Productivity is one of those buzzwords that gets talked about endlessly and thrown into all sorts of business plans and reports, yet at its heart, it is a simple and logical concept that is fundamental to achieving profitability. The more productive someone is, the higher their output over a fixed period of time. The higher their output, the more money the business makes for the same salary costs. As the business owner, you win because your business makes more money, but your staff win because they won’t be productive unless they are given the right tools for the job and feel positive in their role. There are a number of academic and management studies that offer their own theories for achieving peak productivity, but before you start analysing the various methods researchers have come up with, just take a look at the way you organise your business and you could well spot some easy ways to streamline your operation.
Once the bane of administrative workers the world over, the dawn of the computer age was supposed to see the end of printed documents and records. As we know, this hasn’t happened; in fact, in many instances, the number of documents printed has increased rather than decreased. Sometimes there is a legal requirement to keep printed copies of certain documents, and if this covers any of your business’s work, you should retain your hard copy files in those areas. However, it has just become a habit in many offices to print copies for a file, with the reasoning that it means everyone has access, and there is a record should the computer file be lost or corrupted. If you’re holding paper copies of anything you aren’t legally required to, then stop. Printing and filing take time and costs money which would be far better spent on secure backup systems and cloud-based repositories. A paper back-up is unnecessary as long as you have secure storage off-site, and if you use cloud computing resources, everyone who needs to can not only see documents but collaborate on projects and organise their work more effectively.
Time and motion
Despite it feeling as though it has a fluid nature, time is fixed for all of us, and learning how to make the best use of the time available is key to achieving order and organization. Time and motion used to be the hot buzzword (or phrase!) a few years ago, but it’s not talked about so commonly now. It may be an older idea, but it’s still a sound premise. If you boil it down to its essence, it’s a way of working that organises your time so that none of it is wasted. Say you need to walk down to the warehouse to deliver some documents to the production team. It takes you ten minutes to walk there; you spend ten minutes talking to whoever you see, then ten minutes walking back. That’s a half-hour round trip. When you arrive back at your office, you spot a parcel that needed taking to the post room, which is next to the production area, so you head off downstairs again. Another half hour round trip later, you are only aware that you’ve carried out important tasks and been hard at work.
However, what you’ve really done is waste half an hour taking two trips when you could have achieved everything with just one.
The example above shows how easy it is to believe you are being productive at work
because you are always busy, when in reality you spend much of your time on tasks that either doesn’t need doing or could be accomplished more efficiently if you examined how you spent your day. If your staff feel like they are being kept busy, they may not question whether what they are doing is necessary or adds value. As their manager, you need to observe how they work and offer advice to them on how to manage their time better. Many successful businesses and organisations use a diary planning system where each member of staff has tasks assigned to them for the day, or that they diarise for themselves. It’s very much like a to-do list, but each task will be assessed and allocated a time in which it should be completed. It can help focus staff on the priority tasks, and although it may sound restrictive, it can actually give staff more autonomy to organise how they work and suggest tasks that need attending to. It’s a good idea to make use of time management tools like Time Clock Wizard, which co-ordinate everyone’s tasks into one plan and can be edited and adapted to suit your working methods.
Look for the value in your processes
When you are examining how your business is organised, another area to consider is the balance between time spent using an outdated system or technology compared to the cost of replacing the system with a more efficient example. It may seem as though investing in a new piece of equipment isn’t worth it because the one you have is still working. However, you should compare how much you’d need to invest in a new piece of kit with the savings you would make in staff time before making a decision. Always work on the basis of fact and not conjecture or assumption when assessing any aspect of your business, and be sure that you are comparing valid data and including all the time and cost implications when comparing your options. Any process or system that is costing you staff time is robbing you of a precious resource – the person who can take the actions and use their talents to help you grow your business.
Good organisation is the keystone of a well-run business. If you’re spending time on tasks that have no value, or systems that aren’t working at optimum efficiency, your staff will be tied up doing mundane tasks and making poor use of their time. If you free them from these unnecessary tasks, you will find they can use their time far more productively, benefitting themselves and the business.
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Founder Dinis Guarda
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