Every business is likely to have at least a couple of people who aren't as productive as they should be, and there can be many reasons for this. Maybe it's because they suffer from low morale, or a lack of motivation. Maybe they don't believe their work is appreciated, so why should they put in any more than the minimum? Maybe they just don't buy into the company's vision.
Whatever the reasons, a good manager shouldn't just put up with these people, or try and shift them off to another department at the first opportunity. Instead, making efforts to get them more engaged, whether this is directly with their work, or just more being attuned to their colleagues, will help boost productivity and good feeling around the office.
With this in mind, here are a few key steps you can take to get unproductive employees back on board.
1. Encourage personal projects
Everyone has something they're passionate about, and supporting employees to follow these is great for boosting productivity and morale - and could be great for your company as well. For instance, Gmail, Google Maps and AdSense all came from Google's policy of encouraging people to work on personal projects that mattered to them.
2. Don't let achievements go unnoticed
We all want to feel we're making a difference, so make sure your workforce knows what they're doing is having an impact. You don't have to do anything as formal as 'employee of the month', but it's important to take the time to recognize good work, and make sure the rest of the office can see it too.
3. Support learning
Showing that you care about your employees both personally and professionally is vital in keeping them engaged, so make sure you're supportive of efforts to improve development. Whether it’s setting small challenges for workers, or encouraging long-term training courses or qualifications, this lets people know their skills are valued and encourages them to give more.
4. Break up the routine
Monotony can be a killer for productivity, so don't be afraid to mix things up once in a while, especially if your team is stuck doing mundane or repetitive tasks. Having themed days like bring your pet to work day, or even being supportive of flexible working hours can go a long way to boosting engagement.
5. Promote your values
Every company should have a set of values that dictate how they do business, but if you want these to mean anything to your employees, they need to be much more than mantras stuck to the wall. Make sure you remind people what your values are and, crucially, what they should mean in practice. One way to do this is to 'assign' a value to the employee in your office who best represents it once a month or so.
6. Get creative
Thinking outside the box can be a great way to keep unproductive employees on board. Changing up the environment once in a while, or having a brainstorming session where employees are encouraged to be as off-the-wall as possible can help people look at their roles and the company from a different perspective and channel their creative flow in new and unexpected directions.
7. Improve the work environment
You spend more time at work than almost anywhere else, so if people have nothing to look at but a grey, featureless room all week, it's hardly surprising if they lack motivation. Try to liven the place up with some personalized items like team photos - this will not only break up a bland office, but help improve team morale.
8. Be social
Don't make your office all about the 9 to 5. Nights out, sports events and intra-office competitions all help ensure employees are engaged with their coworkers, and that means better productivity. Just make sure it's fun and avoid the formal 'team building exercises' so beloved of management consultants and hated by everyone else.
9. Give them the right tools
Making sure people have everything they need to do their job effectively is another key factor, though it may mean you need to work closely with other departments such as procurement and IT. Find out what's stopping employees working as well as they're capable of, and make sure you're taking steps to remedy any issues to ensure they're not wasting time with inadequate equipment.
10. Act on their feedback
Finally, it's important that people feel their opinions are not only being listened to, but are acted on. It's one thing giving a sympathetic ear to any ideas or complaints people may have, but if time goes by and nothing actually changes, people will wonder why they bother, and this leads directly to low engagement. Make it clear when you make changes where the ideas or impetus for the new direction has come from, to ensure people can see their contributions really are making a difference.