Increase productivity, what’s not to like? What difference does it make to an owner? Could it be more customers and more profit? Or how about better customer experience, better products, and stronger brand? Or could it mean more time at home, less stress and looking after your staff?
Increase productivity is like motherhood and apple pie, everyone would agree it’s a good thing. Yet clearly not every UK owner got the memo. According to European statistics the UK work longer hours and are less productive. There’s also a link between productivity and growth which I covered in my earlier article Increasing Productivity & Efficiency – Secret Weapon. Also Overwhelmed with work – 6 tips to tame the Rhino reported that productivity drops sharply when working more than a 50-hour week. So how can owners respond and what are the challenges?
Increase Productivity – Painting the picture
Let’s paint the picture for increasing productivity. Staff want to create a great customer experience. They know that customers can reach them at any time, make requests or ask questions. Staff are confident that nothing falls between the cracks and know they don’t need to worry about keeping everything in their head. They’re so confident in the systems, they can put all their effort into customer interactions. Staff love it, because they can focus on what they do best, and achieve so much each day. Customers love the speed of service and how every contact is rewarding. The customers love it so much that the business is growing in leaps and bounds, staff are engaged, and there’s a buzz in the air.
Begin with the end in mind
Perhaps that’s not the picture you’d have painted. Of course, owners are creative and visionary, otherwise wouldn’t have started a business! Having said that, founders see the future of what they do best, most clearly. I doubt many owners would have “increase productivity” in a vision statement! Hardly words that inspire a massive following. Yet as mentioned earlier, increasing productivity is an enabler for several business goals. The challenge is creating a mindset along the lines of, “I want my staff to be happy at work. I can help them be successful by providing the right tools and support”. In other words, the motivation to increase productivity comes through a deeper need or business goal.
Occasionally I speak with owners that are concerned that increasing productivity and scaling might damage the company’s brand. They might also fear losing the culture that made the business successful. These are legitimate concerns. In our picture, customer experience was important. Developing a keen understanding of what customers value is important. It’s not only customers, it’s also how staff relate to the business too. Being clear about what’s important is essential to create guardrails to avoid damaging changes.
Tools to do the job well
I’d like to cast your mind back to when you learnt to drive. I bet when you were thinking about steering, you’d mess a gear change. Or thinking about a gear change, forget to look out the window and need to brake suddenly. Yet now I bet its second nature. You don’t need to think about the system (driving a car). I bet if you had a passenger, you’d be able to have a good conversation with them, and still get them to their destination unruffled. Great customer experience, because the system doesn’t get in the way. The system makes the whole thing effortless.
Let me ask you how productive are you when you know exactly what to do? Very, I’m sure! And when you haven’t a clue what you’re doing, how productive? Not so much! Creating systems is about making sure staff know exactly how to get their job done. Nailing down what’s happening, who’s responsible etc. means less confusion. Getting the job done and doing that job well. The system takes the uncertainty out of doing tasks well. Less effort, less time wasted, easier life.
I wonder if the one thing you hate the most is endless meetings? Years ago, I ran a team responsible for supporting and enhancing several sales analysis systems. Each week I’d meet the team and go through what was going on. After a ninety-minute meeting, I think we were all ready to go home, and that was on Monday! We got that meeting down to ten minutes. Ten minutes! How you might ask? The team’s activities were systemised, everyone knew what was going on, so we didn’t need to talk about it. We only talked about changing allocations or address any problems. Ten minutes and we were all raring to go.
Using the time saved
Staff are more productive when they don’t work excessive hours and take breaks. Through increasing productivity you’ve created slack in the system. Staff are more alert and more creative. You can also invest in staff! Think about that for a moment, time for staff development to improve customer experience, or increasing effectiveness. Then there’s more time for innovation, product development or for improving performance. Go Tiger!