5 Ways to improve work performance that employees will love

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Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
January 17, 2023
June 7, 2023

Are you moving forward or just spinning your wheels? When you look for ways to improve work performance, you might get a bit of shock. Many companies realize that fancy metrics and reports don't add to real growth. 

Team members can tick boxes, complete reports, and appear very productive. But productivity alone won't lead to explosive growth. What matters more is how effective you are in your efforts. So, what if you realize all your efforts are misguided? 

Well, before you crack your whip and start barking orders, you might want to look in the mirror. Truth bomb: If your team isn't executing your strategy to maximum effect, it's probably your fault.

Only 22% of employees feel their leaders have a clear strategy to achieve the company goals. If you can't communicate your vision, how can your team help drive the company in the right direction?

This article will show you why you need to focus on effectiveness instead of productivity and how you can empower your team with ways to improve work performance.

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Effectiveness vs. productivity: Let’s bust a myth
  • Why clarity is crucial for an effective workplace
  • 5 Ways to Improve Work Performance

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Effectiveness vs. productivity: Let’s bust a myth 

People often confuse effectiveness with productivity. On the surface, they are very similar. Both terms refer to the execution of your goals, projects, or activities. And so, they both relate to ways to improve work performance. But frankly, that's where the similarities end.

  • Productivity is a measure of your output (i.e., your daily activities) divided by the input (i.e., the time you invest). You become more productive as you deliver more output with the same or less input.
  • Effectiveness is a measure of how you do important tasks. You become more effective as you prioritize high-impact activities and meaningful work that delivers a greater return. 

Let’s consider two employees, Paul and Erin.

Paul is the wizard of productivity, constantly multitasking and always on the go. His energy levels are through the roof—everyone thinks of him as the energizer bunny, and the amount of hours he puts in is insane.

Erin is the queen of effectiveness. She has a clear understanding of the most critical goals in her company and understands what she needs to do to help the greater cause.

This morning, Paul completely reorganized all the flower pots in the office by color. He did it with a color sorting algorithm found online to make sure he rearranged the flowers by taking the least amount of steps possible. 

Meanwhile, Erin set milestones and prioritized her time to focus on the important few actions that moved her towards her goals. 

As you might have gathered, Paul is a little prone to procrastination. He works hard, but he spends a lot of time on work that doesn’t move the needle. By comparison, Erin knows how to avoid distractions in her work environment. As a result, her department and her company improve steadily.

In short: productivity is all about the amount of time it takes to get things done, whereas effectiveness is about getting the right things done.

Why clarity is crucial for an effective workplace

Imagine you're a head coach for an NBA basketball team. When you design a play, do you say, "Okay, guys run fast, do good, and don't mess up?" Or, do you take your whiteboard out and create a detailed strategy that explains what each team member must do to help the team score?

If you want to find ways to improve work performance, you should start with clarity. When your entire team understands how everything in your workflow and strategy comes together, it's much easier for them to execute with purpose and confidence. 

And guess what? There's a tool that will help you make your strategy and key initiatives crystal clear—it's called a strategy map. This visualization of the company's desired outcomes shows the cause-and-effect relationships between actions and goals.

As you connect employees' actions to the company goals, you offer a radically human way for people to approach work. Instead of emphasizing hitting metrics, you explain to people how significant their contribution is to achieving the company's big dream.

5 Ways to Improve Work Performance

Okay, so clarity is crucial. Now, let's look at five ways to improve work performance and connect your strategy to high-level execution.


1. Nurture better communication to break down silos

When you build your strategy map and clarify your company goals, you must share information with your employees. You can’t simply delegate tasks and hope for the best. Good communication skills will make a big difference, so you’ll spend less time correcting mistakes at the end of the day.

Remember that strategy doesn’t belong in the boardroom—it’s everyone’s business. As you give everyone a voice in the strategy, you get feedback from the people on the frontline. You also give everyone the context and transparency they need to do their best work.

With effective communication and a shift toward a boundaryless organization, your employees will be more engaged and more motivated to make an impact. 

2. Define your objectives for a unified vision

At the end of 2021, the world was captivated by a Korean dystopian horror series on Netflix—Squid Game. In one event of this brutal elimination game, players teamed up for a deadly tug-of-war match, where the losers would fall to their death. Through some incredible strategy (and one helluva pep talk by a wise old sage), the protagonist's team prevails against a much stronger team. 

The secret? Perfect team alignment.

In business, team alignment is crucial. It might not be life-or-death, but without unified goals and vision, you'll struggle to inspire everyone to do their best. Rather than executing on ideas, you might find yourself stuck in a strategy planning trap.

You might know that it’s important to set goals for each team. But is it clear how everyone’s goals intersect and relate to the overall company vision? Once people understand the vision and their role within it, they'll work harder to make it a reality. 

👉 Get your free HR strategy template that will help you set clear goals, assign owners, and align HR objectives with the business vision. 

3. Identify and improve weak points in your strategy

We know, we know—your team is made up of rock stars from top to bottom. But as perfect as you are, there's always room for improvement. High-level companies all note that a hallmark of success is identifying weaknesses in their organization and improving upon them through innovation and optimization. 

You can use a SWOT analysis to identify weak areas that need improvement. With data analysis, you can pinpoint fixable issues and find ways to improve work performance. And with automation, you can quickly adapt your strategy to make the organization fast and flexible. 

For example, you could use a strategy execution platform to keep everyone in sync. People won't waste time hopping around from one tool to another. They can minimize distractions caused by social media notifications and phone calls. 

 4. Recognize and reward your employees

Imagine you’re watching the Super Bowl. The halftime show is here, and emotions are high among the cheerleading squad. Jill plans to perform her quadruple backflip from the top of the pyramid. But there's just one problem—one of the girls at the bottom of the pyramid, Sarah, is nursing a sore knee and not feeling confident about the big finale. 

While Jill and the others are excited about the stunt, poor Sarah feels pressured to do her job, even if she doesn't get the glory that Jill does. What we have here is a squad that does not have a positive, human-centric culture that considers everyone's needs. 

Autocratic leadership is a dated approach that does little to inspire better overall performance. You must adapt to understand the unique challenges and experiences people face. People need a healthy work-life balance, and they must enjoy their workday. If they don’t, they’ll be less effective. 

Radically human companies empower people instead of simply leveraging them. For example, with better time management, the team could afford short breaks and more flexible work hours so nobody suffers from burnout.

5. Focus on people instead of numbers

Productivity is too number-centric. While it certainly has its uses, it does not empower people in the same way. Who cares how fast or how well you can perform a project if it doesn't help your team or company grow? 

As you explain to your employees how their work connects to the big picture, you replace a number-centric focus with a human-centric culture. This switch brings context and purpose to daily activities, improving employee engagement and motivating people to do more meaningful, effective work. 

For example, if you conduct a regular performance review, you can foster a culture that places more value on individual employee performance and self-improvement. You can encourage people to learn new skills that will help the team and improve their own skill set. 

It’s time to get effective

If all you ever do is the bare minimum, getting through activities each day, you're being productive but not progressive. Your efforts keep you where you are instead of moving you forward. 

Over time, this status quo can foster fatigue among frontline workers, which deters ground-level execution and innovation on high-priority strategy tasks—even if a lot of work gets done. 

When you prioritize effectiveness over productivity, you can look at your people and goals together. With this holistic view, you can map out the best ways to improve work performance. 

When you use a bottom-up strategy map that takes everyone's opinion into account, you will have a more informed strategy that everyone understands. You'll bring more clarity to the shared vision and make it easier for everyone to connect to the vision. Ultimately, this will help them become more effective at strategy execution.

Ready to inspire your people to be more effective every day? Join our Strategy Academy to learn how to execute strategy successfully. 

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