Why your employees are not working efficiently!

efficient working

Why are your employees not working efficiently?
Photo: Yuri__Arcurs/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Some business owners are unhappy with the performance of their employees:

“My employees often do not focus on the right things and they simply do not work efficiently!”

Many think that this can be changed just with proper training of the staff. Well, it’s mostly not that simple. It is rarely purely the fault of your employees.

To be efficient and to be effective!

It is crucial to distinguish between effectiveness and efficiency. If you are effective you are doing the right things. If you are efficient you are doing the things right.

In other words, effectiveness is the goal and efficiency addresses the way!

Effectiveness asks the “what” and efficiency asks the ‘how’.

Why is this distinction important?

First things first: First think about being effective and then being efficient. First ask what needs to be done and then how.

Let me give you an example:

You want to cut down a tree in the garden. Then it is not effective starting to cut off the branches or to mow the lawn around the tree. It helps you not eventually come closer to your goal – namely to cut the tree.

However, it is effective to cut the tree with a blunt axe. This may take some time, but eventually you will cut down the tree. Surely it makes more sense to use a sharp axe or even better to use a chainsaw.

All three methods are effective because they serve the purpose. The methods differ, however, in terms of efficiency.

What does that have to do with my employees?

If your employees are often working on the wrong things, they do not work effectively. If this is the case, usually the objectives are not clear.

Whose job is it in a company to have the vision and to set the objectives? Exactly: That’s your job as an entrepreneur and executive.

If you complain, that your employees are doing the wrong things, make sure that the vision and the objectives of your company are clearly communicated and understood by all your staff. Otherwise they don’t know how to prioritize their work.

But I cannot specify everything…

You don’t need to specify everything. But you need to set the direction. You need to say what is important.

Do your employees really know your company’s vision and the business objectives? Don’t answer with “Yes, of course” so easily.

Ask your employees. You will probably be amazed how little the answers coincide with your vision and your goals.

Prioritize only works if you know the goals!

If you want your employees to act in your best interests, business vision and goals must be clear. If your employees have to work on multiple tasks, they need to prioritize. But that is only possible if they know what the purpose of their work is, what is most important for the company.

As an entrepreneur and executive it is your task to define the business vision and goals and constantly talking about it.

But my employees know their goals …

OK, Now if vision and goals are clear and understood – but you still have the problem that your staff does not provide the expected output. What can be the reason?

In most cases the reason is not laziness of the employees. Think about the following three situations employees may have to cope with:

1. The desire to be efficient

Sometimes, an employee strives to be particularly efficient. Therefore he thinks he needs to work very quickly. This can be the case if the boss repeatedly stresses that the team needs to be more efficient. The result is that the employee starts to work in haste without first to clarify the goal.

An example:

The employee gets a new project. He just skims the description for the new project briefly. He successfully worked on similar projects for several other customers. In order not to waste time, he starts immediately.

It is just a pity that this project differs from the older projects slightly in a few points. Unfortunately he overlooked this. In the following days, he works very efficiently on the project. But the result is unfortunately not what the customer ordered.

His desire to be particularly efficient made him doing the wrong things. When he realizes that after a few days, he needs to put a lot of effort, time and money into correcting and reworking. Finally he is successful with the project – but was he efficient? Not at all!

2. Missing helicopter view

Many people find it difficult to cope with frequently changing requirements. If a new project gets on their desk, it is important that they do not ignore it and work on with their existing projects. They need to step back, get an overview about their new situation and clarify what is now important:

  • Does the project they are working on is still No1 priority or does it need to be postponed?
  • Having a new responsibility for the new project will they still be able to meet all the deadlines they committed to?
  • If not, do they raise their hand and tell their managers about it?

Often employees don’t change from their detailed work view into the helicopter view. They are bogged in details and try to work harder and quicker. They want to improve their situation by working more efficiently. But it would be necessary to firstly think about effectiveness.

Getting into helicopter view and thinking about effectiveness can be difficult – especially if you’re pressed for time and lost in details. But everyone can learn to regularly take the helicopter view.

As a Manager you can coach your employees to get into helicopter view. But take care that you don’t just tell them what they should do, but let them suggest their priorities. Discuss it with them. In that way you really coach them and they will improve their effectiveness over time.

3. Wrong priorities

Sometimes people just work based on wrong priorities. You may know it from yourself – at least I do. Instead of starting with the most important task, I often prefer to work on the ones, which are most fun or give instant rewards. Reading my emails seems to be more fun and joy than working on my tax declaration.

Acting like this is obviously not effective. Again, it helps to regularly take the helicopter view and to question actions and priorities regularly.

Do your employees know exactly your business vision and the business goals?
Do you and your emplyoees regularly get into helicopter view?

  • http://www.nevermindthemanager.com Frode H

    Hi Bernd – Great article,
    you covered a lot. #2 – Helicopter view is very important. I have experiences
    people being resistant to changes because the job would now take a minute
    longer (repetive task) and they would do less during a day. But when they
    understood that this made the warehouse pick goods faster and more precise,
    they understood that the benefit was reduced time on the phone with unhappy
    customers = less work during a day and less stress. So yes! #2 is very
    important. And you as a leader might have this view all the time, but your
    staff might be very focused in “their world” – I also experiences
    people being disturbed – people stopped by to chat, and minutes fly fast. I
    told one employee once to ask people to leave and put up a do not disturb me
    sign. The results doubled in weeks. And as a leader be careful what you measure. If you track the “number of jobs done” and the goals are to high. They will reach the number, but the quality might drop.

    Good article. :) have a great day

    • Bernd Geropp

      Hi Frode,

      Thanks for your good input and for sharing your experience. I fully agree.
      Especially your last point: “be careful what you measure” is so important.