How to motivate employees to work faster

Career coaches weigh in on techniques to help the ‘tortoise’ on the team and to ensure that all employees are working at the same pace

How to motivate employees to work faster
The pace of work has greatly increased over the years but not all workers are able to keep up with the rest of the team, wrote Carolyn O’Hara at Harvard Business Review.

So what do you do with team members that work at a slower pace than the rest of the team? How would you be able to help them keep up?

O’Hara sought the advice of several career coaches and Lindsay McGregor said that the simplest way is to initiate a conversation to pinpoint the reason for their sluggishness is important. Just ask, she said, and you might be surprised with what they have to say. But don’t go into that conversation with preconceived notions, she added.

“Start with assuming positive intent,” she said.

“Assume this person wants to do a good job and if they knew how, they would.”

‘Set clear, specific expectations’
A couple of reasons employees could give for working at a slower pace could be that they’re not sure of what’s expected of them or that they are perfectionists that take a longer time to complete a project.

McGregor said to go beyond setting deadlines but to also highlight how long you think it would take to complete the task.

Perfectionists would also benefit from the same strategy because it shows them how to differentiate “between where perfection matters and when it doesn’t”, said time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders.

Provide necessary tools
Sometimes you might be surprised to learn that their unable to perform their task because they don’t have the proper equipment to help them work faster.

“Sometimes systems are outdated, or workers simply don’t know how to use the tools that they have and they need training,” said Saunders.

Don’t embarrass them in front of colleagues
You might have data to back up your claim on how slow they are working but don’t use it to berate them or embarrass them in front of their co-workers, said McGregor.

“If you embarrass people with it, or use it for explicit rewards, people will take shortcuts to meet goals in name, but not spirit,” she said.

Give smaller assignments
If the employee turns out to be a procrastinator, divide a larger assignment into smaller, easier ones, said Saunders, to help them feel a greater sense of urgency.

She also added that research has shown that smaller victories help employees stay motivated.

Give them projects they enjoy
Include in your conversation the tasks they enjoy doing and you’ll find that they perform those tasks best. Doing so would “naturally improve their work performance”.

Offer feedback
This is your most important task, said McGregor. Make sure you recognise their improvements often, she added, to help keep them motivated.

“You want to be a partner in the improvement process,” said Saunders.

“Show the employee that working more quickly is also about making him the most successful employee he can be — which is good not only for his work product but for his advancement.” 

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