2012 Productive employeesIf your company’s 2011 year did not prove to be as profitable as you’d hoped, there’s plenty of time to make some changes that could lead your business to a more streamlined, productive and successful 2012.

Clearly one of the easiest ways to increase the bottom line is to reduce overhead. And while it might first seem that a decrease in staff or the implementation of a hiring freeze would be necessary to accomplish this, it may or may not be so. Retraining existing employees or taking on new staff members who you know are well suited to both their position and their work environment are two, often overlooked, options that are apt to enhance profitability.

Cross-training existing employees can help boost productivity and earnings. However, doing so is pointless unless you’re certain the additional responsibilities you have in mind for someone are suited to their natural traits, personality and overall work approach. Expecting a worker who’s outgoing, antsy and talkative to sit down and quietly process the payroll or research information is probably unrealistic. Solitary, behind-the-scenes jobs usually need to be filled by personalities who are introspective, analytical and meticulous.

Before attempting to retrain or cross train your employees, delve deeply into their mindsets, needs and expectations. Uncover strengths and weaknesses so you can play into the positives and navigate around the negatives. For example, while your outgoing, antsy, talkative employee might not flourish in a sedentary, technical role, he or she might fare quite well at soliciting for new business, mentoring struggling employees or working as a liaison between two or three interrelated departments. Cross-training this employee in various roles requiring diplomacy and social skills multiplies his or her value to you, thereby stretching your payroll dollars.

Productivity can also be improved when managers know how to maximize a subordinate’s performance by exhibiting behaviors and using words that promote the desired objectives. Be flexible when taking charge. Keep in mind that each of your employees likely has unique viewpoints, expectations and needs.

Your job is to key into how each is wired then speak their language, trigger their hot buttons and anticipate their reactions.

Speak Their Language

All healthy relationships require clear communication, and the one between employers and employees is no exception. Adjusting your words, tones and mannerisms to mirror those of your audience sends out a positive signal. Once your employee believes you are both on the same page, he or she will be more inclined to work toward your common goals, try harder to please you. Remember, most people say they feel more in sync with, and understanding of, those who appear to be like them.

Trigger Their Hot Buttons

Human beings can respond to the same situation in a host of different ways. Knowing what you need to do to avoid confrontations and misunderstandings makes your job as a leader easier. It also lowers your risk of losing money due to errors, poor morale, disloyalty, absences and frequent turnover.

Let’s say you have a tedious, long-term project that needs completion and the only person available to work on it is easily distracted and fast paced. Resist the urge to explain the intricacies of this project or apologize for the extensive time it will take to finalize. Instead, realize your worker may need frequent feelings of accomplishment. He or she may also respond best to short-term goals. Play into this hot button by breaking up what looks like an insurmountable task into small segments, so discouragement and anxiety are kept at bay.

Anticipate Their Reactions

Some of your employees may work best when given strict rules and attentive management. Others want freedom. Forcing someone who’s creative, unstructured and self-directing to work with tight constraints or abide by nonnegotiable policies is certain to draw a less-than-enthusiastic response. Avoid feelings of resentment and foot dragging by offering options and making suggestions instead of firm demands. Ask for their input on how to increase profits. Listen to their suggestions. They want to be heard.

Offering productivity incentives can sometimes spur mediocre workers. Special privileges or some extra time off may be especially appealing to those who place a high value on flexibility and strive to balance their personal lives with their career.

Smart Hiring

Of course there are times when the only course of action available is to fire a bottom performer. Replacing that person with a worker who is highly suited to the job as well as your environment can be more cost effective in the long run, though you may need to spend some time determining your precise requirements and expectations of an open position.

Finding the right person for a job the first time can lower your overhead by putting an end to expenses incurred from frequent employee turnover. Develop a job description, and know your needs as well as your expectations of a new hire. In addition to an in-depth interview, perform background checks and ask open-ended questions; keep in mind there may be questions your applicant is hoping you will never ask. Be as candid as possible about the realities of the job. The more each of you knows about the other, the more likely it is you will both enjoy a long-lasting relationship.

Your employees can be your greatest investments; making the most of their abilities is one way to increase your profits and lower your overhead.

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