Whenever I hear the word “productivity” I immediately think of the Chocolate Factory episode of I Love Lucy. Lucy and Ethel get jobs working in a chocolate factory. They are not successful in other departments and they both end up working on the line to wrap the chocolates. There they are told if an unwrapped piece of candy gets past them and in to the shipping department they will both be fired. Then the candies start coming down the belt slowly at first, then faster, and faster and they just can’t keep up. To save their jobs they start eating the chocolates and hiding them in their hats and shirts. Then, their manager comes in to check on them and as usual with Lucy, hilarity ensues.
In business, there are going to be certain times of the year when you have a drop in productivity. Here are some examples of when those drops can occur.
Holidays, Summer Vacations and Time Off
It happens, you're down one or two people because of schedules and of course the productivity is going to dip. Then when you’re fully staffed, it should start to creep up. Granted it might take a while as people are day dreaming of being on the beach or maybe of a holiday when they don’t see their mother-in-law naked. The point is, while they were away recharging their batteries, it might take them a few days to recoup behind a desk.
So what's there to do? Keep them on task. Communicate the goals of the team, the department and the company.
Mergers and Acquisitions
This will always cause upheaval no matter how it's planned and communicated. You have a group taking over another group. You have a group who thinks they're superior to the group that was acquired. You have different cultures, different processes, different systems, different everything. And while all of that's happening, people are walking around asking “Do you think they're going to lay us off?” Keeping productivity up is near impossible.
So what can you do? Reassure people. Keep communication consistent. Support the goals of the team, the department and the company.
Termination or Addition of Employee(s)
If you lose an employee and you weren't prepared for it, work isn't going to get done. You have to find time to interview and fill that open position. The rest of the people on the team will have to pick up the slack for a while. And then when you do fill the position, there’s that learning curve. You have the position filled, but people on your team are still stretched thin trying to help train the newbie and get their own work done.
Have a contingency plan. Employees coming and going is part of business. Have a plan in place to deal with a void on the team. Whether the focus is sales training, MS Office training, or some other area, have a training regimen ready to get the newbie up to speed.
In conclusion, I've had managers come to me saying they have an employee who isn't being productive or they have a team that isn't being productive. I always ask them, “How do you know they aren't productive?” Like the I Love Lucy scene, Ethel and Lucy weren't productive and couldn't keep up, but it wasn't from a lack of trying. Managers need to be equipped to get to the root cause of what’s driving the lack of productivity.
It’s typical to see that drop around these times. Be on the lookout for these and have a plan in place to get your team moving in the right direction. Now if the productivity doesn't get better, you'll need to dig a little deeper. And it could be because the processes instilled aren't as fleshed out as they need to be. That, my friends, we'll discuss next week...
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