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14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Incredible Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Incredible Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity”.

In its simplest form, Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls on customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales calls 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. Salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales calls 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity – 14 Proven Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify long and short term goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your teams productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break down long term goals into smaller weekly objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. So that’s going to be 20 new customers per week, if you have 5 people on your team then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down you can track each persons productivity week by week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a system

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the french fry machine is always to your left? Why is that?

It’s because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to setup a kitchen is to always have the french fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity by something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees. But don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and evaluate your employees performance but you’re still not meeting goals, it maybe time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individuals strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees productivity.

5. Use a ratings scale

Having clear and concise objectives for employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. So once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendless, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees knowledge of the products or services and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer feedback forms 

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences.

8. Track cost effectiveness

This is a great metric to have especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation. Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use self evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

You can try to make use of this self evaluation form.

10. Monitor time management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity.

The trick is to limit these activities without becoming over-bearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides.

11. Analyze new customer acquisition

Nothing comes free. We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep and existing one”. And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula, Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

So let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025 or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022 or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03 or a 3% return on productivity).

From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

12. Utilize peer feedback

This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average and 50% are average.

So are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often times provide a more accurate assessment of a persons ability than a self assessment would.

13. Encourage innovation and don’t penalize failure

When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision making process.

14. Use an external evaluator

Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

In consolation with you, they will design a complete analysis of your businesses productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestion and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

Final thoughts

These are just a few of the ways you can measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

The most important thing to remember when deciding on how to measure productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

The business world is changing fast, having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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