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10 Agile Leadership Productivity Improvement Strategies

Agile methodologies empower leadership by fostering adaptability and collaboration. To enhance productivity, leaders can employ strategies like setting clear goals, promoting self-organisation, and prioritising continuous feedback. Encouraging cross-functional teams, embracing change, and using data-driven insights also play pivotal roles in achieving agile-driven productivity improvements.

10 Agile Leadership Productivity Improvement Strategies

Published on:

7 Mar 2024

Identifying effective agile leadership productivity improvement strategies is easier said than done. Improved productivity and a more efficient workplace can be difficult goals to achieve when a multitude of factors appear to be stacked against you.

The time for UK businesses to take action is long overdue – business productivity rates are underwhelming, to say the least. In fact, the UK productivity rate is around 20% lower than other developed nations and the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t helped.

Improving efficiency and productivity relies on how employees and teams perform, how you treat them and how you motivate them. Productivity can be boosted by using process efficiency using tools properly, by automating tasks and using a leadership development programme.

Here are 10 practical leadership productivity improvement strategies, starting with the post-Covid conundrum many businesses face in bringing a dispersed workforce back together.

1. Support your home workers to return to the workplace 

For many companies, the post-Covid workplace is, literally, anywhere employees want it to be. Working from home (WFH) has been joined by WFP (working from the pub – many in the UK now throw in lunch and a drink along with a desk and WIFI for a daily fee) and WFA (working from abroad).

The hybrid world of work can hamper efforts to improve productivity. It combines working wherever employees choose with the partial return to the office. Done badly, it can result in the worst of all worlds in terms of improving productivity.

A lot of businesses currently appear to favour a ‘three days in, two days from home’ strategy. Some companies are in no rush to return people full-time; others would like everyone back all the time. Workers are more likely to vote with their feet – and continue working some of the time from home.

One employer, on discovering that a home-based worker didn’t want to return from the local office because they had moved abroad without informing them, was given an ultimatum: keep me on, working remotely, or face the time and expense of replacing me. Returning to offices is as much a financial as it is a productivity challenge.

With employees influencing the discussion rather than being dictated to by their bosses, the way companies approach the return to work question needs to be handled very carefully.

It’s not just a case of demanding their return and saying everything will be the same as before: it won’t. Currently, only about three-quarters of UK workers are concerned about their welfare regarding Covid-19, if they return to their workplace.

The office needs to be a place people want to return to – a ‘destination’ rather than a desk. For example, many companies took the opportunity of Covid-19 lockdowns to transform their office space, and not just by adding a few comfy chairs. 

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Higher levels of employee satisfaction through greater employer support

  2. Lower absenteeism rate

  3. Higher employee retention rate

  4. Healthier and happier employees

How to support homeworkers:

  1. Ensure regular and honest communication about returning to the office – make sure it is two-way, with employees encouraged to voice any concerns

  2. Consult with employees about your plans

  3. Take Covid-19 precautions on workplace health and safety and make sure employees know what they are

  4. Offer incentives to return, for example, local gym membership, free lunches or other culinary-based inducements

  5. Provide ‘welcome back’ packs of goodies to encourage returners

  6. Make the office a fun place to work – create a vibe by boosting non-work social activities with a calendar of interesting events

  7. Introduce more natural light, breakout areas and plants

  8. Offer regular motivational and wellbeing talks by experts

  9. Provide additional employee training to boost productivity in the hybrid world, such as technology skills, and also wellbeing boosters, like health with yoga, exercise classes

  10. Invest in technology so office-based and hybrid workers can collaborate easily when team members are in different locations

  11. Provide more one-to-one time for employees with their line managers to monitor and discuss both productivity and wellbeing

2. Organise your employees

Agile principles encourage organising employees into cross-functional teams, emphasising collaboration, flexibility, and iterative work. This approach promotes better adaptability to change, faster response to customer needs, and increased employee engagement. Agile organisations foster autonomy, clear communication, and continuous improvement, ultimately enhancing both productivity and employee satisfaction.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Less stress and burnout – lower absenteeism rates

  2. Healthier employees

  3. Better relationships – at work and home

  4. More productive employees who make better use of their time

Understanding employees’ personalities can help you to improve the productivity of your teams by getting everyone to play to their strengths. Workplace personality tests can help.

11 ways to be better organised

  1. Make daily lists of what you need to do

  2. Prioritise actions with the most important (not necessarily the most urgent) first

  3. Make schedules showing when you need to complete tasks

  4. File tidily – declutter your physical and online space

  5. Create routines so you can be more consistent and certain in what you do

  6. Create guides for job roles so everyone can follow best practice

  7. Use time management and productivity improvement tools (see below)

  8. Listen to employees – operate an ‘open door’ approach to avoid people getting overwhelmed and under-productive

  9. Take regular breaks

  10. Delegate tasks to avoid multitasking (see below)

  11. Avoid unnecessary meetings and duplicated work

3. Set up a formal employee suggestion scheme 

Giving employees a strong voice in the workplace helps them to feel more engaged and involved.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Save costs by introducing ideas that improve business efficiency

  2. Improve collaboration between employees

  3. Increase levels of trust

  4. Identify issues early before they become ingrained and are harder to rectify

How to set up a formal employee suggestion scheme

  1. Lead from the top by ensuring senior-level responsibility for managing the suggestion scheme

  2. Be transparent – especially in how you intend to use the information

  3. Commit to act on what you find

  4. Respond quickly with results and actions

  5. Share the news – celebrate ideas taken up

  6. Make the scheme easy to use

  7. Offer incentives for taking part, like a prize draw so anyone can win and also prizes for the best ideas

  8. Review how the scheme is going and update it regularly with clear communication, so everyone knows it is available and how they can respond and by when

4. Start a wellbeing programme

One of the priorities set out by the World Health Organisation on World Health Day is “to foster a movement” to create societies focused on wellbeing. Good physical and mental health helps to improve workplace productivity.

A wellbeing programme is also an important tool to attract, recruit and retain employees. Increasingly, job candidates scrutinise a company’s wellbeing programme as closely as the pay grade on offer. A wellbeing programme can help identify barriers to productivity improvement, for example, presenteeism and absenteeism.

A consistent feature of good wellbeing programmes is taking a holistic approach to both physical and mental health, as Perkbox observes in its analysis of six wellbeing programmes that work well – at Jack Wills, The Gym Group, Purple Bricks, Wasabi, Google and the NHS.

Wellbeing programme should be led from the top, with senior managers setting an example and taking responsibility, along with line managers and HR departments, for their wellbeing Programme.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Improve employee productivity

  2. Reduce rates of absenteeism

  3. Reduce staff attrition rates

  4. Generate a positive view of the company by employees, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders

How to set-up a wellbeing programme

A strong wellbeing programme should include a wide range of often sensitive areas. The Chartered Institute of Professional Development CIPD identifies these seven areas of wellbeing:

  1. Physical health and safety, mental health

  2. Good working environment, management, pay and recognition

  3. Strong leadership, values and standards, particularly around inclusion and diversity

  4. Strong employee voice through communication and consultation

  5. Clear career development path and learning opportunities

  6. Availability of positive lifestyle opportunities, particularly physical activity and healthy eating

  7. Financial wellbeing through fair pay and benefits, retirement planning and other financial support

5. Automate and simplify processes 

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition by many companies towards greater automation and simplification of work processes. A World Economic Forum survey found that 84% of employers are preparing to rapidly digitalise working processes.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Better use of employees’ time

  2. More motivated employees

  3. Deadlines met

  4. Cost savings

How to automate and simply processes

  1. Identify areas ripe for greater automation, especially ones that involve repetitive work or tasks that take a long time to complete manually. This could include certain processes in sales, finance and accounts and stock management

  2. Make a record of key processes with a step-by-step analysis of every stage to identify where automation and simplification will have the greatest positive impact on productivity improvement

  3. Prioritise which areas to automate first based, for example, on how they will reduce costs, improve productivity, or improve employee or customer satisfaction levels

6. Make more of your efficiency tools 

From well-established tools, like Microsoft 365, to a myriad of newer entrants, like Trello, Clockify and Zoom, the number of business productivity improvement tools is growing all the time.

With a proliferation of business efficiency tools available (many at no cost), companies are probably guilty of having too many, not having the right ones or failing to ensure their staff know how to get the best out of them.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Better quality work

  2. Greater collaboration

  3. Clear communication

  4. More accurate measurement of performance

  5. Reducing operating costs

  6. Improved customer satisfaction

  7. Improved success rate of projects

How to make more of your efficiency tools

  1. Make sure everyone who needs to be is properly trained in using your business efficiency and improvement tools

  2. Make sure the right people are using the right tools

  3. Make sure tools are used consistently across your organisation

7. Keep your team active

Teams that fall behind in their tasks become reactive. They are constantly playing catch-up and not spending enough time thinking about how to stay ahead or how to improve their productivity.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Better time management makes employees more efficient and focused

  2. Understandable processes ensure employees know how to be as productive as possible

  3. Staff are more proactive and engaged when they feel more in control of their work 

How to keep your team active

  1. Understand what makes your team tick, so you can motivate them and be confident in challenging them to be more efficient

  2. Prioritise – focus on what’s important, where the deadlines are driving

  3. Don’t get bogged down in reactive habits, like trawling through non-essential emails that don’t help you or your team to focus on their tasks

  4. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, businessman and self-help expert Stephen R Covey covers the main bases:

  5. Be proactive – take responsibility for your actions

  6. Begin with the end in mind – thoroughly plan how to achieve your goals

  7. Put first things first – understand what is important rather than merely urgent

  8. Think win:win – find mutually beneficial solutions

  9. Seek first to understand, then to be understood – be a good listener

  10. Synergise – combine your team’s strengths

  11. Sharpen the saw – continuous improvement

8. Avoid multi-tasking 

Focus on the job at hand and don’t overload your day by thinking you are improving your productivity by taking on as much as you can. You’re probably doing the opposite.

Multi-tasking can distract you and productivity will suffer as a result. Your memory can suffer from an information overload where you are not fully focused on each task. Levels of stress and anxiety can increase if you are taking on too much. Multi-tasking can lead to more mistakes and poorer outcomes.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Greater efficiency

  2. More tasks completed on time

  3. Higher quality work

  4. Less stress

How to avoid multi-tasking

  1. Identify the most important tasks and tackle these one at a time

  2. Create a daily list of activities to complete and stick to it

  3. Plan your time carefully with set periods to complete each task and to take breaks in between

  4. Finish one task before you start the next

  5. Set limits on what you’ll do and when – say ‘no’ more often and don’t get lumbered with an overload

  6. Don’t get distracted or interrupted

9. Provide employees with real-time feedback 

Responding immediately with feedback – both positive and negative – and giving praise improves employee morale and productivity. But be careful not to impede creativity by micro-managing people with a steady stream of instant commentary on what they are doing.

For real-time feedback to work you’ve got to provide it as soon as you can after reviewing a task or activity. Leave it too late and the positive benefit could be lost. This type of feedback is usually conducted in a fairly informal way.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Staff are more engaged

  2. Provides employee recognition

  3. Improves performance

  4. Improves learning

How to provide employees with real-time feedback

  1. Be authentic, honest and open

  2. Decide when best to deliver feedback and be consistent in how you do it

  3. Be open and honest and encourage further dialogue on issues you raise

  4. Request feedback on your feedback so you can improve how you deliver it

  5. Keep feedback within the context of the work you are reviewing – don’t let it turn into broad-based navel-gazing that has little chance of being received favourably

  6. Offer support and help for staff to act on your feedback and improve how they work

  7. Be constructive – offer solutions and support

10. Avoid the distractions of social media 

Nearly half of companies in one survey said that they had no social media policy and that employees spent 12% of their working day on unproductive social media activities. The amount of time we spend on social media is increasing, both at work and at home.

At work, it can be tricky cracking down on social media use but this is becoming a growing barrier to productivity improvement. Of course, many companies require employees to use social media for business purposes, so employees need to know what the rules are its use in the workplace.

As well as being a distraction to productivity improvement, the unauthorised use of social media on company devices can open the door to hacking and fraudulent activity.

Productivity improvement benefits

  1. Less time wasting at work

  2. Fewer workplace distractions

  3. More face-to-face employee interaction at work

  4. Reduced cybersecurity risks

 How to avoid the distractions of social media

  1. Set clear rules and guidance on using social media at work

  2. Explain clearly in regular communications why using social media hinders productivity improvement

  3. Block undesirable social media apps on work computers

  4. Ask staff to change notification alerts on personal devices when at work

  5. Encourage staff to post less on social media at work

  6. Set limits on the use of mobile phones – better still, ask staff to turn them off at work

  7. Recommend alternative personal interactions to social media, like talking face-to-face with colleagues – it could improve productivity

  8. Offer alternative workplace activities to using social media during breaks and lunch hours, like health classes, TED talks or other activities

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