I haven’t been in the workforce long enough, nor acquired the experience and expertise to say with certainty that the experiments in this post will work. That’s why this post isn’t called “3 rules…” and I’m not Peter Drucker. But guess what?
They will work. Not for every organization, every employee or every instance, but more often than not using these experiments will help you increase your retention rates and increase employee productivity.
Go ahead, try them out and let me know what you think.
Experiment #1: Enhance Value, Increase Productivity
If you suspect your team/sector/division is not working at capacity despite their insistence, try this experiment on for size:
Wait until there’s some new business in the pipeline and then tell your team that because everyone is working at capacity that you’re looking to bring in a new addition for X amount of money. Then offer the following alternative. Say this –> “That’s one option; the other is instead of bringing on someone new I can split the salary I would pay that person equally amongst you guys provided that you all can pool your resources and adequately take on the new business together.”
Most Likely Result: Your team takes option #2, and is easily capable of shifting time spent on Facebook and surfing the web to completing the new project.
The truth is that often times, particularly if they’re being paid under market value and they know it, your team may be putting in the manpower they think they’re getting paid for. While it’s probably not wise in this economy, it’s the truth. The extra money will make them feel more adequately compensated and they’ll feel re-energized to take on more responsibility. Instead of biding their time (and wasting yours), they’ll start taking more action.
Potential Downfall: Most of your team really was at capacity. The few that weren’t are completely apathetic about their job regardless, and are just biding their time until they can find something else. They won’t offer any help, and the others will burn out trying desperately to complete excess work. This scenario is dependent of you having a good grasp on your team.
Experiment #2: Outsourcing is for the Birds
Do you often outsource some tasks you don’t have confidence in your team to execute?
If so, prior to taking this route, next time ask your employees if they think they would be capable of performing the task or project you’re looking to execute. Tell them what the project entails, and see if it sparks any interest. Maybe you had no clue that Chloe was a whiz with Photoshop, or that Brad was a copywriter for an ad agency before he joined your team.
I’m not telling you to give an employee a chance on something that needs a quick turnaround and has to be stellar on the first attempt, but I do think you should think twice before paying someone a bunch of money for something an employee probably could’ve pulled off. Offer them the chance for half of what you would’ve paid the freelancer/consultant.
Most Likely Result: An employee that was scared to speak up has some past experience with the skills required to complete the project. She can manipulate her schedule around, and work just a few hours of overtime and feels confident she can deliver quality work given the chance. She leaps at the opportunity to showcase her versatility, especially with the extra monetary incentive. She stays late brushing up on a few skills and supplementing her knowledge by learning a few more.
She succeeds in delivering something nearly as solid as the freelancer for half the price. The client is happy, the employee learned new skills and has some extra spending money, and you saved money and empowered an employee to take on additional responsibility, which demonstrated your team has more value than you originally thought.
Potential Downfall: An employee attracted by the extra money takes on the task despite the fact that they really don’t have the skill to complete the project up to your standards. The result of this scenario is that you’ve wasted valuable time, but if you’ve set up periodic reviews as part of the process you can avoid wasting much time, and can cut the cord early on – seeking out the freelancer at that point. All is not lost as you’ve learned something important about that particular employee.
Experiment #3: Autonomy Rules
Let your employees work from wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. This doesn’t have to be all the time, or every day. Find a formula that works for you. Maybe it’s two days a week, maybe it depends on that person’s role, maybe it’s 20% of the time. Experiment.
In this video Dan Pink talks about the fact that employees are more motivated today by intrinsic factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose than monetary incentives. [I’d argue that monetary does matter, not because it buys more shiny things, but because it makes the employees feel more valued. Alas, that’s another discussion.]
Pink defines autonomy as the desire to direct our own lives. Are you looking for compliance? Or engagement? Each year, especially with all the new social tools being created, there are more and more jobs we can do from the comfort of our homes, from a coffee shop, from a library. I know when I have the freedom to work from wherever, I usually do more work, not less. Why?
I’m empowered. I work when I’m feeling sharp, during peak performance times. I appreciate the fact that the person in charge trusted me enough to give me the opportunity so I feel more obligated to return the favor by delivering the best work possible. What about you?
I know managers reading this right now are shaking their heads, “It’ll never work.”
Ah but it already has. At Atlassian, at Google. Did you know that half of all of Google’s new products have been birthed during Google 20% time where employees are allowed to work on whatever they want? Do some reading on organizations like Best Buy that have adopted the ROWE approach.
Science continues to prove autonomy is a key ingredient to motivating employees. In virtually every situation engagement, satisfaction, and productivity goes up, while turnover goes down.
Most Likely Result: Your employees are so grateful for the autonomy and the fact that you trusted in them, they amplify their efforts to prove to you that you made the right decision. Their productivity goes up, and they even work when they don’t have to because they don’t feel obligated and constrained by the traditional nine to five.
They still come to the office sometimes for human interaction, but they also take initiative to create their own interactions by networking with other business professionals that could help your brand. They attend important meetings, and they meet with other co-workers around the conference table to brainstorm sometimes, but they also go for a walk after lunch instead of staring at their computer screen. They come back re-invigorated, more passionate, and more inclined to perform at optimum level.
Potential Downfall: They take advantage of you. They work 6 hours a day instead of 8. They do less work, and they’re easily distracted without someone micro-managing them from the office. They do a poor job of communicating their status and what they’re working on to the admin, and their collaborative efforts falter. This is a quick fix. Tell them to come back to the office, or tell them to keep their last paycheck as compensation. Who wants these people working for them anyway?
If you want mediocre employees that don’t cost anything, consistently give you just what you ask for (it’s probably mediocre too) and nothing more then you’re on the right track. Chances are they’re completely content, and obviously you’re completely content to let your company hover somewhere between insignificant and irrelevant. But who cares right? You don’t have to worry about losing them to higher bidders.
BUT, if you want the best working for you, first pay them what they deserve. Get that out of the way and then try some of these experiments to empower your employees, increase retention and productivity. These are just a jumping off point. What more ideas? Read this brilliant slide deck from Netflix on their corporate culture.
As an employee which of these would entice you to amplify your efforts? As a manager, which of these have you tried with success? With failure? What are some additional pitfalls I’ve failed to mention? What are other examples of companies employing these strategies? Please share your insights in the comments section!
3 Experiments to Retain Employees & Increase Productivity — http://bit.ly/KTShO (via @RyanStephens)