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6 Psychology Insights for Workplace Productivity

May 16, 2016 • gal

insightWe are all familiar with the ‘KPI’. It’s the way our productivity gets measured, the way we state our goals and when we want to attain them, and the way our managers communicate what is expected of us. Increasingly, companies and different organizations are realizing that trying to hold everyone up to one uniform standard just isn’t the smartest way to go about business.

Insights from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology are teaching us that different people are motivated by different factors, and react differently to situations. In order to maximize productivity, managers can do a better job of understanding what makes each of their employees tick.

Insights from psychology, economics and the behavioral sciences, in general, can help boost workplace productivity, and perhaps change the way you discuss KPIs with your employees.

1. It’s not the pay alone, it’s also about the recognition

Too many employers focus on pay and make the mistake of thinking that pay or bonuses are what drive employee achievement. But research shows that cash driven compensation isn’t what drives productivity in the long run. People need intrinsic motivation to perform well. They also care about recognition.

Recognition has been shown to boost individual productivity and engagement. In addition, it helps with employee retention and is correlated with fewer accidents while on the job and higher customer satisfaction. Making the cultural change to emphasize recognition isn’t always natural to some companies, and using gamification to do so, in real-time can be very valuable.

2. Real-time feedback

One way to track accomplishments, progress, and development is through gamified environments and platforms. In these environments, measurement, management, and monitoring becomes transparent, objective and immediate.

Gamification is not just about games, playfulness or even fun, per se. Instead, it’s about taking game-like mechanics and incorporating them into the workplace, in order to increase engagement, productivity, and other positive work-related behaviors.

We believe that Gamification has the ability to ignite intrinsic motivation within employees, which can transform a work environment from one where employees concentrate only on completing tasks, to one where employees are excited about accomplishments and overcoming new challenges. When people know what their goals are and get real-time feedback (instead of dated feedback from the performance review that relates to goals that have become stale long ago), they perform better.

3. Meaningful work is great work

By far, the biggest difference we are seeing in today’s workforce is that people want to take part in meaningful work. Making a positive impact on the world is what employees are searching for today.

Employers have to learn how to translate what the company is doing into a sense of mission, which will motivate and engage the workforce. The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016 survey shows that meaningful work is a big driver of engagement and productivity. This is because when employees feel that they are working on a worthy mission, they feel a sense of ownership, and this significantly raises their engagement levels.

The Deloitte study drives home a simple point: companies that focus on creating meaning, purpose, and passion for the employees, are the companies that have the most engaged workforce.

4. Not only engagement but the right kind of engagement

We all speak a lot about ‘engagement’, but what exactly do we mean when we use the word? Dale Carnegie research shows that not only does engagement matter, but the type of engagement does too. The “emotional and functional commitment an employee has to his or her organization”, makes a real difference.

And that difference is major. Companies with engaged employees are outperforming those without by up to 202 percent. That sounds like a huge number until the sheer magnitude of how disengaged employees actually are dawns on you. 71 percent of employees are not fully engaged, and $11 billion a year are lost solely due to employee turnover. At this point, if you’re a business owner and you’re not focusing on employee engagement, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot.

In order to create the right kind of engagement, organizations need to focus on creating a culture of open communication and impact. Employees need to believe that they can influence the direction of the company and that their work matters. This also requires a high standard of performance from managers and c-level executives, creating a clear vision and direction for the business, that employees can align with.

5. Flexibility is key

Traditional work habits are being questioned by a new workforce, and this demands of employers to be open to new ways of thinking, but also to new ways of working. With the capability to be connected from anywhere, more and more employees are wanting to work from home, and apparently for good reason. A Harvard Business Review article shows that working from home can make employees 13 percent more productive. To put in perspective, when taken together, that makes for another work day of productivity per week.

Because of cloud services, video conference, and group chat technology, most jobs can be done from anywhere with a good internet connection. Expanding beyond the physical work location allows for abundant new options and opportunities for employers who will have the sense to take advantage.

7. Occasional breaks actually make you better

This is another counterintuitive one. It turns out that our brain can only do so much before it gets tired and becomes less productive. Research has shown that the ideal working time is 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break. This isn’t to say that you need to be making sure your employees are stopping for exactly 17 minutes every 52, but it drives home the simple point that getting up every now and then, refreshing your body and mind, allows the brain to reset itself, and continue working refreshed.

Taking the time to look at productivity from the eyes of your employees is sure to have huge long-term benefits for your company. You’ll notice that employees start to feel ownership of different aspects of the company, and really invest themselves into the work; that your companies’ brand is perceived differently and that recruiting isn’t as hard as it used to be; Maybe most importantly, your workplace will feel different, and the whole work experience will feel more positive, meaningful and enjoyable.

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