Are you frustrated with the same issues holding up your team’s output? Perhaps certain staff habits, slow tools or inflexible ways of doing things mean you’re scraping to meet targets or coming to a standstill when you know work should be flying out the door?
One recent survey by Vodaphone found 51% of workers think that inflexible work processes are holding back their productivity. If you’d like to enter 2018 with a slicker, smoother way of doing things, it’s time to get serious about streamlining those day-to-day workflows that can have a huge impact on both project success and staff satisfaction. Here’s how you figure out what’s hurting your everyday productivity…
1. Revisit job roles and descriptions
When a business evolves and grows, so can the tasks we expect our staff to carry out. If this happens on a project by project basis, upskilling doesn’t necessarily land in the most logical direction, which can lead to inefficiencies and in some cases, double doing. It therefore pays to regularly audit job descriptions, checking in with staff to see what tasks they consider to have been added and removed from their job and to ascertain whether they consider things to be working well. This way, you can see where tasks are misaligned with skillsets and capacity and are potentially disrupting workflow. When you have proactive employees who rise to meet the demands of the business you may not even be aware that certain tasks have become ‘part of their role’ and other team members could be in the same position. A quick audit could reveal tasks being split when they’d be better tackled by one person or department.
Similarly, staying aware of what skills and knowledge you already have in your business could help you reduce your future recruitment spend. Before you hire, could you consider an in-house secondment? Revisiting existing roles could also identify a skills gap that’s holding back your productivity. Recent research carried out by the FSB found that 46% of small businesses lack all the skills they need among their staff and estimated that a fifth consider that lacking digital skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing digital presence.
2. Record your workflows in a transparent way
Be honest, how much of what is done in your business on a day-to-day basis is carried out unconsciously in the way it’s always been done? Not only can this lead to missed opportunities for efficiencies but it can also lead to over dependence on the knowledge of long-serving staff too. This can have a knock on effect that makes training new staff and evolving working practices more difficult. Along with revisiting job descriptions, mapping workflows is the best way to see how things work and evaluate whether they could be streamlined. Sound complicated? It doesn’t need to be. This is best done by the people involved in carrying out the work. Start by asking your team to break down the steps involved in different each work process and pop them onto a Post-it note.
Next, iterate each step into individual tasks. What you have now is a visual representation of your workflow in Kanban style. What is Kanban? It’s a way of visualising workflows or projects so that you can see where tasks lie in a production process. Once you’ve got the process mapped out, photograph it for reference and record the information using your software of choice. You’ll find lots of project management tools use Kanban principles and some of the most advanced like Kanbanize.com don’t just provide transparency but also allow you to continually analyse your productivity. This particular tool even predicts when work will be completed and highlights where bottlenecks are likely to occur in your workflows, which can be very useful indeed.
3. Brief and debrief
When you’re working on specific projects or towards defined goals, it’s standard practice to check back against those targets to ensure you’re meeting the mark. But can you honestly say you afford the same attention to detail when you’re working on something ‘everyday’? Regular briefing and debriefing makes it clear to your staff where your current business priorities lie. It also gives the chance for employees to flag up potential barriers and can make streamlining opportunities apparent before anything goes drastically wrong. Proper briefing and debriefing can also be an important motivational and team bonding tool that helps your employees work together towards the same goals. Whether it be a ten minute breakfast roundup of the day ahead or an annual general meeting that offers an overview of your achievements and goals for the year ahead, are you taking the time to lay out your stall and take stock of where you need to go next?