Everyone agrees that growing revenue and handsome profits are key indicators of a thriving business. But how those numbers are achieved reflects sustainability… or lack thereof. If, for instance, you have high productivity, it reflects efficient resource usage and therefore suggests a maintainable approach. If, on the other hand, your company is experiencing low productivity or a high cost of production, this is not something that would support a thriving and growing business, and would need to be addressed.
Business productivity reflects your organization’s ability to successfully execute on its strategy, and through examination of the structure, technology, policies, processes and practices that support your strategy, you can identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, more broadly, by comparing your numbers against your competitors, you can also identify opportunities and threats.
Once identified, by leveraging your current strengths and improving upon weak areas, you will be on your way to increase your business productivity and improve your profitability.
Drilling down, particularly if you are in a service industry or if service is a major component of your business model, one important resource is your employees. Today, I want to discuss three of the foundational components in increasing people or labor productivity within your department or your company: Culture, communication and technology. A final factor, processes, will be discussed in-depth in a subsequent post.
So, what is your culture like? Is your staff onboard with your organizational strategies and are they operating at optimal capacity to meet the required goals? To meet these goals we need to remain diligent to the overall atmosphere of the workplace as well as to each individual’s contributions.
It’s like driving a car. Even if the car is in top mechanical condition, when you hop in to drive to your destination, you need to pay attention to all variables you may encounter – such as what lane you’re in, others on the road and making sure you stay the course. It only takes a moment of taking your eyes off the road – or situation – to cause a potentially disastrous outcome.
An effective manager will carefully, yet subtly, keep a keen eye on how the culture plays out in the work setting – always looking for circumstances that might negatively impact employee performance. These circumstances can come from external causes or from within the organization itself or from the employees. When possible situations arise, because each is unique, they may require distinct tactical action.
For instance, challenging situations generated from within the organization might come from a lack of cohesive strategy, an uninspired vision, outdated technology, poor communication, poor leadership or management, among other causes. So, make sure you’ve got all up-to-date systems in place and functioning effectively. And always be on the lookout for a better way to do everything.
If challenges come from an employee, it could be from someone that is a poor fit behaviorally or culturally, an abrasive employee personality, or even lack of accountability. It could be a myriad of things. It could be a combination of things. If challenges come from many employees, you probably have a systemic or managerial problem.
Bottom line, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the culture. An explicit and verbalized focus on those factors is key to identifying sources of negative contribution and to communicate to employees that the environment in which they work is important to you.
Another foundational element is effective communication, as not much happens without it. I’m talking about both the skill of communication and the technology that supports it. You actually communicate communication methods either explicitly or implicitly, so make the effort to make the standards explicit and you’ll have much more control over the effectiveness of communication within your company.
Among other things, your employees need to know where to find the help they need should they have a concern, challenge or roadblock with regard to communication expectations and standards. Here are a few positive proactive tacks you can take to eliminate issues before problems develop:
Set clear goals – provide feedback: Everyone needs to know what is expected. So share the company vision and clearly clarify how each individual’s actions contribute to that vision. Have each person set both long- and short-term goals. Assure you’ll not leave them to sink or swim, but that you will guide and provide feedback. Quickly redirect when errors occur but be equally quick to recognize accomplishments. Good communications between and among company employees underpins great productivity.
Set standards – provide skills development: Establish clear standards from the outset. Employees are most effective when they know exactly what is expected from them, what their roles are and how they are to perform their tasks. Don’t be afraid to raise the bar high. We all need to stretch – to continually expand our capabilities, but we need to remain realistic about expectations. You want employees who appreciate self-growth and look for ways to do that on their own and who are happy to work with you to plot a course of increased professional development.
Remember to regularly speak to individual aspirations and provide development opportunities to reach those goals. Let your team know that it is your desire is to help achieve their professional objectives to the best of your ability.
Finally, about the technology that supports productivity: invest in a stellar technological structure. That means much, much more than having computers onsite with an Internet connection. Though you may be concerned that hardware and software solutions could be more than your budget will allow, take heart. There are now countless affordable solutions to explore. A little research on your part will uncover many tools that will increase employee productivity.
One good way to help people work effectively across the organization is to create an open communication environment. Do this by creating online portals and team sites that enable individuals to communicate with others and to work in teams, as well as to find quick help in time of need or confusion.
Finally, we have technology. Tools are available that can help both you and your employees monitor goal progress and attainment. This way you can track advancement during every phase and be at the ready to offer immediate assistance to keep everyone on track and to help each person operate at his or her best capacity.
It can be disheartening for an individual who is striving to increase a skill to flounder with a task. By monitoring, you can notice a blip on the screen and help before it becomes a bigger problem. Your direction and coaching will help your employee stay motivated and confident as he or she makes gains in knowledge and ability.
Managers can easily communicate business strategy and objectives as well as generate measurable staff goals by centrally locating performance appraisal information online. This type of tool allows your employees to not only see the big picture, but also gives them the opportunity to appreciate how their contribution fits into the grand scheme. This will increase engagement, which in turn, increases productivity.
By taking advantage of current platforms and applications to increase productivity on every level, you will experience good success. We, here at DirectiveGroup, have done just that. Here are a few examples:
- We heavily rely upon MS Office 365. This is a cloud-based office suite that enables everyone to share their work and collaborate seamlessly.
- We meet with each other and our clients in real time with GoToMeeting – an online meeting, desktop sharing and video conference software. It also works well as a video training tool.
- We’ve recently started to utilize Yammer, a social networking tool. The purpose: to make it easier for our people to contribute and to help each other, when necessary.
- We use a business process automation system for tracking of projects, service tickets, time reporting, and client and prospect CRM.
By actively helping your employees increase business productivity and by keeping your eye on the culture, the communication styles and methods, and the technology available to facilitate their efforts should pay off handsomely for you. And by continually monitoring and making appropriate tweaks, you can increase your productivity – which, of course, increases your revenues and profits.