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PROFIT’s first annual “State of the Entrepreneur Nation” survey revealed some key HR challenges for Canadian business owners around how you increase employee engagement in order to boost productivity. To maximize the return on your human-capital investment, you need to maximize employee productivity. The formula for doing so seems simple enough:

Employee Productivity = (Right People + Right Talents) x (Employee Engagement)

But the secret to making your employees more productive isn’t always easy, and depends in large part on the unique culture and values of your organization. To capitalize on how engaged your employees are, take a serious look at the following seven areas and your employees’ productivity will get a major boost.

1. Review frontline leadership:

No element has a bigger impact on employee engagement (and thus productivity) than the quality of your front-line leaders: supervisors and managers to whom your people directly report. It is critical that this group be competent people managers and leaders. If you are not already gathering feedback on these leaders, start by implementing 360-degree surveys. Based on the feedback, get to work improving their performance as managers. This will, in turn, improve the performance of the staff who report to them.

2. Bring your mission and values to life:

Are your company’s mission, vision, values and strategy the kind that are posted on the wall in the lunchroom and never discussed? Or are they the driving force that unites your team with a common purpose? You need to develop communication channels to bring these items to life, such as hosting monthly team meetings, newsletters or internal employee blogs on your intranet. This will ensure your staff feel the work they do has real meaning and value.

3. Link company goals and objectives to individuals:

From the boardroom to the shop floor, set clear goals and objectives that cascade the overall corporate strategy to each division, department and individual. This is one step in ensuring people have clear expectations. They need to know how their success will be measured and how they (and their team) can contribute to the big picture.

4. Define clear roles:

Ever work at one of those positions in which you asked yourself, “What is my job here?” Not having a clearly defined role is no fun. It creates confusion and uncertainty and results in a lack of motivation. This should work in conjunction with knowing how what the employee does impacts the company’s goals and objectives. I am not suggesting you create a culture in which your staff works to rule by completing only the tasks in their job descriptions. But people must clearly know where their responsibilities start and end so they can focus.

5. Give them the tools to do the job:

You can have the right people in the right jobs, but if they do not have the right tools to do the job, such as technology and training, they will not be in as effective as possible. This is especially critical if you have a shortage of staff, because you’d better find a way to get the most from those you do have.

6. Establish feedback and metrics:

Have you told me lately how I am doing? Providing regular performance feedback based on clear and agreed-upon performance metrics can be one of the biggest ways to engage staff and increase productivity. If you only meet with staff once per year for the dreaded performance review formality, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. Invest in your performance-management system and establish biweekly, one-on-one meetings between management and each staff member. Ask three simple questions: How are you doing against your objectives? What support/tools/resources do you need? What can the company do to better support you? I guarantee this will improve performance.

7. Reward and recognize staff:

What is the right rewards and recognition strategy to maximize employee productivity and engagement? Unfortunately, there is no single solution because every employee is different. While you need to have an overall corporate program with some structure, you should also leave some flexibility to meet individual needs. Get to know your people as individuals and learn what drives them. If you find out one of your team members is training to run a marathon, allow her to leave early in the winter to get that run in before it gets dark out. These things mean the most to employees and don’t always cost money. Base pay and bonus programs are things people expect and feel entitled to. So how will you differentiate your company culture from that of your competitors who are trying to attract your top talent to leave?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not claiming that maximizing employee productivity is easy. But if you pick even a few of these seven things to concentrate on, you will impact employee engagement and, thus, productivity.

Derek Gagné is president of Vancouver-based talent management consultancy He has been helping organizations with their recruitment and retention strategies for more than 15 years. His areas of expertise include workforce planning, recruitment, retention, leadership development, organization development and customer service.

Read more HR columns by Derek Gagné.

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