Learning & Development, Talent

Addressing the Specific Causes of Low Employee Productivity

Employee productivity is a key measurement that impacts the overall success of an organization. It is essentially the amount of output an employee is able to produce over a given period of time. That could be the number of units produced, number of clients served, dollars of revenue produced, etc., depending on the nature of the business.


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When managers see shortcomings in employee productivity, they need to first identify the cause of the poor productivity and then develop specific strategies to address these causes.

There are a number of underlying causes for poor productivity. A recent article from Forbes argues that for most employees, productivity problems fall into one of four categories. We’ll briefly review and discuss remedies for each.


Employees often put off work that could be done today, possibly because the work is stressful, unpleasant, difficult, or complicated.

To avoid procrastination, managers should have their ears to the ground with respect to what their employees are working on and what their commitments are and step in to assist if employees seem stuck.


Disorganized employees may lose track of assignments, commitments, and deadlines or may have trouble identifying useful resources.

There are a number of strategies and tools managers can use to help employees get and stay organized.

Poor Planning

Sometimes, productivity is lagging simply because a task or an employee’s time wasn’t planned properly. Many strategies that help employees get more organized can also help them become better planners.

In general, employees will find it difficult to plan effectively if they aren’t well organized to begin with.


Indifference can be one of the most frustrating causes of poor productivity. Although it’s easy to label indifferent employees as lazy or freeloaders and look to replace them, indifference often stems from a lack of engagement.

We’ve written a number of posts on how to boost employee engagement, with suggestions such as incentives for performance, opportunities for advancement, and buy-in to the company mission.

Whether a company makes its money from heavy manufacturing or providing consulting services, its employees’ productivity is a fundamental factor in its overall profitability.

There is almost always room for improvement in employee productivity, but before improvements can be made, managers should first identify the source of the productivity problem.