If your business is very small, productivity might be something you don’t really think about. But it’s just as important—if not more important—in a small business as it is in a large one. One less-than-productive employee in a company of 500 may not make much difference. 1 in 5 employees, though, can have a significant impact. And it’s not just employees, but processes, that can affect productivity too.
How productive is your business right now?
How you measure productivity in your company will depend on the type of business you run and the role of each employee. It could focus on calls taken (although speed isn’t the only factor to consider in customer service), items produced or services provided. Sometimes, identifying the things that make your company less productive than it could be might be easier than settling on an ideal productivity goal. Watch your team work, ask their opinions, and see if you can identify pinch points where productivity is hindered or slowed.
Making your business more productive
Keep your employees happy
Praise and reward their efforts. Knowing they’re appreciated will go a long way. A quick thank you or a comment on how well they’ve done something takes seconds, but its impact can last a lot longer. Everyday comforts or occasional treats can make employees feel valued. A monthly lunch out on you?
A basket of healthy breakfast snacks that they can grab if they’ve had a nightmare morning before they got to work? A water cooler? A coffee machine?
Support your employees
Be flexible and approachable when issues outside work are causing your staff difficulties. Flexible working and the opportunity to work from home, where that’s feasible, can make it much easier for them to continue to work around family commitments, caring duties, difficult commutes or illness, and your support won’t go unnoticed; while pay is important, so is feeling happy and secure in your job.
Make sure you have the appropriate leaflets and contact details to signpost your staff towards professional help such as the Samaritans, Carers UK etc.
Review staff regularly and reward them
Regular reviews should be a chance for both you and your employees to give feedback, but make sure it’s constructive and offers solid goals and routes to improvement. Pay your deserving employees as much as you can afford to, so that they won’t be tempted to go elsewhere. Reward long-serving employees with a bonus and/or extra days of annual leave.
Have clear expectations and policies
If staff are continually going off task, think about the expectations you need to set and policies that could be put in place. For instance, you could install software that blocks access to social media—but also impose a compulsory 20 minute coffee break morning and afternoon so that people get a chance to chat and check their phones.
Talking of phones, if some or all staff are spending too much time on them, then you could have a policy that requires staff to leave them in their bag or their drawer and only answer phone calls. It’s up to staff to make it clear to their nearest and dearest that they should only call, as opposed to message or text, if it’s urgent.
Let the tech take the strain
There are a host of software packages and apps to help with collaborative working, goal setting, time management, calendar sharing, communication, social media management and book-keeping. They can automate and simplify many of your business processes and help your team prioritise, helping them focus on what’s important and freeing up time for them to do more of the tasks best done by humans.
Cloud-based software is particularly good for ensuring you and your team can work on projects anytime, anywhere there’s an internet connection (no excuse for them to read their book on the train on the way to that meeting!). Slack, Asana, Pandle, Trello, Skype, HootSuite, Google Docs… take a look at what’s available and suits your team’s needs.
If there are tasks that are too small and/or infrequent to justify employing even a part-time worker, you may be able to pass them to an existing employee. If not, consider outsourcing, which is also a great option for those tasks requiring expertise that you don’t have within your team.
Accounting, web design, taking phone calls, booking appointments… these are just some of the tasks that companies often choose to outsource to an agency, virtual assistant, freelancer, or other company.
For instance, using an online accountancy service like that offered by The Accountancy Partnership (TAP) means you get all the expertise of an accountant at a fraction of the usual cost, while freeing up you and your staff to focus on what you’re good at.
An accountant can save you money in the long run too, by ensuring you claim all the tax relief and expenses possible (and by competing tax returns far more quickly and efficiently than you ever could!).
Commit to CPD
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is important for your staff and your business. Take time to consult with your staff about their training needs and to think about what skills you need in your business moving forward. Consider the whole range of training and qualification options: online courses, in-house training, one-off workshops, local courses, and college programmes.
Cut back on meetings and monitor their length
Meetings, especially if they involve travel, can take hours and hours out of a working week. Before organising a meeting, consider if it’s necessary. If it’s just to disseminate information, could this be done digitally via email, or a shared document or PowerPoint?
If a meeting is necessary, then do all the participants need to be in the room? Simple video conferencing systems aren’t too expensive these days and the cost can soon be repaid in regained hours and reduced travel expenses. Make sure people stay on topic during the meeting so that they don’t overrun unless absolutely necessary.
It’s natural for people to want to catch up when they get together, but try to accommodate this by, for instance, inviting participants to arrive early for an afternoon meeting and have lunch together, or by organising regular social get-togethers.
Reviewing the productivity of your business should never be a one-time only exercise. Make sure it’s something you monitor closely and reassess regularly, always asking staff for their feedback and ideas for improvement.