How to make employees more efficient? This is one question that troubles all employers and entrepreneurs at some point in their careers. After all, the productivity of the team is among the key factors for the success of any company. One of the most common notions about increasing productivity is long hours. Sadly, this is not true. In fact, a report by YouGov suggests that ideal working hours for best productivity is 7 hours or less, five days a week. Studies by Europa and Conference Board suggest that slogging the team for long hours can actually dampen productivity and even affect the quality of work.

For startups, things are trickier. Hiring the right people and getting them to work at their best efficiency is a challenge that is being faced by many SMEs in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. A report by Monkhill ventures and Slush Singapore suggests that talent remains the biggest challenge for Southeast Asian startups.

man holding smartphone looking at productivity wall decor

In light of this much-talked-about dialogue, a Harvard research report titled Seeking to Belong: How the Words of Internal and External Beneficiaries Influence Performance” has come up with an analytical approach on how to increase overall team efficiency. Harvard Business School researchers Paul Green and Francesca Gino suggest in their report that employers should yield a sense of “belongingness” in the team. Employees who feel that they belong to the bigger picture and are important to the company’s ultimate goal, tend to be more honest and efficient.

Productivity hacks that really work

Now, how do you make your employees feel that they belong? Here’s a list of key takeaways from the report that will help entrepreneurs and employers to nurture their team, help them feel included, and eventually, increase productivity.

Talk about the company’s mission and vision

One of the best ways to engage people emotionally at work is by sharing the purpose of the company. Making employees realise that their contributions are helping the company fulfil its mission that will eventually lead to the accomplishment of the vision – the bigger picture that lies ahead in future is important.

However, a preliminary step before acting upon the aforementioned is to come up with an inspiring mission and an aspirational vision. A little introspection on why you started the company in the first place or what good is your product/service offering to the society can help you come up with something good. To satiate the need for “belongingness”, you need to not only share the story but make your employees a part of it.

Acknowledge and appreciate, say positive words

three men laughing while looking in the laptop inside room

During the study, researchers conducted experiments involving both – real-world and laboratory data. A longitudinal field experiment conducted with 180 agricultural experts revealed that team efficiency did not improve “through beneficiary contact with the customer”. However, positive words from employers and bosses (internal beneficiaries) “yielded a persistent increase in productivity relative to a control group.”

Darlene Price, President of Well Said, Inc., and author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results says that as a boss/employer, what you say to your employees can either inspire them to be better or cause them to feel demotivated, confused and sometimes even angry. Saying positive words and acknowledging the hard work makes employees feel noticed and included. It cultivates a positive work environment and leads to better success rates. According to LinkedIn’s Inside the Mind of Today’s Candidate report, recognition extends the sense of belonging the most.

Emphasize internal communication

The research suggests that interactions with internal beneficiaries can yield a relatively greater increase in motivation than interaction with external beneficiaries, without any changes to the job function itself, because it also serves to heighten employees’ sense of belongingness.

How to make remote teams more productive

The study further proposes that internal communication may be preferable to communication outside the organisation when external beneficiaries are distant. This is simply because employees feel closer to, and consequently, more apt to devote care and attention to the needs of internal colleagues.

Organizations can leverage this drive, creating opportunities through small interventions, for employees to interact with each other and thus harvest a belongingness relationship. This ultimately results in an increased motivation to perform to the benefit of other employees in interdependent functions in the team.

Hiring the right people and providing them with an environment where they can grow both personally and professionally is the ultimate challenge and also the key factor behind any company’s success. Harvard researchers suggest manifesting a workplace environment where employees feel like they belong. Good internal communications, acknowledgements and appreciations, and sharing the bigger picture with employees seem the way to go for startup owners and other employers who wish to have a dream team.