To boost productivity with your key, customer facing staff – start by giving them more control over their workspace and the tasks they perform throughout the workday.
Let’s face it: We have a massive productivity potential in our organizations today. The most productive of our income-heavy “advisors”; consultants, private bankers and lawyers, perform 47% better than our least-productive ones.
Eliminating that “productivity gap” – and thereby increasing overall worker productivity – has been the Holy Grail of corporate managers for a long time, especially considering how these employees have some of the most valuable customer interactions within the company. We’ve tried everything: High-priced consultants, team-building sessions, flexible work schedules, casual Fridays, you name it.
But the needle barely budges.
Yet the answer to closing that gap, and thus realizing real productivity gains, may be closer than we realize. In fact, it’s all around us: The work environment.
New research suggests that the most productive ‘advisors’ report having 29% more influence over their work environment than their less-productive counterparts.
This finding is eye-opening. Even though today’s workplaces are far more flexible environments than those of 50, 30 or even 10 years ago, many organizations still dictate the way in which employees should work and monitor the extent to which they can personalize their workspaces.
This vestige of the command-and-control management style of yesteryear appears to be counterproductive, at least from the standpoint of employee satisfaction and its close corollary: productivity.
Hand over the keys to the castle….
The evidence seems pretty clear that high-performing workers who talk and listen for a living have the autonomy to create a workspace that they can call their own. It’s a place that makes them feel comfortable and lends itself to the deep concentration they need to prepare for the important conversations they participate in every day.
In exchange for working regular hours, they need balance in the form of additional autonomy and they’re using it to control their workspaces. In effect, they’re saying “my office is my castle.” As managers, it’s our job to give them the keys to it.
To close the productivity gap, we need to provide the autonomy and flexibility for them to influence their environment and the tools and technologies they deem necessary to performing their job functions.
And make employees the king (or queen) of it.
Along with having more influence over their work environment, highly productive employees are also 26% more likely to have the freedom to prioritize the tasks they take on during the workday. Since extending employee autonomy seems to have a positive correlation with increased productivity, we should be looking for opportunities to perform their job duties as they need.
Sure, at this point you may be saying “Wait! Autonomy is great, to a point – but we need some balance. Because of the work we do, we can’t just allow employees to work from wherever they want.” There’s good news there as well. Just 8% of the most productive workers surveyed had the flexibility to decide where they worked from. That seems to indicate that physical location isn’t a primary driver of productivity; employees prefer control over their workspace and workday tasks over the physical location in which they work.
So, no matter whether your employees work out of offices, cubes, co-location areas, or somewhere else entirely, treat them like royalty by providing the flexibility to choose, configure and personalize their workplaces to their liking.
Let’s call it the “Castle Effect.” Will it increase satisfaction and productivity? I’d bet on it.