How trades businesses can improve employee productivity

A builder teaching a new employee how to use a spirit level.

When running your own trade-based business, time is money. This means, when employing staff to help you on jobs, it is important that they work as productively as possible.

As a small business owner, you have many responsibilities. From ensuring you have work lined up and the right workforce to deliver to making sure you have the right insurance policies in place, there is plenty to think about. However, an often overlooked responsibility is monitoring employee productivity. So, as a self-employed small business owner, what can you do to improve the productivity of your staff?

In this guide, we highlight why productivity is so important for small businesses. We then provide our top tips for improving employee productivity.

Why is productivity important for small businesses?

Employee productivity refers to the amount of work your employees manage to complete relative to the length of time it took. Understanding how productive your employees are when you work in a trade is crucial. This is because, if your workers are highly productive, your profit levels can increase and it’s more likely that your business will thrive and grow. Higher productivity also contributes to jobs being completed more quickly, leading to more satisfied customers. On the other hand, low productivity among your employees costs your business time, money and repeat custom.

This means monitoring your employees’ productivity levels is an important part of running a business. Luckily, if you do start to witness low employee productivity, there are a number of things you can do to improve it. The trick is to find ways to boost productivity without causing employees to become stressed, overworked or unhappy in their roles. With this in mind, below we look at four productivity boosting measures small business owners may want to implement when struggling with low productivity.

How to improve employee performance and productivity

Provide the correct tools and equipment

One of the most common causes of low productivity is incorrect or inadequate tools and equipment. After all, if you’re not equipping your employees with the best tools for the job, productivity is going to be impacted. With this in mind, if you are noticing productivity issues with your team, it might be work carrying out a tools and equipment assessment. This is particularly important when it comes to trades-based businesses. All equipment needs to be well-maintained, easy-to-use and as hassle-free and safe as possible. When this is the case, employees can spend more time getting the job done and less time dealing with issues caused by inadequate tools.

Remember - tools and equipment are evolving all the time. This means the equipment you used when learning your trade may no longer be the most productive options today. With this in mind, you should inventory your business’ arsenal of tools and compare that with industry norms of today. You should also talk to your own staff, as well as other crews working in the same industry, to see what equipment they believe makes them more productive. These opinions are invaluable, as these are the individuals that are using the equipment each day.

If, after your equipment assessment, you believe new tools for your staff could improve productivity significantly, it could be worth the investment.

Introduce benefits and incentives

Another great way to improve employee productivity is through benefits, rewards and incentives. Regardless of the trade you operate in, recognising your employees for a job well done boosts team morale and can encourage them to work more productively. Indeed, a recent study from the Incentive Research Foundation found that businesses that offer incentives to employees boast an average increase in productivity of 22%.

When it comes to benefits and rewards, there are both hard and soft incentives you can offer. Consider offering vouchers or paid-for team lunches if targets are reached, for example. If you are able, harder incentives could be offered. For example, cash bonuses and/or additional paid days of annual leave awarded to employees that consistently hit targets.

Set goals and provide constructive regular feedback

Setting goals is an important part of improving productivity, as well as monitoring performance. By putting targets in place for both individuals and the team as a whole, you are helping to ensure your employees are all focused on achieving a stated objective, and all pulling in the same direction to do so.

By tying employee objectives to individual professional development, you create incentives for productivity. This is to say, if you agree that if an employee hits (or exceeds) their specified objectives for a set period of time, they will achieve a pay rise or promotion, the goals are more likely to be hit.

On the back of this, providing regular feedback regarding employee progress is also helpful. If an employee is doing something wrong, which is impacting productivity, they need to politely be made aware. Otherwise, how can they be expected to improve and work more productively? Regular feedback sessions also allow you to update your employees on their personal development progress. If you are able to tell them they are close to getting a pay rise or promotion, for example, this can keep morale high and also boost productivity further.

Give specialist training when required

When an employee feels comfortable with the job they have been tasked with, they will be able to fulfil their role more productively. This is where training comes in. From an electrician training their apprentices on a certain type of installation to a construction manager demonstrating how to use a new time-saving tool, the more training your employees have, the more confident they will feel in their roles, and the more productive they will be.

Remember - different employees will learn in different ways. This means you may have to tailor your training methods for different members of your team. As a small business owner or manager, this will come with experience. The more employees you train, the better you will become at gauging the training needs of your employees.

At Markel Direct, we support small business owners with their insurance needs. Whether you run a small firm of electricians or a building business, we offer tailored insurance packages for tradespeople that include everything from public liability and tools cover to the mandatory employer’s liability cover.

Business insurance from £5 a month