Here are 6 things more important than engagement and worker satisfaction.
Surveys of what makes people good at their jobs typically focus on measures of engagement and employee satisfaction. But recent research conducted by Allsteel, leaders in the design of commercial furniture, has shed some light on some specific factors that are pivotal to employee productivity, at least in the fields of “knowledge work,” defined as “work that occurs primarily because of mental processes rather than physical labor.” Here are six things that were found to be essential in determining how well a workplace steeped in knowledge work performs.
Simply put, if an employee doesn’t feel comfortable and get along with his or her teammates, it seriously hampers performance. Inversely, Allsteel found that positive relationships between co-workers directly reflect productivity in the workplace.
In fact, how well a group of employees gel and work together was the factor with the strongest correlation to performance. This is especially true in teams that have goals with a high degree of uncertainty, such as groups working in research and development or other complicated endeavors.
The specific elements that reinforced social cohesion were “team bonding, promoting a safe psychological environment, developing and deepening relationships, and strong interpersonal skills.”
Perceived supervisory support
Similarly, employees tend to excel when their efforts are positively supported by their bosses. Perceived supervisory support had a major correlation with productivity, and was extremely important for groups that work across multiple organizational boundaries.
In its best form, supervisory support means managerial behavior that includes:
- Setting a positive emotional tone and demonstrating integrity.
- Proactively problem-solving workload issues.
- Being available to the team, encouraging team discussion, and understanding what motivates the team and individuals.
- Managing conflict fairly and following up on issue resolution.
In essence, teams that feel like a supervisor has their back and will extend extra effort are motivated to perform.
Intra-team information sharing
Sometimes a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This explains why the most productive teams effectively share information, which builds “collective knowledge” and forges a group that dominates complex tasks.
Specifically, Allsteel found that sharing information improved decision making and enhanced team processes because fellow employees were aware of the individuals who were subject matter experts during a specific task and could more effectively direct the efforts of the group.
Vision and goal clarity
Vision is defined here as the overall direction of the team, and goal clarity is the process of assigning specific items that a team should focus on while moving in that direction. Clearly stated goals motivate employees by assigning meaning to their work, and a shared direction tends to spur greater cooperation among team members. Five specific topics were deemed important to this aspect of productivity:
- A shared team vision
- Goals that are challenging and achievable
- Discussion of long-term goals with the team
- Provision of regular feedback
- Commitment to team goals
External communication/outside resources:
The effectiveness of a team isn’t solely determined by internal dynamics. Additionally, the most productive working groups excel at proactive communication with external clients. By having open lines of dialogue with other parties, employees tend to become more innovative through being exposed to varying sources of information.
Trust is a feeling that develops through positive exchanges and experiences which reinforces many of the other factors that drive productivity. Its development is strongly correlated with team performance.
In the work place, trust is formed horizontally, a mutual feeling between team members, and vertically, when employees feel like management has their best interests at heart.
There are certainly other factors that can motivate individuals and shape a company into an effective, productive workforce. But Allsteel has identified these key elements to success in knowledge-based pursuits. Businesses that are adept at harnessing them should see dramatic increases in productivity.