Productivity at work is always a priority for project managers, no matter the company or the industry. However experienced a project manager is, they are likely to be interested in improving the productivity of their team.
There are many different ways to do this, from using team productivity tools to improving team processes. But you must start by viewing your team as a collection of real human beings. Processes and tools are helpful, but only if you use them to build on a strong foundation of a motivated team. Soft skills are also vital to success, and teams often take time to learn how to work together – a process known as the team development cycle.
This article collects a comprehensive list of team productivity tools, techniques, and tips to help you get the best of your team in 2023 and beyond.
1. Establish your team identity and vision
Most teams are a collection of experienced and newer people, and you rarely get the opportunity to put together an entire team from scratch and hire every team member yourself. It’s more common to inherit teams, to put together new teams that blend existing and new employees.
Because of this, it’s important to take a step that many – perhaps most – team leaders and project managers neglect: Establishing the identity and vision of their team.
This is best done via a kickoff meeting in which you encourage participation and discussion. Together, you should work out what you want to achieve, how you want to treat each other, and how you want other stakeholders in the company to perceive you. Doing this results in a series of shared values and a vision which ideally includes something to motivate each team member. Ultimately, a written shared vision will help to build team alignment and commitment.
2. Use team building exercises to increase team bonding
Your team members need to be comfortable working together, especially under the tension of tight deadlines. As a team, productivity often depends on team members’ ability to discuss, debate, and get along.
However, most teams include people who don’t get on with each other and would not spend time together outside of work. You may also have some members who are shy. To encourage bonding and the ability to build mutual trust, try using team-building exercises. This is especially useful for remote or hybrid teams where the members don’t spend much time together physically.
3. Set clear and realistic goals
Lack of well-defined goals is one of the major reasons why projects run over time and over budget – accounting for 37% of project failures, according to the Project Management Institute. You and your team need clear, attainable goals to work towards.
When setting goals, bring in your team members to help. You want to work out a set of goals that you can achieve with the time, resources, and skills at your disposal. You need to be able to have every single team member understand exactly what is being asked of them. You also want to work out which quantifiable indicators or metrics you can use to measure or judge your success.
Finding the answers to these questions will result in a set of team goals that are:
4. Focus on your team’s personal and professional development
Alongside setting out team goals you’ll also want to do the same for each individual team member. Teams are more motivated and productive when they’re learning new skills and growing in their roles. You need to be setting individual goals for your team members, based on the areas they’re most keen to develop and where they can contribute most to the team.
Set up regular feedback sessions and coach team members, helping them through problems when needed. The more you can help your people to learn, the more skilled and valuable they will become, and the more engaged and productive they are likely to be.
5. Give them individual responsibility
Giving ownership to your team members means letting them make their own decisions and making them accountable for their work. Doing this increases the sense of responsibility in your individual team members. They will view their work as something for which they are personally responsible and are much more likely to take pride in it.
Read more: Ultimate Guide to Self-Managed Teams
Showing team members that you trust them to hit their goals without micromanagement almost always leads to improved productivity – as long as the team’s sense of shared vision and its goals are clear and well-communicated.
6. Monitor progress
When planning your project, you will establish the metrics you’re going to use to track performance. These key performance indicators (KPIs) should reflect your budget, timelines, goals, and expectations of product quality.
You’ll need to check in with these KPIs regularly throughout your project to keep track of progress so you can catch issues and make any course corrections quickly – before they turn into major issues. There are various reporting tools that can help here, including Gantt charts, visual task boards, and more.
7. Try time management strategies
Time management techniques help us to think about upcoming work in order to reduce procrastination and increase productivity in the workplace. Even just planning how you’re going to tackle work ahead of time can help you focus. This is worth briefing team members, to encourage them to find time management techniques that work best for them. Options include the likes of the Pomodoro technique, as well as the following ideas:
- The Pareto principle. In the context of the workplace, the Pareto principle states that you spend 20% of your time on 80% of your work. In applying the Pareto principle to time management, you’re encouraged to work on 80% of your work which only takes 20% of your time first. By getting quick tasks out of the way, you’ll feel more accomplished and be ready to dedicate focus time to the bulk of your work for the day
- Eat the Frog. According to this approach, you should tackle your hardest work first, before you can procrastinate.
8. Declutter your team’s workspace
According to various studies, the physical environment dramatically affects how employees feel, think and perform at the workplace. This is equally true whether your people work in an office or at home.
If your team works some or all of their time in a specific office, pay attention to the lighting, the furniture, and the space. Make sure the environment feels streamlined and open. From a physical perspective, this helps to reduce potential distractions.
Team members may also benefit from using noise-canceling headphones or other means of getting rid of pesky distractions which can otherwise drag down productivity. You must also ensure that your employees have suitable ergonomic chairs for their workstations – even if they work from home.
Not only is this good practice that will help keep team members motivated, but in most European and North American workplaces, you are also legally obligated to look after your employees’ health – including their posture!
9. Communicate clearly
This one of the team productivity tools is essential for any project and team, especially with the rise of remote and hybrid working. Without effective communication, projects fail. Miscommunication creates delays which lead to failure.
Communication is vital at every stage of a project: When a team is being put together, when it is briefed on the latest project, discussing specific tasks, assigning individual responsibilities, and setting goals, targets, and KPIs.
You need to work out what you must communicate, then work out which tools are best for communicating that. For example, any project management tools have communication tools built in that can help keep things streamlined and easy.
Here is an example of how the task comment section looks when using Teamhood:
10. Hold standing meetings
These ‘stand ups’ or standing meetings are exactly what they sound like: A meeting where everyone is standing. Standing meetings reduce the tendency to waste time. Everyone knows that the meeting is meant to be brief, they’ll focus on communicating what is necessary to keep the project progressing and identify potential blockers, and this will help to improve productivity.
11. Establish a single source of truth and information sharing
According to research, the average employee today switches between nine tools during the workday. Like trying to multi-task, splitting your attention in this way is deadly for productivity. Creating and maintaining a shared space where your team can log in to access all relevant content is a great time saver. It also helps keep everyone aligned.
Keep all your project plans and meeting notes in one place to make sure everyone is pulling resources from a single location. It’s also good to create playbooks for every role and every process. Detail and record what works and what doesn’t so that new members can hit the ground running. You can also share them with other teams so they can easily partner with you or absorb your best practices.
A project management tool like Teamhood can help you with all of that – planning, sharing, and executing tasks in one place.
12. Use the right project management tools
According to multiple studies, the benefits of using project management software include the following:
- Improved timeline estimation
- More effective use of project resources
- Enhanced team communication
The range of digital project management tools is extensive, and most organizations will benefit from some combination of the following:
- Project planning tools, such as Gannt charts
- Task management tools – check out our review of the 18 best task management tools
- Time tracking tools
- Resource management tools
- An agile project management too, such as Kanban – check out our Ultimate Kanban Guide
Smaller teams might also want to review a full range of project management software on the market to see what works best for them:
13. Reward and praise employees for good work
Employees work best when given a reason to do so. This can include recognition of their achievements or offering bonuses or other tangled benefits. That’s why many employers choose to implement incentive programs to keep their employees motivated.
According to a recent study, 85% of employees felt more motivated to do their best in exchange for an incentive. These incentives can be in the form of cash, free vouchers, paid vacation, extra time off, etc.
When offering praise it’s best to be specific about what the team member(s) achieved and why they did a good job. The more specific the praise, the more authentically it comes across and the more likely it is to increase motivation and productivity.
14. Give constructive feedback
This is one of the most important steps for team leaders and project managers to take if they want to increase team productivity: Create a process for giving constructive feedback. When team members are being inefficient, you need to let them know this. Build this into your regular personal performance reviews mentioned above.
As part of the feedback process, make sure to ask the team member what you can do to help them improve. They might like more guidance on certain tasks or prefer more leeway to work as they prefer. Listen to what they have to say and remember to work collaboratively on performance improvements.
How to enjoy the benefits of improving with team productivity tools
As we’ve seen, team productivity is crucial for good performance. Having the right team productivity tools is a must. This is one of the greatest impacts a project manager can have on their team: Providing them with the best tools for the job to help with goal setting and tracking, managing projects, and more.
Whether you’re managing your first project or you’re a veteran. Having an online project management software like Teamhood in your corner can help you boost your productivity several times over.
Why not book your demo to see how Teamhood can help your team’s productivity?
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.