Asking Employees to Work Smarter

In the current labor market, employees are in the driver’s seat. If they are less than satisfied, there are many other employers waiting to give them a position.

If you prefer to keep your talented workers, it’s a good time to make sure that your leadership team is focused on the right things – like empowering team members to work smarter, rather than harder. With this goal in mind, ask your leaders the following three questions …

  1. Are You Focusing on the Result or How It Is Achieved?

Let’s say you have an employee named Mary. She consistently delivers projects on time and exceeds all goals, but there’s a problem. Due to family commitments, Mary often arrives late to work. Would you consider Mary to be one of your best workers, or would you consider her to be a problem employee?

Many employers cling to a rigid 9:00 to 5:00 schedule that simply doesn’t meet the needs of many workers – and workers are fed up with it. According to Harvard Business Review, in 2018, 96% of U.S. professionals said they needed flexibility, but only 47% actually had it. The pandemic changed this for some workers, but as offices reopen, a return to the old practices is possible. Workers don’t want that. According to Entrepreneur, 71% of workers expect more flexible work schedules post-pandemic, and for the first time, workers value work-life balance above a high salary.

The pandemic has created an opportunity for real, permanent change, and it could benefit both workers and employers. The 2020 Work Flexibility Survey found that nearly 30% of workers say flexible work options would improve productivity or efficiency, while one in three say flexibility would improve satisfaction and morale.

In the end, do you really care when the work is completed, or do you just care that it’s done well? If you can provide flexibility, you probably should. You can motivate workers to do their best by focusing on what matters – a quality result.

  1. Do Your Workers Feel Like You Trust Them?

One reason that some employers resist flexible schedules and remote work is lack of trust.

When the pandemic prompted the shift to remote work, many employers starting using employee monitoring software. These programs may track keystrokes, take screenshots, or use other methods to determine exactly what employees are doing with their time.

According to Vox, these programs have led to privacy concerns, and one worker complained that she could barely even stand up and stretch without having to justify why she was idle.

It’s understandable that employers want to make sure their remote workers are actually working. However, forcing workers to type nonstop might not be the best way of doing this. Workers occasionally need a few moments to themselves and they don’t want to have to justify every second.

Some monitoring programs might backfire, too, since employees have found ways to trick them. This probably isn’t how you want your employees to spend their creative energy.

If you can’t trust your workers, you may not have the right people in the right seats. When you have the right people in the right seats, keep them by demonstrating that you trust them. Give them the leeway and the time they need to recharge.

When workers make mistakes, respond with empathy, mentoring, and coaching.

  1. Do You Harness Each Worker’s Unique Talents and Input?

Be sure that every leader on your team views your workers as individuals with unique personalities and talents. When you see people for who they are, you can call on them to use their unique strengths to work smarter – even within similar roles.

For example, even if you have five customer service representatives in the same job, some may be better at certain aspects of service than others. One may be better with technology and more adept at managing online services. Another may be multi-lingual, or more empathetic when helping older people. Try to harness each person’s innate strengths to take their success (and your success) to the next level.

Likewise, if you have a problem that needs to be solved or a performance metric that needs to be improved, ask your team for their ideas. Encourage creative problem-solving.

When you encourage team members to be themselves and to really use their unique talents, your workplace benefits from the richness of diversity. As we covered in our earlier DEI strategy article, diverse companies perform better.

Change Starts At The Top

Leaders tend to model the treatment that they experience. So, if you want your supervisors and managers to motivate and reward smart work, you need to show them the same courtesy. Take a closer look at how you’re measuring the performance of your leaders and make sure you’re focusing on the right things.

Tangram is building the workforce and culture of the future. Reach out today to learn more and consider joining our team.