The Illusion of Employee Productivity: Part 1

Many business owners believe that offering their employees fair compensation guarantees high productivity in the workplace. These same managers run their organizations under the assumption that telling their employees what needs to get done will result in completion at the quality level the supervisor had in mind. Often, these illusions and miscommunications are the exact reasons projects go astray or don’t get completed as expected. So what really does contribute to employee productivity?

There are four major factors that affect employee performance. As a business owner, you may think that you do not have any control over some of these. That’s where you’re wrong! You are able to influence each of the factors that impacts your business’ productivity.

The Four Big Factors


When you give employees clearly defined goals and objectives for their assigned tasks (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.), they stay more focused on what they need to do to succeed. If you fail to discuss deadlines with employees, the urgency of completing the task, or the frequency at which you expect them to update you, you project a non-committal approach of supervising. Consequently, the project seems unimportant and you seem disinterested in it. This non-committal approach permits employees to focus less on the job at hand and productivity diminishes as a result. Now what? Just prepare for unforeseen consequences.

Setting expectations is not only necessary in task-related circumstances. It is just as critical when dealing with workplace behavior. We refer to it as “creating a workplace culture”. Taking on a “they should know it by now” state of mind can lead to vagueness when you expect your employees to behave a certain way with customers, vendors, and even one another. Be clear and specific as to which behaviors are expected and which are not tolerated, as it may have an indirect effect on your employees’ performance.

In addition, keep in mind that employees learn through observation and dialogue with peers, leaders, managers, and others. They learn limits by watching the reactions of their supervisors and the consequences that come with pushing the limits. By setting clear expectations, you have the ability to control what behavior is commonplace in your office.


One of my clients shared with me that whenever his employees get to the work site and realize that they ran out of the necessary materials for the day’s tasks, they not only waste time retooling or resupplying, but also get upset with the situation. Not a good day.

When employees feel that the logistical stuff is taken care of, they keep their eyes on their part of the project. On the other hand, when they cannot begin a project because they are waiting for material or equipment, they start to get aggravated and even feel unappreciated. They sometimes even get the feeling that this project is unimportant or wasn’t planned out well. How could that affect their productivity?

Being supportive also includes ensuring that your employees are properly trained to do their jobs. Whether you choose to send employees out for professional development, provide in-house training, or engage in on-the-job mentoring, you must allow the employees opportunities to grow and learn. By doing this, you create the possibility for employees to feel mentally prepared to take on more complex jobs and function at their best.

Take a look at your supervising style and how it impacts your employees’ productivity. Are you staying on the sidelines and allowing your people to do the job on their own terms? Or are you taking the lead and making sure you clarify your expectations? Are you taking care of logistics or expecting employees to deal with it on the spot? Share your experience with us.

Stay tuned to discover additional factors you can address in order to increase productivity.