Back to Basics: What Is Employee Productivity?

July 28, 2021 Mike Lovett

person holding lightbulb sign

Employee productivity has an iffy connotation – so let’s start here. When we talk about employee productivity, we don’t mean an employee is filling every minute of their workday staring at their computer, in meetings, or on calls. We also do not imply assembly line-esque output, filling weekends with work, or biohacking to boost email sends before sunrise. Even if work is getting “done” in those instances, we can assure you they’re not “productive.”

Yes, you want to make sure employees are completing their work and helping to move the company forward. But let’s do another quick round of myth-busting before we begin. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone in an office to be productive for all eight hours. Daydreaming and taking frequent breaks can improve </>focus. If you’re holding a marathon meeting in the same conference room with 10 people, you’re doing more cognitive harm than good.

Employee productivity moves companies forward. Productive employees achieve goals, keep customers happy, and pad the bottom line. But managing employee productivity effectively is nuanced, so it’s important to know what it is, what it does, and what you can do about it.

What is meant by employee productivity?

Employee productivity is a result of engagement, expectations, and environment. If an employee is getting their work done in a timely and high-quality manner, chances are they’re engaged; they have clear, realistic goals and expectations; and they’re in a supportive environment that provides coaching and feedback when needed. If their productivity is lacking, one or more of these areas is probably contributing.

Productivity has different meanings for each employee, too. The expectations and goals for an accountant look much different than they do for a graphic designer, and so will their versions of productivity. Use the pillars of engagement, expectations, and environment to help establish a base-level definition of what productive means at your company.


Why is employee productivity important?

At the end of the day, you hope to get the best out of employees. When employees are learning, growing, and accomplishing great things, so are their companies. Conversely, pushing employees without considering their well-being can lead to harbored resentment and decimated productivity. In a nutshell, that is why employee productivity is important.

When employees are feeling productive, they’re feeling more fulfilled and have a strong sense of contribution to the company. And as Tom Scholz of Boston reminds us, it’s “More than Feeling.” Take customer-facing employees, for example. When they feel supported and engaged, they deliver more satisfactory experiences for customers, one of the most direct ways of increasing loyalty and driving continued business.

When the sense of fulfillment permeates throughout the rest of the company, you will begin to see the compounded effects of a productive workforce. Morale improves, well-being improves, and soon the long-term effects of positive company culture start taking shape.

How do you measure employee productivity?

There’s no equation to calculate employee productivity, but there are a few ways to gauge an employee’s productivity.

Measure goals: Creating goals for employees gives them a clear target to aim for. It also gives a manager a clear target to measure progress against throughout the year. Make sure those goals are S.M.A.R.T. and check in frequently to help employees clear any hurdles along the way.

Measure the amount of work completed: One of the simplest visual representations of productivity is items crossed off a checklist. If employees are churning through assignments and projects, it’s a sign that they’re feeling productive. As a manager or peer, recognizing that hard work can go a long way in making sure employees feel appreciated for their productivity and motivated to perform.

Measure the quality of work: The quantity of output needs to be considered in tandem with the quality of that output. You want to get the best out of employees, not the most. If employees are working through their checklist but skating by with the bare minimum, they could very well be overworked and unmotivated. Those are issues you want to catch early.

How do you manage employee productivity?

There are numerous ways to manage and even increase employee productivity. From a macro, company-wide perspective, flexible work options, psychologically-safe working conditions, and access to the tools employees need are great ways to lay the groundwork for a productive culture. Periodic pulse surveys can help determine if those elements are working as intended.

Looking for an easy, effective way to survey employees? Check out Moodtracker® to get to the heart of organizational issues during times of change.

On the micro, employee level, managing productivity is best accomplished with a custom approach to each employee. Consistent check-ins help establish strong relationships between managers and employees and limit issues falling through the cracks. You should also focus on limiting distractions and meetings and creating the space an employee needs to be productive.

Employee productivity moves lock step with the success of a business. And neither success nor productivity happens by accident; they are both a byproduct of concerted efforts to reinforce the core values of your business. When you create a human workplace, you create a productive and successful workplace.


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