability to collaborate and leverage their strengths. This extends beyond striving to hit their personal goals, to moving the team forward towards their collective goals.
Highly productive teams are a must for successful organizations. When your entire team is progressing and getting things done, you can harness the power of the collective to make a much bigger impact and build a high-performing team. This means better outcomes than if people were working solo-even if each of those employees were individually productive.
6 strategies to improve team productivity
You might need to take a short term, medium term, or long term approach to improving team productivity. This will depend on your team’s context and the productivity challenges you’re facing.
How to improve productivity in the short term
1. Identify the cause of decreased team productivity
Before you can improve team productivity, you need to understand why your team is struggling to get things done. Observe what’s happening with your team and company. Where is the issue with productivity coming from?
For example: If your team is growing, they may be going through the storming phase of team development. Maybe you’ve introduced a new policy, system, or technology to their workflow, and they’re struggling to adjust. If your company is going through major changes (like a leadership change), morale may be low. Any of these things may impact productivity.
Your issues with team productivity could also indicate a larger issue within your organization. If your company culture values overwork, your employees could be burning out, and struggling to get things done. If there are issues of favoritism or inequity, it could be bringing down morale, and performance along with it.
2. Take immediate steps to address the issues you find
Once you know what’s causing the productivity issues, you want to address it head-on. Get your team to brainstorm potential solutions, and see if there’s anything you can do to support them. The faster you address the issues causing team productivity to dip, the faster your team will get back on track. And that means getting back to the high performance you know they’re capable of.
For example: If you’ve recently hired a new team member and people are struggling to adjust how they divide tasks, you might schedule a team building activity to help people collaborate more effectively. If your team is struggling to adapt to a new process or technology, you could schedule more in-depth training to get them up to speed.
How to improve productivity in the medium term
3. Set clear expectations for the whole team
When your team isn’t clear on expectations, it can cause confusion, and that confusion can quickly lead to productivity issues. So if you want to improve productivity, try setting clear expectations. Make sure everyone on the team understands those expectations, and work to get people on board.
For example: If you want your remote team to communicate more effectively, set clear expectations around team communications. Establish preferred communication channels for certain things, and how to make a time-sensitive request. If people are unsure what they’re accountable for or passing tasks off to each other, establish clarity around job roles and who is responsible for what.
The clearer you can be with your remote team on what’s expected from them, the easier they’ll be able to meet your expectations-and the more productive they’ll be as a result.
4. Give your team some breathing room
You may think you need to be on top of your team for them to be productive. But micromanaging can cause morale, employee engagement, and ultimately team performance and productivity to take a major hit. So if you want to boost your team’s productivity, take off your micromanager hat, and give your team some space to do things their own way.
For example: Instead of following up with your team multiple times per day to see how projects are going, ask them how often they’d like to send progress updates. Agree on a frequency that works for you both (for example, once per week). Then, as long as they’re making progress at those regular intervals, give them the leeway to manage tasks in between project updates as they see fit.
As a manager, it’s your job to lead, to support, and to inspire your team. But don’t forget that you’re a team member, too. It’s your responsibility to make sure the work gets done, but that doesn't mean micromanaging every little thing. In fact, this can slow things way down and reduce the team productivity you’re hoping for.
How to improve productivity in the long term
5. Anticipate-and prepare for-productivity challenges
The best way to solve team productivity challenges? Prevent them from happening in the first place. If you can anticipate things that may interfere with team productivity, you can be proactive in addressing them quickly. That way, you solve issues before they have a negative impact, and keep your team productive and performing.
For example: If you know your team struggles with productivity during periods of growth, you can rework your onboarding process to help everyone adjust to new hires. If your team's productivity tends to drop when there’s a major change in the company, you can develop a plan to support them through it. Better yet, put that plan into place before the change happens.
Staying one step ahead of team productivity issues means keeping up with how your team feels through employee surveys and one-on-one meetings. That way, you can spot issues that might impact productivity early-and deal with them before they become a major problem. Officevibe’s employee engagement software lets you measure team engagement, collect and respond to employee feedback, and keep track of every one-on-one all in one place.
6. Make adjustments as necessary
Planning for team productivity challenges is a must. But you can’t plan for everything, and being flexible to adjust, adapt, and make changes as necessary helps you tackle productivity issues as they arise.
For example: If a key team member leaves unexpectedly, it could throw your team off track. So it’s important that you assess the situation and adapt as necessary to keep your team moving forward . You might reassign the employees’ tasks and scheduling a team meeting to talk through any concerns your employees have about the unexpected departure.
There will always be new, unexpected things that have the potential to threaten team productivity. But if you’re on the lookout and ready to be agile, you’ll be able to roll with those changes and adapt and adjust your strategy accordingly.
A productive team is a high-performing team
Keeping team productivity high is a must if you want your team to thrive. And now that you know how to improve team productivity, you have everything you need to keep your team productive, and empower their best work.