Winning the Game
Imagine starting a new sport where your only direction was to “win the game”. Everyone takes the field with a positive “we’ll figure it out as we go” attitude but with little understanding of how to play to each other’s strengths while adjusting for weaknesses; the rules are vague, inconsistently enforced, and seem to constantly change. You have no idea how many points you need to score or even how much time is left on the clock. On top of these pressures and confusion, add a coach aggressively screaming for everyone to do better… push harder… win! Under these conditions you, and your team, are probably not going to have an enjoyable experience – or win a lot of games.
Much like a team’s performance on the playing field, success and productivity in the workforce is driven by a few foundational factors. Encouraging employees to build on their strengths and work as a team towards a common goal includes the following:
1. Communicate and Align by Setting Clear Goals and Expectations
While “winning the game” is an obvious end goal, it is painfully vague. Effective productivity in the workplace is driven by each team member’s understanding of how their daily and individual efforts contribute to the team’s overall success. Just as a great coach takes the field with a well-choreographed and rehearsed game-plan, managers must also develop, communicate, and align their workforce with a tactical plan outlining a clear path to success. To be successful, the plan must include specific and sequential steps demonstrating how every individual effort contributes to specific goals along the way. With this vision in place, expectations are clear, and teams can adjust tactics without losing sight of the overall goal.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
The work hours dedicated to planning are a preparation process, not a prophecy. While the framework of your plan should be able to endure changes to the marketplace, your customers, competitors, and suppliers are not subject to your projections and will move in unplanned directions. By encouraging and requiring open and effective communications within your teams, individuals will better understand changes to the plan and can adjust their contributions to remain aligned and focused on the end goal.
2. Solicit and Act Upon Employee Recommended Improvements
Your employees are the voice of the customer.
As a manager or executive in your organization, it is important to be aware that every promotion has moved you further and further from the front lines of customer interaction. While your experience provides for greater vision of the business, you are now in danger of delivering what you think a customer wants rather than hearing what they’re telling you. Encourage employees to act as the “voice of the customer” by actively collecting, evaluating and acting upon customer suggestions. Employee engagement will improve, as your staff feels more valued. The boost in morale will be reflected in increased productivity and improved customer interactions.
3. Applaud Effort, but Reward Performance.
The annual performance review is not yet dead, but it should be.
Just as your strategic planning should not be a once-a-year exercise destined to sit in a binder until the leadership team dusts it off the following year, employee coaching and productivity should be recognized as an ongoing effort. A little competition between employees can be healthy, and strategically aligned performance should be celebrated loudly and publicly. However, performance that directly drives business results should be rewarded with tangible and financial rewards.
4. Provide Ongoing Education and Training
All of the communication and planning in the world will not help an employee who is unprepared or unable to rise to the challenge.
Asking employees to jump into challenges for which they have not been properly equipped is not only unfair but sets everyone up for a frustrating and inefficient working environment. Education and training should be an ongoing process focusing on the specific skills needed to face today’s challenges, while also looking to support skills that will drive your business in the future. Investing in your employees should be considered a necessary investment in the future of your company.
5. Measure Productivity
Completing the task of enhancing productivity requires quantifiable and actionable data.
Having built, communicated, and effectively equipped your team to deliver a “Win,” your final step is to track, measure and optimize performance against the game plan. Today’s technologically advanced tools can easily collect data from a multitude of sources. Software solutions that employ applied artificial intelligence can then utilize this data to accurately predict your shop’s upcoming workload, so you can be prepared and focus on your plan’s execution. With proper analytics support, you’ll have a better view of customer and employee activity and can better match your workforce to your customer needs. Doing so will deliver a better experience to your customer while allowing your team to focus on driving your business.
Author: John Larsen
John is Co-Founder and CEO of Weave Workforce, a workforce optimization tool that applies artificial intelligence to forecast fluctuating demand. With previous experience in a variety of service businesses like retail, healthcare, and automotive maintenance, John understands the daily challenges of matching workforce to workload.