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If you’re working in a leadership position, there’s a high probability that improving employee productivity is one of your biggest objectives.
Don’t worry, you’re in good company. According to a study in the UK, the average employee spends less than three hours a day doing actual work. Similarly, companies in the United States are losing an estimated $550 billion every year to low productivity, leaving managers scrambling to find ways to ensure work is being completed on time. Yikes.
The common solution to low productivity is efficiency. If employees can work more efficiently, they can maximize the time they have. This makes sense considering how research indicates that our brains maintain concentration in cycles, which is why many psychologists and productivity specialists suggest taking scheduled breaks for a much needed mental recharge.
There’s even a productivity system based on this ideology known as the Pomodoro Technique.
But what if we’re focusing too much on efficiency when we should be looking at effectiveness as well?
In this post, we’re going to look at the differences between efficiency and effectiveness as well as how you can leverage both to help your teams maximize productivity.
Head to head: Efficiency versus effectiveness
Efficiency and effectiveness are both related to productivity, but in different ways.
Efficiency refers to how we execute our tasks. When we work efficiently, we use less time, resources, and/or human effort to do our job.
Effectiveness looks at the quality of the results we achieve. If an employee is effective, they’ll consistently reach goals and objectives like delivering high quality-work or making sales.
Think of it like this:
- Efficiency measures the means
- Effectiveness measures the end result
It’s possible to work inefficiently and still be effective. An employee may deliver a report that’s filled with valuable data that can help your department make more informed decisions (effective), but if they missed their deadline because they wasted time during the research process, that’s inefficient.
On the other hand, one can also be efficient and ineffective. An example of this would be an employee who came up with a system for responding to emails more quickly (efficient), but failed to include important information in those emails (ineffective).
You can probably see why efficiency and effectiveness are both important traits. After all, what’s the purpose of optimizing resources if you’re delivering subpar work? And how effective are you really being if your work is consistently behind schedule? Real productivity isn’t achieved without first striking the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness.
Efficiency or effectiveness?
Achieving the right level of efficiency and effectiveness starts with the leadership. Everyone from company executives to junior leadership plays a role in setting the company culture, and when your primary goals are to cut costs and minimize turnaround time, you prioritize efficiency over effectiveness.
Conversely, when you’re encouraging teams to follow rigid work guidelines that reduce errors, but end up wasting a lot of time along the way, you’re not creating a culture of efficiency.
Neither of these scenarios are good for your business.
- High Efficiency-Low Effectiveness means your teams are rushing through work, probably with little regard for the quality of their finished products.
- High Effectiveness-Low Efficiency means that workers may be delivering high-quality results, but they’re not making the most out of their working hours. Remember that most people don’t work the full eight hours of their workday, so inefficiency can rob you of much of the actual productive time.
If either of these scenarios reminds you of the team you’re managing, you’ll need to make some changes. The good news is promoting better efficiency and effectiveness isn’t rocket science––it’s not even that difficult. You just need to create and maintain a workplace environment that values both.
Tips for improving efficiency and effectiveness
As a team leader, it’s your job to ensure your employees are achieving company goals and objectives. If they’re not reaching those goals, you should put a system in place that helps them work more efficiently and effectively.
Raluca Apostol, the co-founder of tech company Nestor, says that efficiency and effectiveness take some serious work–and that employees often need help getting on the right track. “If your team members lose your focus quickly, help them build healthy habits in maintaining it, like using time management tools, having an accountability partner, or by using productivity systems like Eat that Frog,” she said.
But it’s not enough to encourage your team to be more efficient and effective–you need to take some extra steps to set them up for success, too. Most workers aren’t intentionally being inefficient and ineffective. They just need a little extra help with improving the way they execute and complete assignments.
Here are some ways you can give them a nudge in the right direction:
Rewards are an excellent way to motivate employees to work more efficiently. Reward efficient (and effective!) work via bonuses, extra vacation days, or anything else you can think of that would make for a compelling incentive. You can even reward your entire team with a half-day if everyone meets their efficiency goals.
Keep the training process ongoing
Don’t limit training to the onboarding stage. Hold scheduled training events to discuss ways to work more efficiently and effectively. This is a great way to help employees get refreshers on important information they might have forgotten, and you can use this time to introduce new concepts they can use to help make work easier.
Introduce a team Kanban board
Kanban boards bring more accountability and transparency to the workplace by showing who’s working on which tasks and how long it’s taken to complete those tasks. This can give your employees a sense of ownership over their assignments, which can motivate them to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.
Create a positive work environment
Happy employees are far more efficient and effective than unhappy ones. You can boost the mood around the office by:
- Ensuring everyone feels like their being valued
- Promoting positive communication and idea sharing
- Allowing mental recharge breaks throughout the day
- Creating support structures to lighten the load when people start feeling overwhelmed
Oh, and stop micromanaging.
Let your employees know what’s expected of them
This is important. If you want your employees to work more efficiently, let them know. Tell them how much work they should complete within an average shift and give them tips for delivering that work efficiently. If there’s a problem with their effectiveness, point out the issues and explain to them how to improve the quality of their work.
Getting the most out of your team
Once you’ve implemented a system for improving effectiveness and efficiency, set up weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings to measure your team’s progress.
- Look at how long it takes employees to complete work in your average day, month, or quarter
- Assess the quality of each team member’s work and whether their work is bringing value to your company
- Check whether your employees are consistent with their quality and delivery
The key to managing a team that’s both efficient and effective is to set the example. You want them to improve their productivity, then show them that you’re committed to helping them make the improvement. That way, you’re creating a culture that actually encourages your employees to grow and build their skills.