Who survives a treacherous economy? America's Most Productive Companies (AMPC) not only live through turmoil, but also thrive in spite of it. How do they do it?
2011 AMPC winners from Domino’s to Amazon.com and The Dow Chemical Company get it. The best practices offer ideas for any organization seeking to improve productivity at ever-higher levels. As usual, the best practices involve workers and how those workers are selected, trained, and treated both in the short term and in the long run.
The America's Most Productive Companies go about improving productivity by focusing on these five people attributes:
1. The Most Productive Companies strive for a performance-driven culture.
What does that mean, exactly? Imagine that you are the CEO of your organization; form a picture in your mind of what the culture looks like within your walls. Do you see workers handling customers with energy and a smile? Do you see clean and orderly offices and employees who are actually engaging with each other and with their work? Are phones answered on the first or second ring? Are people still at work after 5:00? If not, how could you change that to improve productivity?
The office culture of the top leader in your company will be the same for the rest of the organization as well. Therefore the leaders are initially responsible for improving productivity. Conjure up in your mind or on paper what you want to see. Talk to your managers about what that looks like. Walk the walk. As we learned from our research, the attitudes, beliefs, and values of an organization define its culture, and the head of the "beast" will drive the whole body.
2. The Most Productive Companies train and promote effective managers.
This statement assumes that you selected the right people for your organization in the first place. Then you trained them to do the job you hired them for with the understanding that their training would be ongoing to continually improve productivity.
America's Most Productive Companies constantly develop effective managers who continually improve productivity. They watch for excellent communication skills, strong leadership, creative thinking, team play, efficient work habits, achievement, development of others, and self-development. AMPCs give their managers the information and resources they need to understand and develop their own teams. They encourage coaching, and they encourage the success of their subordinates.
3. The Most Productive Companies use employees in the best ways possible.
In the "old days," idle employees might have run personal errands for the boss. In today's high-performance landscape, there are no idle employees. If you see them in your organization, then you are not working for a Most Productive Company and should consider methods towards improving productivity.
Effective employee utilization begins at the top, with an eye to job design — a company where every job is dedicated to executing strategy in the most efficient way possible to improve productivity. No matter what a worker's job is, he is guided by a job description and knows what he is expected to achieve. Productive companies complete projects quickly because they are lean. They rely on contract workers or temporary employees to help them over seasonal or temporary, non-recurring bumps in production. They increase their number of full-time, permanent employees only if there is a proven need for it. They improve productivity in any way possible.
4. The Most Productive Companies encourage high employee effectiveness.
And the only way to do this is to know everything possible about your employees — know them better than they know themselves. Understand what they do well and what they do best. Know their interests so you know where they will be most effective.
How do you gain this knowledge? Through assessments, surveys, postings of internal openings, nudging when necessary, and managerial development. Don't forget that managers sometimes hold their people back. Find out who does this and why, and find a way to stop it to avoid barriers to improving productivity.
5. The Most Productive Companies recognize and reward innovation.
Chances are that the CEO is very good at recognizing and rewarding innovation, but her managers need to improve. CEOs are often most familiar with the fact that the small innovations are priceless in the effort toward improving productivity. Did someone figure out a way to make a stubborn piece of machinery work better? Who cured the delay problems in the shipping department by making a simple change to the order form? Praise and reward those achievements.
Some organizations listen too hard for the cheer when they issue a press release about a life-changing new product or service. Cheers are nice, but they are rare. Top leaders have control over their own cheering sections, and they use that control liberally when an employee doing his job well figures out a way to improve something. Encourage the exchange of ideas and an open dialogue. Urge people to take calculated risks by not punishing them if the results are less than you (or they) wanted. Always focus on action instead of control to further improve productivity.
Do you see your organization as you read this? If your answer is an honest yes, then you already rank among America's Most Productive Companies. If your answer is a maybe or a no, what are you going to do about it?
Edited by: Jeff Meyers