How to Encourage Your Team to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Being a manager might be a goal many of us aspire to, but with such a title comes the significant responsibility of running a department. If your division isn’t achieving those desired results, the onus is on you to improve your staff’s performance. The notion of working smarter, not harder is a statement that’s frequently heard on the job, but it’s up to you to demonstrate to your staff how to maximize your output with the resources you have. Here are 10 ways to get the most out of the members of your team.

1. Organize Your Department

Organization is more than ensuring the office is neat and tidy, with papers filed away and furniture arranged symmetrically. It involves creating or modifying the workflow process to eliminate bottlenecks and ensuring personnel understands their responsibilities. Are too many people working on one stage? Is one process taking longer and holding everyone else up? Allocate resources strategically to minimize disruptions and improve your efficiency. Smoother workflows are a sign of smart management and smart employees following suit.

2. Seek Staff Input

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One disadvantage of being a manager is being removed from the front lines. The more you communicate with your peers and higher-ups, the further out of the loop you get when it comes to recognizing what”s affecting your department. Therefore, if there”s an issue to solve or a new opportunity to address, it”s important to talk to the very people who are directly involved. Their firsthand experience can help you come up with a solution, whether it”s a new set of tools, a technology upgrade or a faster way to get things done. The more you ask, the happier they”ll be to share that information with you in the future and the more dedicated they”ll be towards getting the job done better than ever.

3. Watch for Hidden Talents

Of course you ensure your people have the skills that match the job requirements, but also make sure you keep an eye out for any additional talents they may bring to the table. Is there someone on your team who has the IT skills to troubleshoot a computer problem? Does someone have the writing skills to put together a motivational newsletter? Engage those people so that they realize how important they are to the company, which will make them more willing to work as essential parts of the team. It”s also smart budget-wise, as you save precious dollars you”d otherwise spend hiring another person.

4. Set Staff Goals and Objectives

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Setting challenging but realistic goals for your staff and department gives your force a sense of purpose and encourages greater focus. Doing this also fosters a team atmosphere, encouraging greater communication, mutual trust and camaraderie among colleagues. It also helps if there”s a reward for reaching a goal, such as a longer break or the occasional company perk. Clear objectives and directions minimize distractions and create a smarter mindset to achieve whatever goals are set.

5. Focus on Time Management

In a work culture obsessed with efficiency, it pays to keep an eye on the clock to assess how quickly tasks are being performed or how smoothly the workflow is going. If glitches are organizational, be prepared to restructure the workflow to eliminate jams or bridge any gaps. If the culprit is more mechanical, consider hardware and software upgrades. If personnel have problems adjusting, find ways to make their jobs easier by teaching them time management skills or introducing them to helpful technology. Once those bugs are ironed out, monitor their progress to gauge the rise in production and efficiency. Introducing smarter ways to get the job done will pay off in no time.

6. Be Clear About Your Expectations

Right from the start, ensure your staff completely understands what is expected of them when they”re working for you, including company policies, goals and objectives. If a project is being launched, provide them with as much detail as possible to ensure all the bases concerning workflow are covered. A focus on a clear directive will enable workers to concentrate on getting the job done faster and with better results.

7. Trust Your Staff

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The simplest way to create and maintain an atmosphere of trust is to set a direction for your staff and allow your team to follow the course. Avoid micromanaging as this not only creates doubt in workers” minds that they”re not doing their job properly, but also distracts you from more essential managerial duties. Confident workers are intelligent workers who will be motivated to improve their production. If a staff member experiences a problem, ensure you have an open enough professional relationship that they can approach you to find a solution.

8. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Sometimes in the course of a workday, upper management may suddenly drop a priority one task on your desk. If you”re not in a position to take on that challenge, see what you can delegate that matches the skill-set of someone else in your department who might have a few free moments. Delegating among your staff not only fosters greater faith in their abilities and inspires increasing trust in your managerial skills, but it also helps mitigate the pressures and stress that come with potential disruptions. And the fewer interruptions that take place, the greater the likelihood that your workforce will become more efficient.

9. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Whenever possible, take time to thank your workers for a job well done. Expressing value affirms that your staff”s contributions add value to a company. Don”t be afraid to heap additional praise on those who went above and beyond the call of duty. That kind of reward goes a long way towards encouraging your workforce to work even smarter.

10. Upgrade Your Staff and Equipment

Managers with efficiency on the brain are always progressive thinkers who look for ways to get things done faster and smarter. Educate your staff on new methods of performing wherever possible and ensure the equipment and technology are upgraded to meet the challenges of a market that”s always changing. Better still, some of this technology could minimize or eliminate the more menial tasks that get in the way, allowing for more time to work on bigger, more relevant assignments that can contribute to real results.

Providing opportunities to improve your staff”s performance without working them to the bone can be achieved in several ways. Some of these tips won”t cost a dime, while others may require a small financial investment. But what they all have in common is the potential for greater payback in the future, both in the form of a stable, happy workforce and an attractive bottom line.