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Last Updated on August 30, 2018

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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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