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Increasing Productivity

3 Sure Fire Ways To Improve Efficiency And Find Your Business’s Productivity Sweet Spot

Here are a few tried and trusted tips that massively improved our team’s’ productivity, while giving more control, and will do the same for you.

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As an entrepreneur and business owner for the last 18 years, I remember well what the start-up phase is like; you wear every hat under the sun – from receptionist to doorbell-ringing salesman to production manager to accountant (if you call personally sending out homemade invoices every month being an accountant!).

Fast forward many years down the line, and I now have a large team spread across the country and my challenges are immensely different to when we were in start-up phase. For one, my team works remotely, and I need to know whether they are productive or not. The challenge of monitoring productivity while still running and growing the business, all the while constantly avoiding the trap of slipping into micro-management, has lead me to these findings.

Productivity doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a deliberate process and a daily challenge.

Just because you, as the owner of the business, have a fire in your belly compelling you to work 14 hour days, including weekends, doesn’t necessarily mean that the team you’ve hired have the same zeal that you do. So the battle starts – do I still try do it all myself, with a bit of help from the team, or do I let go and empower my team so that I can start dreaming over my business again? The reality is that letting go is often more mind-numbingly terrifying for entrepreneurs than getting a root canal without anaesthetic. It takes tremendous courage.

Here’s a comforting thought: You don’t have to take a blind leap of faith to empower your team. There’s no Indiana Jones ‘invisible bridge’ across the chasm, because there is no chasm if you have the right business processes and systems in place. In fact, you can ‘let it go’, and simultaneously gain more control over your business than ever before.

Related: The Art And Process Of Achieving Mega-Productivity

1. First Things First – Hire Right

Your team is your most valuable asset in the business – they reflect who you are, what you’ve sweated blood to achieve and built, and what your business is about, more than the products or services.

By the same token, one bad apple in the team can do more damage to your brand than your strongest competitor. Employees who are skilled and have the right attitude are often more productive, responsible, communicate better and work faster with fewer mistakes.

If the target is improved productivity, this is your silver bullet. Culture-fit is more important than qualifications and skills on a page. Fight for this, it’s important.

Alternative Option: Virtual Staff (Outsourcing)

This is a viable option if you find you are too busy to handle your day to day activities, but cannot justify hiring a full-time employee to perform these tasks.

Virtual staff or outsourced resources become like a team member who just happens to work remotely, so it is important that you carefully consider who your supplier is, much as you would a permanent employee.

Virtual teams are strongly relational and require a fair amount of personal investment and guidance from you on the onset in order for them to understand your brand, product and needs accurately, especially if they are customer-facing.

Thankfully South Africa has a wide selection for us to choose from, with everything from PA, finances, marketing or call centres services at our disposal. The bonus is, you get the work done without the potential HR challenges.

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2. Get a Goal, Stick to it, and Measure it

You know how demoralising it feels when you have too many things to do, and not enough hours in the day to do it. Stressed and burnt out employees are the opposite of productive, and is not something to brag about or a sign of being successful.

Busy is not the goal – productivity is.

Processes and policies give a team structure and a framework for efficiency and measurable productivity. It’s also easier to notice when something or someone is missing the mark or causing bottlenecks and unnecessary delays and quickly respond to that.

Here’s how we do it:

  • Set your team targets and tasks that are realistic and achievable within a given period of time. Your team will feel more motivated to achieve these goals, and will enjoy a sense of accomplishment once achieved.
  • Put procedures in place that follow best practice for your industry. If this is not something you feel you have time or the skill set for, involve your team and brainstorm this – it might surprise you how well they know your business and what ideas and insights they have. Alternatively, ask a systems analyst or business coach for assistance. Map these procedures and processes out in a document or more visual platform, like Visio, and circulate them throughout the business so that everyone knows the fastest, most accurate way of performing a task. This can also filter into the KPI and regular assessment and incentive processes.
  • Get the right software to help your team track orders, projects, inventory and invoices. Try and avoid multiple data capturing points as this can increase errors and be an unnecessary burden on your admin staff. Look for a single system that incorporates the production process from start to finish. We like Slack and Skype for internal comms, and keeping our inboxes solely for client comms. This makes for faster turnaround on client email responses. For project management and time tracking we like Trello, Asana or BOS. BOS (Business Operating System) also includes functionality for quotation generation, stock management, accounts, resource management and reports, so that helps.
  • Create a culture of excellence where efficiency is recognised, applauded and rewarded. If a team member has found a way of doing a task more efficiently than the norm, let them share it with the rest of the team, and consider including their personal process into the team’s process.
  • Measure it: If you cannot measure the return on investment of your human capital (your team) and your infrastructure (machinery, software, etc) then you probably have very little insight into the profitability of your business and the productivity of your team. Knowing the productive hours of each member of staff will greatly influence your decisions on quoting accurately, resource allocation and team utilisation. Once again, BOS shines here.

Related: 7 Tools To Increase Productivity And Efficiency

3. Schedule a Daily Check-In

The worst thing you can do as a business owner is remove yourself from the business – even if it is under the guise of ‘business growth’ and important work.

Try and avoid being constantly out at client meetings, or chasing sales or being unapproachable when you are in the office. You don’t have to physically be in the space to touch base with your team, so schedule a check-in to see if they need your input and how they are progressing.

It can be a phone call, and email or on whatever system you use for internal comms. It can be five minutes a day, but it makes your team feel that they are part of something bigger, that they belong and that their work is important.

It also provides a platform for you to weigh in on decisions or give them support and helps you panic less about the status of work.

Look for software that has scheduled reminders and a calendar function. Alternatively, software that offers a dashboard view of work in progress will also give you more of a helicopter view of the business.

A bonus would be if it is cloud-based, so that you can check in on your team regardless of where you are – on site, at a client, on holiday or at home!

Related: 5 Work Productivity Hacks Used By Rockstar Entrepreneurs

Now you have more clarity, more control, and more opportunity to run your business holistically and with freedom.

Finding the right balance between doing it all yourself, leaning on technology and efficiently allocating team resources is your productivity sweet spot. Take the time to invest in this, and you won’t look back.

Heinrich is the owner and founder of QuickEasy Software, a proudly South African software company based in Cape Town with a national footprint, focused on simplifying business processes by integrating every aspect of the business cycles into one, easy-to-use system. Heinrich is passionate about releasing business owners to run their businesses efficiently through this affordable ERP software that improves efficiency at every station; from leads, CRM, quotes, job tracking, time tracking, stock management, invoices, and reports - effectively freeing them from the drudge work of running a business in order to grow their business.

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Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Incentives are a game changer. Find out just how influential a successful incentive programme can be for your team and your business.

Uwin Iwin

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To be at the cutting edge of incentive programme design and execution, Uwin Iwin International, one of the incentive leaders on the African continent keeps a close eye on the incentive industry, thereby ensuring that we offer the very best in incentive solutions to our myriad of customers. We have recently embarked on a research project and would like to highlight an interesting finding uncovered by Ask Afrika, our research partner. The question we look at this time round is, “Do companies actually find incentives useful?”

Recognising Value

The following figures give a good picture of how employers see the value of incentives into their respective organisations:

  • 74% of respondents recognise that there is a need for a incentive programme, citing that: it motivates employees, helps employees feel valued, helps employees reach goals, assists with employee retention, and helps with financial burdens.
  • One respondent noted that whereas the market for incentives was considerable, “a lot of companies are not getting [incentives] right” despite having a programme in place.
  • Respondents further acknowledged that small and struggling companies should implement an incentive programme, even if it is informal and the rewards offered are small.

Our buying analytics have also picked up that between the period of the 25th to the 11th of each month, incentive spend is focused on mainly personal rewards and after the 11th, spend is directed towards mainly food retailers. This shows the value of an incentive during more strenuous times, as it adds some relief to certain tough periods.

Related: End Of Year Slump? Now’s The Time To Pull Out The Right Rewards

Why you need incentives in your business

Cost-cutting is common during an economic downturn, but be prudent when applying this to incentives. As the research indicates, incentives provide motivation, increase revenues and retain valuable and experienced staff members. Moreover, employees and channel partners value incentive programmes and reducing them could create dissatisfaction.

For further information or advice on your incentive programme, contact Uwin Iwin, and start a fruitful conversation.


Employee Perceptions of their current Incentive Programme

The responses from programme participants reflect that they appreciate the incentive programme and find it motivational.

  • I feel proud when I get an incentive: 82%
  • Job satisfaction motivates me: 85%
  • An incentive programme motivates me to work harder: 81%
  • I will go the extra mile in my job for an incentive: 78%
  • The incentive programme is very important to me and my family: 77%
  • Incentive programmes make me stay loyal to my company: 63%

Rating of Effectiveness of Incentive Programme

HR personnel were asked to give feedback concerning the effectiveness of incentives in achieving programme objectives. Below are the figures that correlate to each objective:

  • Employee motivation: 77%
  • Employee performance: 79%
  • Employee engagement: 73%
  • Employee satisfaction: 72%
  • Employee retention: 64%

These results are encouraging, and prove that having an effective, well-designed and well-executed incentive programme in place impacts very positively upon the business.

For more information, please visit uwiniwin.net or call +27 (0)11 557 5700

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Increasing Productivity

The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.

Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.

1Internal competition

When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.

Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?

For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.

Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.

2Incentive systems

With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.

Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?

For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.

As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?

One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.

Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

Walk away from the computer once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for meetings. And don’t check your smartphone during a conversation.

Jayson Demers

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The millennial generation has faced a great deal of criticism, and in some cases, scorn from older generations. We millennials – yes, I’m one of them – are seen as selfish, entitled and demanding, not to mention addicted to technology.

Are these stereotypes true? Certainly not for all millennials. But there are certain tendencies and habits that are associated with the millennial generation more than any other generation – and they run both positive and negative.

Here, let’s focus on the negatives, setting aside the fact that you can’t categorize an entire generation, and behavioral traits and stereotypes can’t be empirically proven to exist. Instead, let’s focus on the bad workplace habits that the older generations perceive millennials to have, and work on eliminating them.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

Regardless of how much of a stereotypical millennial you believe yourself to be, you’ll make a better impression in your new work environment if you avoid these common bad habits:

1Making demands instead of requests

Millennials do have a habit of making demands, and setting more rigid requirements for their workplaces. On some level, this is good; too many modern workers are afraid to voice their opinions, and would rather keep their heads down than verbally address something wrong with the organisations.

However, when voicing your opinion, turn your demands into requests. Making a request of your employer shows more respect and subordination than making a demand, which is especially important if you’re new to the organisation.

The more experience you earn, the more demanding you can afford to be, but start out by making requests instead.

2Exhibiting overconfidence

Confidence is good, but overconfidence can ruin your reputation if it’s perceived as arrogance. Millennials tend to overestimate their abilities and knowledge in the workplace, which is especially irritating to people from the older generations who have spent far more years on the job.

Recognize that your superiors have been at this job longer than you have, and don’t be afraid to exhibit confidence – as long as you keep that confidence reasonably in check. It’s better to perform well with a sense of humility than to boast about your abilities and fail to meet expectations. Just as happens with demands, you can demonstrate more confidence over time as your accomplishments start to speak for themselves.

3Relying only on certain forms of communication

Most millennials prefer text-based forms of communication over voice-based forms. They’re more comfortable with mediums like SMS text and email because they’ve grown up with these formats, and recognise the fact that they give you more time to put your thoughts together (not to mention leaving a paper trail).

However, it’s important to recognise that not everyone prefers to communicate this way – and that there are advantages to making a phone call rather than emailing. Showcase a degree of flexibility in the way you communicate, and you can eliminate this bad habit altogether.

Related: What Millennials Want From 2017 – How To Stay Ahead Of The Trend Curve

4Talking more than listening

Talking more than listening

This is a bad habit for any generation, not just millennials; but for millennials, it’s far more damning. Because millennials are seen as self-centered and overconfident, talking too much can be seen as an exacerbation of these qualities (even if it’s just a result of this individual’s extroverted personality).

Instead, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more, especially when you’re in the company of someone more experienced or more authoritative than you are. You’ll end up making a better impression, and more importantly, you’ll learn more in the process.

5Assuming a certain behavior or action is okay

Office environments are becoming more relaxed. Work schedules are becoming more flexible, etiquette is becoming looser and dress codes are increasingly casual. These trends are facilitated by increasing technological sophistication and decreasing reliance on old-school business tropes. However, this isn’t a free license to show up at the office whenever you want, wearing whatever you want.

In fact, doing so could mark you as both overconfident and disrespectful. Don’t just assume a certain action or behavior is okay. If you’re even slightly in doubt, ask someone.

6Multitasking

Millennials grew up with technology that provided instantaneous information on demand. They work fast and think fast, which makes them highly productive and ingenious. Unfortunately, this high pace also lures them into the multitasking trap, tempting them to try to accomplish many things simultaneously in a bid to work as fast as possible.

As more people are beginning to realise, multitasking is ineffective, and engaging in multitasking could weaken your performance in multiple areas.

Related: Why Millennials Are Becoming Franchisees

7Staying plugged in

Again, thanks to our natural history with technological devices, we millennials tend to be more reliant on them than our older-generation counterparts. There’s a perception that weare addicted to technology, so if you’re young and want to combat this stereotype and improve your reputation in the process, avoid staying “plugged in” for too long.

Walk away from the computer every once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for that important meeting. Above all, don’t check your smartphone when you’re having a conversation.

The truth is, there are some differences that set millennials apart from other generations. This doesn’t mean millennials are bad workers or good workers – it just means they work differently. Acknowledging those differences, and compensating for them when they create workplace dissonance, can help you better adjust to your job, and make a better impression with the people in charge.

Focus on eliminating these bad habits, and you’ll stand apart from the rest of your generation.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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