Productivity drives many HR initiatives. Given its importance, organizations spend millions on understanding the factors that influence and promote productivity, ranging from managerial styles to lighting and office layouts.

Strong leadership, robust performance metrics, and motivational goals are among the most influential contributors to boosting productivity in the workplace. However, other factors like employee, leader, and team behavior are also important to consider.

You can help your business to be more productive by tracking, assessing, and promoting beneficial practices. At the same time, recognizing behaviors that inhibit productivity can also encourage productivity by pinpointing and removing these obstacles.

How behavior impacts productivity

Behavior affects how people manage themselves, others, their work, and their time. Examples of influential behaviors include:

  • Collaboration
  • Work ethic
  • Motivation/engagement/passion
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Emotional regulation
  • Time and project management

On a more granular level, a behavior like collaboration might look like:

  • Ability to communicate project requirements to others
  • Ability to communicate project needs to request help and necessary resources
  • Ability to collaborate on a project to create a cohesive whole, including across teams
  • Ability to accept input from others
  • Ability to offer constructive feedback on other’s work

Some people might excel in certain abilities and be lacking in others. If you hone in on those strengths and weaknesses, you can then map, assess, and train for them.

That also applies to soft skills like emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships. If someone struggles to regulate their emotions or shows poor emotional intelligence, they’ll have trouble focusing on work and maintaining a healthy work dynamic with their colleagues.

Measure and track productivity

Competency assessments help you track your workforce’s productivity and the behaviors that promote it. However, they can’t identify blockers, only whether or not your employees have soft skills that contribute to productivity.

For example, a low-performing team may have all of the competencies that should, theoretically, yield high results. However, they may lack the processes, tools, leadership, or freedom they need to be productive. Competencies are only part of the picture, so, to complete the image, be sure to:

  • Set benchmarks for success for each team or department using industry benchmarks, previous years’ data, etc.
  • Create matrices or models of required competencies, including soft skills like time management and goal management, as well as hard skills.
  • Interview employees to learn how they feel about the level of productivity in their role, team, and organization.
  • Test employees for competencies, keeping in mind that success in a role can take many forms.

You should also produce matrices that highlight competing soft skills. These allow you to define success, even when someone doesn’t map perfectly to the ideal. Different roles have different requirements, so you need to outline what success looks like accordingly.

For example, in technical roles, someone who manages time, focuses on tasks one by one, and is able to finish a project before starting another will likely be the most productive. On the other hand, in leadership, that’s almost impossible to do, and you may value traits like the ability to multitask more highly.

Behavioral problems may be cultural

Leadership is a major influence on both productivity and behavior. Behavioral problems might be a result of team or organizational culture. For example, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella famously turned the company around after being hired: He changed a culture that previously demanded everyone to have all the answers to one built on learning, growth, and self-awareness. That change was primarily based on following examples from leadership. The more pervasive an issue is, the more likely it’s the result of poor leadership or negative organizational culture.

Drew also discovered insufficient management and poor communication between employees and their supervisors are two major factors that can cause low productivity. This shows the influential role of leadership on individual and team productivity.


Once you identify which skills are required to promote productivity in your organization, you can take action to develop them in your workforce. That starts with prioritizing skills based on impact. For example, someone who lacks project management is less of an issue if they have leaders who excel at delegation and employ a work style that allows that. As such, prioritization matrices will differ by team.

From there, you can:

  • Implement training and workshops to deliver the basic concepts behind the desired skills
  • Create coaching or mentoring programs designed to nurture both hard and soft skills
  • Highlight which skills are important to the organization so employees focus on learning those

Also, validate the relationship between learning (soft) skills and improved productivity. If you deliver a workshop and coaching to help a team strengthen their emotional intelligence, which then improves their communication and interpersonal relationships, it’s important to follow up and measure the impact of that development on their performance.

Soft skills especially take time to develop, and many people struggle with them. Take an approach of introducing and promoting skills, delivering resources to keep learning and improving, then integrating them into performance management. This will help your employees acquire and implement the new competencies, as well as allow you to track their influence on productivity.


Behavior is one of the most important aspects of productivity, especially when it comes to time management and team collaboration. However, there are dozens of behaviors that contribute to an employee’s productivity, such as their individual capabilities or their team, leadership, or work culture.

Perform an organization-wide analysis and map behaviors, including how they contribute and where they’re missing to help you introduce programs and resources that’ll improve productivity across your personnel.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick