A few days back I met an old friend who is currently the Managing Director of a large shoe factory at Savar where around 550 employees work on a regular basis. He expressed his concerns regarding the shortage of employees as well as another major difficulty he faces all the time. If he tells the employees to focus on quality and productivity, the very next morning they leave the factory without a moment's hesitation. This is because there's huge demand for these workers in the market.
It seemed my friend was suffering considerably and didn't know what to do about it. In fact, this situation is very common in our organisations, especially the manufacturing establishments, which experience rising overhead costs and shrinking profit margins. Big giants with large market shares may not face these sorts of problems, but it is very difficult for small firms to survive.
But creating a workplace filled with happy employees isn't as challenging as we might think. And it isn't about fatter pay checks. In fact, pay is never the primary reason people quit—they leave jobs because they feel unappreciated. They feel that their contribution is not valued. This is not to say that appropriate pay is not an important component of recognition—it is. It's just not the most significant component.
We give you some unusual yet effective ways to boost employee productivity:
In recent days, due to the traffic and distance from office, employees need to set out early, sometimes without grabbing breakfast. To get the best output, around a hundred manufacturing companies in Bangladesh have already adapted this policy; it is reported that their retention rate is noteworthy and in terms of productivity, they are ahead of their competitors.
Research indicates that travel incentives are motivating for employees and may also be good for the bottom line. One food and beverage company that has been running their business for the last 50 years in Dhaka sends its employees on paid Hajj trips every year. They select employees on a rotation basis so everyone’s happy.
There is nothing worse than seeing employees not being treated as equals. We've all been in situations where a peer was viewed as the “favourite.” We also remember how discouraging it was and how resentful it made us. If you are a boss and you have favourites, you run the risk of having a split workforce.
Reduce net restrictions
Some organisations fear that the company bandwidth may be misused, especially on social media sites like Facebook. However, with the amount of resources available online, the truth is that most tasks can be completed more efficiently if employees are allowed to browse the net freely.
Play some Music
Studies show that employees who listen to certain kinds of music while working finished their tasks more quickly and generated better ideas than those who didn't. It's very common especially in our garments factories.
Celebrate no matter how small
When an employee sees that every positive contribution to the team is acknowledged and that their actions count, they really feel like what they do is making a difference. Performance awards by department or tier is a great way to achieve this.
Small incentives go a long way
As we already mentioned, employees want recognition. It's astonishing how effective a thousand taka gift voucher can be in the workplace. It has nothing to do with the money or the monetary value; rather it sets a goal that all employees want to reach.
It would be nearly impossible to figure out what works best for an organisation. We need to keep in mind, that most of these suggestions are low- or no-cost solutions, meaning there is little risk involved. There are various ways to boost productivity. If the usual methods are exhausted, we can also try out the not-so-usual ways, which ultimately enable the organisation to be competitive and sustainable in the future.
The writer is the Head of HR & Admin at Grameen Telecom Trust. He is also a student of the DBA Program at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka.