By Chiara Keating, People Director at Forecast
Balancing priorities is difficult. Tasks which are both urgent and important, like a crisis call from a client, or perhaps a fire in the kitchen, will be addressed immediately. Other tasks which are important but not necessarily urgent, like devising long-term strategy or starting that diet, can be more easily kicked down the road.
In business, there are a multitude of factors which influence productivity and efficiency. It isn’t just headcount or revenue that separates winners from losers in the professional services game. But if you distill these influences, you will be left with two core factors which determine how productive an organisation is: its processes and its people.
Processes and operational efficiency
Operational efficiency broadly refers to the ability of an organisation to deliver quality services with fewer resources. As a business manager or owner, it boils down to you to decide how to best utilise the resources at your disposal.
But equally, only 53% of executives think cuts in resources have helped their companies streamline effectively during economic crises, according to a previous McKinsey study. This is supported by research from PWC which found that less than 30% of cost-cutting programs achieve their goals, and less than a fifth of these are able to harvest consistent rewards over the following three years.
Operational efficiency goes beyond cost management. It draws a strategy that looks both internally and externally at an organisation’s process for how they work.
Processes are at the core of operations – and so enhancing operational efficiency starts with process refinement. Automation plays a growing role in the modern workplace – but its role will likely grow exponentially over the coming years. According to the World Economic Forum, tech will displace 85 million jobs globally but create 97 million new roles by 2025.
It is very easy for organisations and employees to become hamstrung by repetitive administrative duties. In most businesses, there are daily processes that could swiftly be automated. Data-entry, proposal development, knowledge sharing and note taking, financial reporting, and many others are all ripe for automation.
At best, too much administrative hassle just kills time. At worst, it can immobilise your teams, introduce human error and prevent people from doing the things they are great at; the things that add genuine value.
By streamlining work-intensive processes and reducing unnecessary data entry, you empower your teams to get more work done. But when it comes to managing work that can’t be automated, there are other processes that can help speed up the delivery process and ensure less friction internally and with clients and deliver increased profits.
The People, patience and support
People are your most valuable asset and how they spend their time is critical. Creating processes that eliminate administrative load will prevent your staff from losing valuable time. But this will only work where the processes offer genuine support to help them deliver successful outcomes.
Today, people need support more than ever. Research from Harvard Business Review found that the mental health of almost 42% of employees surveyed globally had declined since the pandemic began.
Healthy company culture starts with healthy employees. Managing your employee time wisely and transparently does wonders for improving your operational efficiency and company culture in general.
These are the four key questions to ask to ensure you are offering the support your people need.
Are you 100% sure that nobody is overbooked with work?
- A study of consultants by Erin Reid showed that the output of employees working more hours wasn’t any more than the output of workers who didn’t work overtime.
- Remind yourself and your employees from time to time that longer hours don’t result in better output or more work done.
Do some of your employees sit on the bench?
- While overload can lead to employee burnout, employee apathy or boredom eats budget and disrupts productivity. Imbalanced workloads create unrest.
- To avoid micromanagement, but be in the know of your team’s productivity levels, there are specific targets you can set in your company.
- One of the main KPIs to track in a services business is utilization levels. Through this measure, you’re able to track ‘time spent productively’ and compare and identify potential problems along the way.
Do you have the right KPIs set for each team member?
- Individual KPIs help you maximize operational efficiency and are also beneficial for people’s success in the long run. When setting KPIs, remember that they should align with an individual’s skills, strengths, or career aspirations.
- This will not only make your company a great place to work, but will have a positive impact on your operating margin. When work is personally important to team members, it will be done with more precision and thought into quality.
Do you know when to hire new people?
- The challenge most businesses face today is the lack of data determining whether a project team truly needs to hire new people.
- Do teams constantly overshoot deadlines? Are people ignoring new ideas and initiatives because they don’t have time? Are experienced team members assigned basic tasks way too often? These are often tell-tale signs of a staffing problem.
To truly increase productivity, businesses need to be able to manage both the urgent and the longer term important stuff. By investing in automation, and working to garner a detailed understanding of the pressures your staff face, organisations can create processes which empower staff to tackle the urgent and the important in equal measure, increasing productivity and efficiency along the way.
Chiara is People Director at Forecast, the AI-native Project & Resource Management platform built to connect people, projects, and profit. She leads HR and people management at Forecast, and is responsible for culture and employee engagement in the organisation.