Productivity is an essential consideration for any organization, regardless of size. Employers and their HR staff members must ensure that employees are productive and that their actions contribute to the organization's results. While it is impossible for employees to be productive 100 percent of the time, organizations must take steps to eliminate unproductive employee behaviors such as absenteeism, tardiness and distractions, which may be caused by anything from water-cooler conversations to inappropriate use of the Internet or social media.

Absenteeism and Tardiness

The total cost of all major absence categories -- including tardiness -- averaged 36 percent of base payroll, according to a 2008 study performed by Kronos. The research used a Mercer questionnaire and surveyed 455 businesses of all sizes in all major industries. Even a fraction of that level would represent a significant cost to any organization. Companies can combat this unproductive behavior through communication and awareness, but most importantly through ensuring that employees are engaged in the workplace and recognize the value of the contributions they make.

Duplication of Efforts and Rework

Time is money; how employees spend their time, even when seemingly productive, can represent a waste of money for organizations if their efforts are duplicative or the quality of their output is poor and results in rework. To combat this form of unproductive behavior, organizations must ensure that they have carefully designed jobs and job descriptions so that the tasks performed by individuals do not overlap. In addition, managers must clearly communicate production and quality expectations. When problems are identified, leaders should implement training and education to help improve results.

Unnecessary or Inappropriate Socializing

In the old days, supervisors and managers often complained about time spent around the water cooler. Today's employees can waste time in a myriad of other ways, most notably by using the Internet and its various related tools while at work. Social media sites, blogs, online games and a host of other distractions can take employees away from their jobs and result in unproductive activities. Organizations must set clear guidelines for employees, monitor the outcomes of their performance and address any instances of inappropriate socializing immediately.

Setting Clear Expectations

Managers should never assume that employees know what is expected of them, even when it may seem obvious. Setting clear expectations can help to avoid misunderstandings and manage expectations. Even something as seemingly obvious as the statement, "I expect you to show up to work on time and to be at the front counter, ready to greet customers, at 8:00 a.m.," will lay a foundation for performance expectations. Setting clear expectations also involves informing employees when they are missing, meeting or exceeding those expectations. Both positive and constructive feedback can be very effective tools for combating unproductive employee behavior.