How to Make Your Slacker Employee an All-Star

Posted by Cathy Reilly

AndreyPopov;iStockYou’ve just about had it with the office slacker. She’s not really lousy at her job, but she doesn’t seem to care about it. She gets the work done, but she always takes shortcuts and her performance isn’t what you expect. In fact, her tendency to take the easy way out is catching on with the rest of the team.

But what if I told you that your slacker employee may not be a slacker at all? What if she is just not getting what she needs out of you to reach her full potential? 

Only 31.5 percent of U.S. employees are engaged, according to a 2014 Gallup survey of more than 8,000 working adults. But, when you look beneath the surface, employers and managers have a direct effect on employee productivity, whether it’s the environment they provide or how they motivate and guide employees.

Therefore, to make any slacker employee an all-star worker, you have to be sure employees have what they need to succeed.

Here are four ways to improve employee productivity and engagement:

1. Give employees their own work space.

When most people think of an innovative and productive workspace, they think of an open floor plan with no physical barriers to impede constant collaboration. But in reality, that is often not the case.

Only 19 percent of more than 2,000 American employees surveyed say that an open desk layout is the most productive workspace, according to a September 2014 report by Cornerstone OnDemand. Furthermore, 43 percent of respondents said having co-workers randomly stopping by their desk made their workspace less productive.

If you see employees are distracting each other because of their close proximity, find ways to give everybody their own space. If it’s not possible to put up walls or create more private offices, show them how to create their own “work bubble” right at their desk. Wearing headphones or hanging an “in the zone” sign will show co-workers that it’s not the best time to interrupt.  

2. Work your way around the office and get involved.

When it comes to employee engagement, your day-to-day involvement can have a big impact. A 2015 Gallup report found that, of the employees that strongly felt their managers did not help them set work priorities or goals, 53 percent were actively disengaged.

That’s why you should be making your rounds around the office and offering guidance and support. Helping employees focus on what is the best use of their time improves productivity and creates a culture of accountability and true collaboration. After all, it’s a bit hypocritical to say your company supports creativity and collaboration, if the higher ups aren’t involved in the process.

By becoming more of an office presence, employees will clearly see how seriously you take your position as a leader. This will make them be more accountable in their own role and with their responsibilities. Nobody will be able to say they were unaware of what was expected of them if you actively discuss goals and priorities.

As a leader, you have to push employees to set the right goals rather than assume that they’ll figure it out on their own. [click to tweet] Engaging with employees on a regular basis and offering feedback often will help get everyone on the same page.

3. Support flexible work schedules.

A 2015 FlexJobs survey found that 76 percent of employees prefer to leave the office when doing important tasks. The main reasons cited in the survey being fewer distractions, interruptions, and a less stressful commute -- all of which hurt productivity. Your office slacker might agree with that large majority and simply need a few hours working from a coffee shop each week to reach their full potential.

Also, understand that each individual has her own rhythm and most productive time. Some people just aren’t morning people and no amount of coffee can change that. By having access to more flexible work schedules, employees can work when they know they’ll be the most productive.

And don’t think giving employees more freedom will hurt the organization; the FlexJobs survey revealed that 82 percent of employees would feel more loyal to their employers if they had more flexible work options.  

4. Don’t give employees more than they can chew.

Once you start to implement some of these steps and see improved productivity and engagement from your office slacker, avoid overloading them. Seeing a former underperformer burn through tasks might tempt you to challenge them to keep doing more and more. But that’s just going to burn them out.

Referring back to the CornerStone survey, 61 percent of respondents said being overloaded by work was the biggest hinderance to their productivity. So if you see the office slacker taking one step forward, don’t send them two more back by overworking them.

As an employer, it’s your job to give employees a reasonable amount of work and a reasonable amount of time to do it. Continue to check in with employees about their performance. Even if it might seem like they don’t need you as much, you still need to help them from becoming overwhelmed with unrealistic expectations. This will avoid having a “slacker” employee in the first place and keep your employees performing as all-stars all year round.

What are other common factors that causes employees to “slack,” and how can employers make it better?

Topics: Management

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