How to sustain productivity with fewer staff

29 January, 2013

Unemployment rates in Australia have significantly hiked from 5.2 per cent last year to the current level of 5.4 per cent. Job advertisements have slumped to their lowest level in three years, down 20 per cent in December 2012 compared to that of 2011.

With many of the country's biggest employers shedding jobs through redundancy programs and reducing the size of their teams, how can employers and leaders guarantee sustained levels of productivity with a reduced workforce?

According to Cyril Peupion, work management expert and managing partner of Primary Asset Consulting, productivity has become the most important issue for businesses as we enter uncertain economic times.

"As a result of shrinking workforces, people are becoming overworked and stressed," Peupion said. 

"They are trying to achieve the same level of results with a reduced team size. This is not what anyone wants, nor is it sustainable in the long term. In this challenging economic environment, leaders and their teams need to work smarter. In order for a team to be efficient, they must have an effective leader."

Peupion has the following suggestions for business owners, managers and team leaders to improve and maintain the productivity of their team:

1. Align

A recent survey has shown that 85 per cent of people do not know the goals of their organisation[1].

As a leader you need to create a strong link between the strategy of the organisation and the role of each person in your team.

2. Focus

One of the main issues for people in business is that they have too much work to get through. It is extremely rare to find a team that is not busy and over-committed. If you and your team take too much on you will fail as you are diluting the focus of your team.

In order to establish and maintain focus, ask your team a very valuable question: "what are the one or two things that, if we change, will impact the team's performance and enable the delivery of results?"

Only focus on one or two, not ten or twenty. This is a challenging activity but once these key areas of focus are identified, performance will improve.

3. Discipline

Having decided on the one or two things that need to be focused on, discipline is required. Very quickly the day to day tasks take over and before you know it, the areas of focus are put on the back burner because of an urgent crisis or task.

Once you have decided what the team should focus on and what it will mean for each person, monitor the progress weekly with the team. Set aside a time each week to make this happen. 

"In our already busy working lives, doing more is either mostly impossible or carries a high price, including less time with loved ones, neglecting our health or putting passion and hobbies on hold," Peupion said.

"Staff end up frustrated, feeling out of control and stressed. It is vital that managers and leaders at every level strive to work smarter so that business objectives are met and staff don't burn out."

Click here for more expert tips from Peupion on how to sustain productivity levels despite a shrinking workforce.

Cyril Peupion and his team have coached thousands of CEOs, executives and staff on how to change their work habits in order to increase productivity and in doing so, achieve more fulfilment across their working and personal lives. Cyril is the author of Work Smarter: Live Better, which featured in the top 10 business books in Australia and top 100 Amazon worldwide.

[1] Survey of 40,000 US companies in 2010 carried out by Franklin Covey