• Culture

10 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Productive (and How to Fix It!)

December 18, 2017

Unproductive employees mean an unproductive business.

Successful businesses depend on productive employees. So what happens when your employees aren’t productive?

It can be disastrous.

Even just one unproductive employee can mean a decrease in profits and overall happiness at your business. It’s like having a watch with one gear that won’t turn — the watch no longer tells time, making it useless.

Here are the ten most common reasons your employees aren’t productive, and how to fix the issues!

1. They Can’t Focus

The holiday season can be a distracting time. Extra patience may be needed during these overly-busy months.

However, if your employees are lagging behind and unable to focus during the “regular” months of the year, then it’s time to look more deeply into the problem.

The Fix: Try talking to unfocused employees individually and ask them what’s up. Sometimes it’s something simple. For example, at the last office I worked at, the girl in the next cubicle was playing the same song, loudly, on repeat, for hours. I found it very hard to focus on my work — and so did many of the other employees who were in her vicinity. In that case, it was just a matter of the boss telling her to get a pair of headphones. Focus problem solved!

As a bonus, you can also offer some focus-enhancing foods in the break room. Who wouldn’t like a nice ripe blueberry to get the ol’ brain juices flowing?

2. They’re Sick

They’re called “colds” for a reason. The winter months create the prime environment for employees to catch colds, flus, and any number of other illnesses.

I can speak from experience that it is darn hard to concentrate on work when I’ve got a fever. I can do it, but I won’t enjoy it — and I usually end up making myself more sick in the long run by forgoing rest.

The Fix: Create a work culture where your employees know it’s okay to be human. Let them know that they absolutely can take a sick day if they need it.

Having one employee take a sick day won’t ruin your business. It will increase morale (both with the sick employee and the employees still working), keep your healthy employees from getting sick, and up overall productivity. Yeah. Letting your employee take the day off will increase productivity. A sick employee would drag everyone else down — without them around, everyone else can thrive.

3. They Feel Unappreciated

Have you ever been overworked and underappreciated? Of course you have. We ALL have. We’ve all had “that” boss at least once…

Are you “that” boss?

If you are, it’s no wonder your employees no longer want to work their hardest for you!

The Fix: Be generous with rewards and incentives. These can be monetary, or as simple as a “thank you” when great work is done.

Offer up verbal compliments and praise often. Don’t let good work go unnoticed.

4. They’re Poorly Supervised

Only the most disciplined among us are able to work without any supervision. We call those people “outstanding freelancers.” Everyone else… Needs a little look-see now and then to stay on track.

If you’ve taken a “set it and forget it” approach to your employees and have noticed that their productivity is slipping — it’s time to rethink your strategy.

The Fix: Make a pass through the office at least once a day to make sure everyone is still on track. Or have your managers do it for you.

Most of the time, your presence walking through the room will be enough to get everyone on their best behavior. However, if anyone is struggling, you can also use your walk-through as an opportunity to help them out.

5. They Don’t Know What You Want

Communication is important at any business. Make sure your employees know exactly what you want. Even the sharpest workers aren’t mind readers.

The Fix: Make sure your employees know what’s going on through every step of the process. Let them in on the BIG PICTURE and overall goals of your business. Give them something to strive for — and make it clear.

Be sure to reiterate these goals once and a while for anyone who’s forgotten. Let your employees know that the “main goal” is still something you’re aiming for and that it hasn’t been forgotten.

6. Their Tasks Are Impossible to Complete

LISTEN to your employees if they tell you something is “impossible” to do. There’s a good chance they aren’t exaggerating.

Let me give you an example…

Both of my parents are freelance artists (they paint works of art for clients). One time, a client came to them with an opaque sculpture and said “Paint it clear. Make it see-through like Jello.”

In case you’re unaware, that task was absolutely impossible. You cannot — absolutely cannot — paint an opaque object and magically transform it into something transparent. You’d need a wizard to complete that task, not an artist.

The Fix: If your employees tell you something is “impossible,” listen to their reasons why. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, and look for compromises that will make you both happy.

7. Their Work Process is Too Complex

Sometimes, as leaders, we like things done in a certain way. As someone with severe OCD, I can definitely relate to being overly picky…

But are all those steps you’re having your employees do really necessary? Or is it just busy work that’s ultimately slowing them down?

The Fix: Call a meeting with your employees and ask for their opinions on their work process. Look for ways to streamline the steps. If anything can be realistically eliminated: go for it!

8. They Feel Alone

People are pack animals. We’re social creatures. Therefore, loneliness is one of the boons of our species.

The Fix: Working in teams can help. And so can simply letting your employees know you’re there. Yes, you. Make sure your employees know you have their backs.

Also make sure that your employees have sufficient time off to socialize on their own. This is especially important for remote employees who generally work on their lonesome day after day.

9. They Lack Proper Training

Not everyone knows exactly what to do right from the get-go. Some people need training. Give it to them.

This is especially true if you add something new to the equation that wasn’t a part of your employees’ jobs before.

The Fix: Any time you add a new task to complete, make sure your employees are equipped to complete it. If they need training, train them (or have your managers train them). No one should be unproductive simply because they don’t know how to do the work. This is an easy fix!

10. They’re Not Right for the Job

Some employees are just impossible and won’t be productive no matter what you or anyone else does to help.

If an employee is consistently unproductive no matter what you do, then they may be wrong for the job entirely.

The Fix: If you’ve given the employee chance after chance and they still can’t do the job, then it’s time to let them go.

The good news is, you can use 133T to connect you with new job applicants! We make it easy for you to find employees who will meet your needs. 🙂

Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She's a proud member of the 133T team, working as their Head Writer and Head Editor, and is dedicated to helping YOU with your business and career.