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How to Keep Productivity High with a Revolving Work Force

The economy is improving, which is good news for business owners. But, the job outlook is improving, too, to the point where good employees are at a premium. You have to face the fact that, according to early-2017 numbers, 22 percent of workers are planning to change jobs in 2017.

There is only so much that you can do to entice your team members to stay, so you need to be prepared to keep the workflow moving with an uncertain workforce. Here are five techniques that can help keep productivity rolling regardless of headcount.

1. First, try to stop the bleeding

Do you know why an employee has resigned? Granted, few employees are likely to burn their bridges on the way out, but a civilized exit interview can help provide clues. If they just want more money than you can afford, you might entice other employees to stay by offering at least a small raise.

If boredom is the issue, then you might be able to reinvigorate your remaining staff members by adding new responsibilities or finding other ways to keep them involved. Finally, employees might want to stay longer if you offer informal perks ranging from flex-time to leniency when they need to leave early for family issues.

2. Watch for leaks in productivity

When employees are working at peak efficiency without undue stress or wasted efforts, they are often more satisfied with their jobs — and they can do more even if you have to deal with new hires who are not up to full productivity yet. No one wants to spin their wheels with no apparent result and reduced productivity is often a sign of job satisfaction issues. Solicit their input to identify inefficient or unnecessary processes that should be revised or eliminated.

Don’t forget to check the employee work environment, as well. An inefficient layout can greatly affect the amount of time that it takes to get a job done. And, even a fresh coat of paint, a few potted plants and some happy artwork can lighten moods and increase output.

3. Invest in the best productivity tools

If your workplace still has typewriters in view or if customers wait in endless lines while your store cashiers send receipts to the printer from an old computer being used as a cash register, a major productivity tune-up can help you make up for temporarily-reduced staffing. If possible, visit similar workplaces or go online to find out what the rest of the world is using.

4. Cross-train

This is good advice, even if you have a full, well-trained team. When employees can perform their co-workers’ jobs, at least at a reasonable level, then no single employee can throw a wrench in the works by leaving — or, heaven forbid, taking a sick day or some much-deserved vacation time.

Employees can also benefit in another way; once they are cross-trained, you can keep the work fresh and interesting with periodic job rotations.

5. Develop good training methods

You might be instituting a cross-training program or you may have taken on new employees in need of proper training. In either case, you will probably need other employees to become teachers. Still, this does not mean that training can be too informal.

Make sure that everyone on your team has developed some basic training materials, such as crib sheets or check lists that can help trainees perform the required steps accurately. But, keep in mind that check lists and crib sheets are not synonymous with full training. Anyone who is responsible for training needs to demonstrate tasks and explain the details. And, even fully-trained workers need initial supervision.

You can’t expect employees to stay forever…

As the employment outlook continues to improve for job-seekers, you can expect more employees to move on, leaving a gap until you find and train qualified people. Regardless of economic trends, you need built-in flexibility to handle a reduced work force and keep productivity at acceptable levels. A little pre-planning will help make the process less painful and the work flow more consistent.

About the author

Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at She also has an action figure made in her likeness.