Fire up employee productivity to get the year started off right 

As a new year arrives, so do both danger and opportunity for your company. The danger: With the holidays over and a long stretch of workweeks ahead, your employees may be at risk for going through the motions until inspiration hits.
The opportunity: Putting a little extra kick into the beginning of the year could make a huge difference in just how profitable and successful your 2013 turns out to be. And there are a wide variety of ways you can fire up employee productivity.
Teaching for tomorrow
Employees whose job skills are regularly enriched can work more efficiently and energetically. In turn, that should boost your company’s productivity. Look into training programs that will make a difference, create a learning-oriented culture and keep employees out of the early-year doldrums.
Ensure any program considered is at the appropriate technical level for your employees and, of course, relevant to their job responsibilities. To determine your needs, you may want to conduct a focus group with prospective trainees or distribute survey questionnaires.
Getting to know you
Another important step to avoiding a productivity slowdown is to make work a little more satisfying and challenging.
Managers, therefore, should dedicate some time to better understanding how to keep each worker engaged. Openly discuss likes and dislikes during early year performance reviews or check-ins. Inform employees about development opportunities within the company.
Making work fun
One productivity concept that’s been gaining steam as of late is “gamification.” Here organizations apply a game-based psychology and infrastructure to certain tasks. Essentially, employees earn points or badges for meeting specified goals. As they do so, workers build status and may receive material benefits such as comp time or gift cards.
Whether or not gamification is for you, just have fun! Look for ways to make enjoyment and a moderate level of frivolity part of the workplace. Hold impromptu celebrations for minor achievements, for example, or have contests where employees vie for silly prizes.
Bringing a little levity to the workplace can improve morale and strengthen relationships — and it costs little or nothing. Involve your employees by asking them for ideas on future fun. Create a “fun” committee.
Balancing needs
Work-life balance has gone from catchy buzzphrase to standard practice at many, if not most, companies. From the “work” side of things, ask employees what’s important to them and try to address their responses as best you can.
For example, consider flexible schedules, part-time employment and even telecommuting to allow workers to steady the demands of their jobs against the demands of their lives. Such options may boost productivity because employees can work with more energy and maximize the efficiency of their schedules.
Deciding together
The more you allow your employees to contribute to the decisions related to their jobs, the harder they’re likely to work. After all, everyone likes to be in some control of his or her own destiny. Push decision making to the lowest level feasible.
Moreover, be sure you’re giving staff enough information to work with. Too many organizations restrict information to a “need to know” basis. The more transparent you are with your employees on company strategies, performance, operations and key business decisions, the more they’ll feel part of the team and the more likely they’ll be to contribute productive ideas.
Saying goodbye
Did you know that an employee who’s leaving your company can still help boost its productivity? Conduct an exit interview to glean critical information about your business processes, organizational culture, compensation structure and management policies — and how these things affected the departing worker’s productivity and whether any contributed to his or her decision to leave.
To foster frank discussion, make sure the interview is conducted by someone other than the exiting employee’s supervisor. Analyze data gathered for trends and warning signs that productivity levels could be headed south.
Rolling along
Many employees may have a tendency to start the year slowly. And can you blame them after all of those holiday cookies? By proactively building some productivity momentum in the beginning of the year, you can help ensure some positive differences in how much you’re able to accomplish as the months roll along.

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