Unproductive, underperforming employees - they cost you money, they keep stretching project time and they take up valuable office and workforce space. But before you start firing people and thus fall into the even more costly trap of employee turnover, stop and consider whether you can do something about slackers in your company. Because maybe, just maybe, a little bit of the fault of creating the problem is yours.
Now, don’t despair or quit reading this article in rage just yet. Fixing the problem of low productivity isn’t difficult. A huge part of it is finding the cause. If you manage to do this successfully, the solution, as you’ll see, is blatantly obvious.
And the best part is, you don’t even have to do this manually. We’re going to show you how you can use computer monitoring software such as our Workpuls to discover the source and cause of unsatisfactory performance and, so as not to leave you hanging, we’ll also offer you some actionable tips on how to fix the issues.
What Does Low Productivity Look Like?
As you might have already known, the core of computer monitoring software is the ability to detect used apps and websites, which you can categorize according to productiveness, and track time spent in them. Some platforms offer additional features like screenshots that you can also use to pinpoint performance issues. While we encourage you to educate yourself and choose the best employee time tracking system for your needs, we’ll focus on using just the core functionalities for now.
Yes, because even a basic screen monitoring software is that powerful.
So, first of all, half of your job is done due to the sheer existence of productivity reports. Basically, an employee tracking system takes everything we’ve mentioned above and computes ready-made productivity reports and productivity trends. All you have to do is look at the numbers.
Productivity is at 31%? Let’s investigate! The trend compared to last month is -27%? Better see what’s going on! However, while these productivity stats are an awesome and easy first step, you shouldn’t base your conclusions and decisions solely on them. As we’ll see, looks can sometimes be deceiving.
The next tell-tale sign of performance problems is too much time spent on unproductive apps. Even though this does figure into productivity stats, you can discover some pretty insightful things by looking at the amount of time spent in unproductive apps as well as which unproductive activities are most popular.
Counterintuitive as it might seem, sometimes even an abnormal amount of time spent on productive tasks is indicative of low performance, especially if you see that not much is getting done in spite of all that ‘productive’ time.
Finally, if you fear that the time is being wasted on being late, employee attendance tracking system will be able to tell you. Or, more generally, if you suspect that the source of the problem is not on their computers, you can take a look at the amount of inactive time and compare it to your expectations.
But you have to keep in mind that, although computer monitoring software is powerful, it’s not almighty and it can’t tell you what’s happening outside the computers, so you have to be really smart with this. Sometimes, inactive time is spent in meetings or on the phone with clients, etc. So take the specific job roles and responsibilities into account.
And always, always, combine this productivity data with the rate of finishing projects and tasks. Don’t get consumed in all these stats and numbers, but rather let them guide you. After all, what you ultimately care about are the actual results.
Possible Reasons for Low Productivity and What to Do About It
Now that you were able to see that there actually is a productivity standstill, it’s time to dig a little deeper in order to uncover the underlying cause of it. This will inform your future actions and help you get out of the crisis.
We’ll take a look at five very common reasons for detecting low overall productivity in your employee work tracking system, as well as what you can do to fix the problem.
1. Lack of Skill or Knowledge
This is what we were talking about when we said that even a lot of time in productive apps can be a hint that not much is getting done. If you have, say, 30 analysts and 5 of them need twice as much time as the others on a similar task in a particular platform, you can be fairly certain that it’s because they’re not as proficient in that platform (or in that kind of task).
The solution is pretty straightforward - training. Yes, training, because it’s cheaper than constant employee turnover, it reflects well on your reputation, and it positively influences employees’ job satisfaction, motivation and consequently, you’ve guessed it, productivity.
And just imagine the wealth of options that you have - online courses, video tutorials, e-books, forums and other resources that are free and don’t even require travelling costs. Just an hour or two every day can really make a difference and get the unskilled workers to catch up in no time.
2. Too Many Distractions
Whether your computer monitoring software shows it as too much inactive time where there shouldn’t be or too much time on unproductive websites like social media, online shopping or news websites, you’re facing a tough challenge - getting rid of distractions.
While you shouldn’t and can’t completely eliminate them, allowing employees to indulge in distractions as much as they want is bad for the business. The ‘mild’ approach would be to talk to your employees and get them to agree on a work time policy that curbs the use of unproductive apps to an acceptable minimum. This approach being effective is the best case scenario.
If it doesn’t work, you can always consider the ‘strict’ method where you block the most problematic websites.
You could also consider rearranging your office space for higher productivity and less distractions - putting the coffee machine out of their sight, etc.
3. Inappropriately Set Deadlines
Another possible problem might have to do with deadlines. If they’re impossibly short or ridiculously long, that’s probably what’s killing your employees’ productivity.
You can track and time task progress with simple time tracking software and that’s going to make your deadline setting that much better and more informed. After reconsidering time restraints, productivity will ensue.
4. Plain Laziness
Sometimes, there’s just no excuse. The idea of doing nothing and getting paid for it is just irresistible. But even though this might seem like the simplest of explanations, you should exhaust every other possibility before you accuse your workers of being lazy.
And even if you conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that this is in fact the issue, always try motivating your employees first. A reward system, praise and more responsibilities are just some options. Be creative!
And if all else fails, maybe it is time for a new round of hiring…
5. Efficiency and Effectiveness
OK, you’re right, efficiency is not a reason for low productivity, that would be ridiculous. But it could be the explanation of why your employees appear unproductive.
For instance, you see a lot of unproductive apps being used - you conclude that your workers are slacking. This is why we’ve emphasised the need to consider the rate of finishing projects and tasks when you monitor your employees. If they’re finishing their assignments quickly and efficiently, it’s only natural that they would have more time for unproductive activities.
If you’re thinking ‘Great, that means I can stuff them full with additional tasks’, our advice is to think before you act. Maybe these breaks are what’s keeping them productive. In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Low productivity is a huge problem, but solving it isn’t nearly as difficult as discovering what’s causing it. Hopefully, now you have some ideas of how to boost productivity based on the underlying causes and how computer time monitoring software can help your efforts get direction and result in success.