There’s nothing quite like being a member of a highly productive small company.

Working together towards a singular goal that’s completed both on time and to the highest combined standard of those involved is a feeling like no other in business.

Humans are, at their base level, pack animals, and it therefore stands to reason that we’re usually better at getting stuff done efficiently if we tackle it as a group.

However, as any project manager will tell you, getting a small team to work productively is a challenge, and that’s why we’ve decided to compile the ultimate list of tips for team productivity.

If you run a small company, the following ten pieces of advice can help transform you from a collection of disparate workers into a honed, well-oiled productivity machine:

1. Lean heavily (but sensibly) on technology

We’re surrounded by technology that enables us to get things done swiftly and to the best of our ability.

When working in a small team, you’ll need tech assistance in the following areas:

  • Project management
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Collaboration
  • Organisation

Thankfully, there are numerous software tools out there to help with every single element above, but you should proceed with caution.

Never implement technology for technology’s sake in your small business. Only use the tools which offer a genuine benefit and which every member of the team can pick up and use with limited training.

Illustration of a boy with a monocle setting goals

2. Be realistic with your goal setting

Small teams often fail to meet their objectives because the goals they set are far too lofty.

There’s zero point in setting your team a goal if you know, deep down, it simply can’t be reached.

Instead, set realistic goals and break them into chunks. The more manageable and achievable each chunk, the quicker the team will reach the big end goal.

Listen to your team; if they’re adamant a goal is unachievable, they may well have a point.

3. Try stand-up meetings

This is a technique commonly used in agile software development environments where the team meets every day for just five or ten minutes to discuss what happened the day before, what’s planned for the next eight hours and what (if any) obstacles are currently in the way.

Such meetings are rarely held in board rooms sat around big tables – they’re usually stand-up affairs where everyone simply gathers in the office.

Try it; the fact everyone is standing has a profound effect on the meeting. It’ll be more energetic, people will feel more inclined to get involved and it’ll even finish on time!

4. Set leadership examples

Ultra productivity can only be fostered within a team if it starts at the top.

If the management take a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to productivity, it won’t catch on. Why should it?

If you’re the person at the helm of your small company, lead by example and demonstrate just how productive one can be.

Businessmen on a blue background graphic illustrating productivity and efficiency through cogwheels

5. Eliminate micromanagement and excess tasks

There is nothing worse than micromanagement. And most of us have experienced it at some point during our working lives.

A manager who consistently pesters the team for updates is doing nothing more than slowing progress. Instead, a culture of openness and autonomy should be fostered, where people get on with their tasks without fuss, but aren’t afraid to put their hand up if they hit a roadblock.

Equally, make sure you strip out any unnecessary fat from your projects. Speak to the team; if they say they’re doing stuff that seems pointless, remove it from the process and ensure everyone is focused only on tasks that have the end goal in mind.

6. Provide incentives (and they don’t have to be monetary!)

Good news: incentives work.

Better news: they don’t have to involve money.

There’s a misnomer when it comes to recognition and reward in that people assume there has to be cold, hard cash involved for people to engage.

In reality, a hearty pat on the back or unexpected cinema ticket gift will go an awful lot further than a few extra quid in the pay packet.

Show your small team how much they mean to you by rewarding them with something far more tangible than the age-old bonus trick.

7. Understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses

No one within your team will be perfect. They’ll all have their foibles and areas in which they excel.

If the company appears to be limping along at a snail’s pace, it might be because people aren’t being put to best use.

This is something else most of us experience during our working lives. You know what you’re good at, yet your boss is insistent that you work on something with which you feel entirely uncomfortable.

Working outside of your comfort zone is great to a point, but stray too far and you simply won’t be as productive as you can be.

8. Make great communication a team mantra

We noted in tip one that communication is vital to success as a team. Without it, you’ll get nowhere, because people will simply end up working in silos, afraid to reach out to one another for help.

Use technology to your advantage, but encourage old-fashioned communication, too.

Those regular stand-up meetings will serve a great purpose, but don’t fall into the trap of relying on them too heavily. If something needs to be dealt with quickly and requires a team effort, the person in charge of the task shouldn’t feel as though they need to wait for the next meeting to raise their hand.

Colourful clocks illustration

9. Do away with traditional working standards

Regular 9-5 days are fast becoming a thing of thepast.

The modern worker yearns for more flexibility. They want to start and finish when is most convenient for them, and while that might sound like a recipe for disaster, when managed correctly, it’s quite the opposite.

Providing the team is happy and genuinely enjoys what it does (which it will, if you follow the tips above), it needn’t be tied to standard working practices.

People should be allowed – no, encouraged – to work when they feel at their most productive. If you’re forcing everyone to enter and exit the building at the same time every day and frown upon home working, you’re almost definitely limiting their productivity.

Set some boundaries, but experiment with flexible work hours and encourage people to work from home occasionally if they feel it’s needed.

10. Delegate (but don’t absolve yourself of responsibility)

Ah – that word.

‘Delegate’ is often misconstrued. For some, it means absolving oneself of responsibility as often as possible by simply dishing out tasks that were once your own.

In reality, delegation is about assigning work to people based on their strengths (see tip 7) and spreading the workload evenly across the team.

It’s something that should be possible regardless of position, therefore encourage a culture within your team where people are allowed to delegate work to their colleagues if they think it’s fair to do so and will result in a more efficient route to the end goal.

Wrapping up

Productive small businesses are wonderful organisations to be a part of, and by becoming more productive, you can build a team that is happy and achieves more than you ever thought possible.