Time is one of the few things we can’t get back once it’s gone. So if you’re spending your precious time at work, it had better be productive. You might find yourself or your employees spending a great deal of time on things that don’t impact your bottom line. If that’s the case, there are likely inefficiencies in your workplace processes that can be mitigated or eliminated.
Inefficiencies can arise in about any aspect of a business, but there are some areas that tend to be especially vulnerable. Here are three ways you can make major strides in improving your business’s efficiency and productivity.
Streamline Group Communication
A lot of productive time can be wasted from a lack of communication within a group. Then there’s miscommunication, which can sometimes be more detrimental than no communication at all.
For a group in the workplace to be operating efficiently, everyone needs to be on the same page. That’s hard to accomplish if side conversations are occurring outside of the entire group or misinformation is being passed around. That’s why it’s so important to choose effective technology and make sure everyone is using it in a consistent manner.
For example, finding an open slot for a group meeting can take forever if you’re just emailing back and forth with everyone. The easier way to go about it is to use a meeting scheduler. That way, everyone’s schedules can be quickly compared, and common availability can be found across the whole team.
Another way to streamline group communication is to put all messages pertaining to either the group of each individual project in one place. Whether that’s a Slack channel or a project tracking program, make a decision where the central information location should be. If anyone needs to verify something communicated in the past or pose a question to the group, information is easy to find.
Appoint Quality Supervisors
As your business grows, keeping your eye on every minute detail is not the way to operate. Sure, it might make you feel more involved and less likely to be unaware of warning signs of impending disaster. The truth is that keeping a constant eye on day-to-day details isn’t the best use of your time. But to make sure small details don’t become big problems, you do need some oversight.
That’s why it’s so important to appoint supervisors to oversee each aspect of your business. The number will vary by industry, but you should set a cap on how many direct reports anyone is allowed to have. That way, you can have well-informed supervisors report notable information back to you, and you can step in if needed.
If it ever seems like a supervisor is being stretched too thin and unable to keep a close eye on their purview, restructure. You can always add new supervisory tiers to spread out the responsibility. Just make sure to keep an internal flow chart so it’s clear who reports to whom so all parties are aware of the structure.
As long as you conduct regular check-ins with supervisors, you should be able to keep an eye on the business without micromanaging. Of course, this comes with a caveat. Ineffective or unqualified supervisors can provide skewed information, either through incompetence or deception. When you appoint your supervisory team, look for qualities of leadership in addition to industry knowledge. Failure to do so can result in you needing to step in frequently on an operational level, the opposite of what you want.
Keep Procedures Consistent and Current
While there are certainly occasions where flexibility is appropriate, internal procedures should usually be standard and consistent. If people don’t know when they’re supposed to follow the rules and when they have leeway, indecision can hamper productivity. If there’s a certain way to do things every time, that decision-making process isn’t necessary.
Procedures work best when they follow two basic principles. First, they need to be followed by everyone. If you or an employee consistently ignore procedures, others will notice and come to the conclusion that the procedure is optional. Leading by example is an old concept, but it still applies in the modern work environment. People tend to follow suit with the behavior of their peers and especially supervisors and bosses.
The second thing to consider is whether or not the procedures themselves are conducive to efficiency in the first place. If you can’t provide a satisfactory explanation as to why a procedure exists in the first place, it needs to be revisited.
“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” might work for why grandpa insists on playing Santa every Christmas instead of uncle Greg. It doesn’t hold nearly as much water for why a 10-year-old process hasn’t been updated to account for modern advancements.
For example, maybe you run an accounting firm that consistently receives documents electronically but operates internally on paper copies. Documents might need to be printed, passed around and marked up, processed electronically, reprinted, filed, and then printed to pdf for delivery. The process is extremely inefficient and wasteful and could be streamlined with updated, paperless procedures.
Trust Your Gut
If something feels like it’s taking too long or requiring more of your time than necessary, you’re probably right. Instead of feeling frustrated and continuing to operate as usual, look for ways to eliminate any existing inefficiencies. Most of the time, it can be as simple as incorporating a piece of technology or restructuring your internal processes.