Is your practice stuck at a production level you just can't seem to break through? If so, you need help. And that help can come from your staff. If you are shaking your head in disagreement and thinking: "This guy does not know my staff," then you need to learn how to double your staff's productivity and reduce errors.

First, you must have good workflow systems in place. If you have a great staff and bad systems, you will not get satisfactory results. So let's assume you have working systems, but could use a hand with executing those systems.

Output Boosters
Doubling your staff's productivity requires three steps. The first is assigning the right person to the right task. Then, second, it's aligning staff incentives with their most important tasks. Finally, it means providing staff with regular feedback.

Each person possesses talents and strengths. Some employees work well with people, while others do better with computers. To assess your staff, it is helpful to use a strengths-assessment test like the Colby, the DISC or the Gallup Strengths Finder (see my column in the June issue of OWS). A strengths assessment test will show you what each person does well. If an employee lacks people skills, don't have them call clients to set up appointments. If the assessment reveals analytical or quantitative strengths, give him or her research or number-crunching tasks instead.

Once you've had the staff complete their strengths assessment and you've assigned the proper tasks and roles, review your compensation model. Compensation guidelines vary from firm to firm, so you may customize my suggestions to fit your policies and procedures.

Determining Value
Eighty percent of the value provided by an employee comes from 20% of the tasks he or she does. So create a list all of your staff's assigned tasks and decide which top three tasks they must execute well. Having your staff improve on these tasks can sometimes double their productivity.

What gets measured gets done, so make sure these tasks have measurable outcomes. Now that you have the tasks assigned, you need to tie incentives to them. I recommend monthly bonuses connected with reaching measurable outcomes. For example, if the person's job is setting up appointments, and you need 10 appointments per week, you can pay a cash bonus if you had 40 appointments in the last month. If the person's job is to send follow-up letters after meetings, you can pay a cash bonus if every letter was sent out within 24 hours of the meetings. You should award incentives only for the tasks deemed the most important for your business growth.

Now, if you pay bonuses only for individual tasks, some workers may become less than team players. You may also want to include a group bonus for practice growth. Let's say you have a 20% expectation for growth, but anything above 20% would be a stretch. You might consider a group bonus for every 1% growth you get above 20%.

For example, for every 1% growth above 20%, you could give staff a 1% bonus of their base salary or a variation of 1%. This gives staff a theoretically unlimited upside, and you are only paying group bonuses by sharing pieces of a bigger pie. I recommend group bonuses be made quarterly based on the growth in the current year compared to the year before. This combination of incentives guarantees that you are paying people for the right things and will help motivate staff to become more productive. However, you still need to supervise staff to make sure the right things are getting done.

Feedback & Recognition
Providing feedback and recognition every week to 10 days can triple productivity. Feedback is basically sharing how to improve performance the next time the employee tackles a particular task. This is critical to help staff reduce errors.

Recognition is providing acknowledgement, either publicly or privately, depending on what the employee prefers, for a job well done. For example, a staff member prepped your meeting as he or she was asked. Then the employee went the extra mile and called and confirmed the appointments. Recognition can be verbal, written or a small reward, like a gift card from Starbucks.

Even though it can be challenging to work in time for staff feedback when you're so busy serving clients needs, it pays off. If you do a great job giving recognition to staff, what type and level of service do you think they will provide clients? Start by putting the right person in the right role. And compensate them by tying incentives to their tasks . Finally, remember that you can triple your staff's productivity by providing an evaluative response every week to 10 days.


Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching
Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.
You can reach him at
this email address.


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