Why is company efficiency so hard to achieve? With the technological boom of the last few decades you might think that running an operationally efficient business has never been easier, and yet so often businesses still struggle with meeting deadlines and stripping out redundant workflows. If you’re an enterprise that’s wrestling with inefficiency, consider these 15 fundamental ways to improve.
- Consider Reimagined Email
- Streamline Your Tools
- Remember Your Work-From-Home Folk
- Trust Your Team Members
- Be Transparent During Trying Times
- Make Meetings Meaningful
- Always Automate Where Possible
- Promote a Single-Tasking Mindset
- Introduce the Pomodoro Technique
- Cut Business Processes That Fall Short
- Introduce Changes the Right Way
- Don’t Underestimate the Role of HR
- Offer Training and Development
- Give and Receive Feedback
- Encourage Thorough Project Management
Why Is Improving Company Efficiency So Challenging?
If there’s one thing every enterprise will spend a lot of time trying to figure out it’s how they can improve operational efficiency. You might be forgiven for thinking that efficiency is a natural by-product of a working environment, something that occurs when you’re not looking, an innate process that just happens.
The reality, of course, is that efficiency and productivity are key performance indicators that require constant monitoring and tailored solutions. Moreover, breakdowns of efficiency are often so insidious and elusive that they reach critical levels before anyone has truly noticed, turning seemingly small office hiccups into major incidents.
One example that’s close to our hearts is that of Ardmore Shipping, who realized that one of the core issues affecting their efficiency was the sheer volume of emails they were receiving:
“The volume of emails they were receiving, time spent managing them, and opportunities for critical information to slip through the cracks was severely hindering their team’s efficiency and productivity. Estimating around 550 hours lost chasing email in their current system per week, they turned to SEDNA to create a single, accessible, searchable home for all external and internal communication.”
Ardmore Shipping is not the first to be let down by traditional email platforms, and as mentioned previously, the insidious nature of this problem is that, ostensibly, it works. All that time spent wading through threads or trying to track down an attachment feels like you’re being productive, when in fact, all you’re doing is paddling frantically through mundane tasks while the real work mounts up.
And this is just one part of the puzzle. Attacks on operational efficiency can manifest in multiple and severe ways, affecting how employees feel about their role, how loyal your clients remain, and in the long run, your bottom line.
So the question you’re probably asking yourself is: Surely my business is efficient—surely these things don’t really apply to me? Well, why not take a look at our tips on how to improve company efficiency and see how many you’ve already put into place. You might be surprised.
1. Consider Reimagined Email
We’re biased, we know, but very passionate about this one, so let’s get it out of the way first. As illustrated by Ardmore Shipping and many other companies SEDNA has helped, traditional email isn’t built for modern businesses. With complex work and global offices, most companies end up in a tailspin of work getting lost in endless threads, employees feeling overwhelmed by email volume, and all context and clarity becoming scattered to the wind along the way.
“Glencore Agriculture found that not only could their traditional email service not handle their message volume, but that disjointed internal systems were further slowing their team’s productivity. Operators were reviewing 1,300 emails per day on top of crafting outgoing emails. Each person was dragging and dropping emails from their inbox to a predefined folder structure, in which each action, because of the loading and processing time, would take about 5 to 10 seconds—adding up to countless wasted hours.”
We’re not here to suggest giving email the boot, but we are asking you to consider what email could really do for you if it was built for today’s complex and dispersed companies. SEDNA is email reimagined, an intelligent communication system that can act as your single workspace and source of truth. Not only does it integrate with your existing platforms seamlessly, but it also negates the need for duplicate emails, automatically organizes and prioritizes your inbox, gives you the ultimate context and clarity around messages, speeds everything up, and can reduce email volume by up to 95% so that you can focus on the work that truly matters.
Too good to be true? Why not take a look at our education pages for a smorgasbord of webinars and training videos on the benefits of SEDNA. Alternatively, you can Request a Demo or check out our social channels for all the upcoming live demo and Q&A sessions:
2. Streamline Your Tools
If you don’t have the support of an intelligent communications system with solutions-led features then you’re most likely working with multiple tools depending on your needs. While the boom of softwares and apps is a great thing, it often leaves us with the classic child-in-a-sweetshop dilemma, whereby we are dazzled by choice and become fractured in the process. Some teams want to use certain project management tools more than others, data ends up being transferred incorrectly from one location to the next, and you spend more time hunting for documents than completing a task.
“An overload of productivity tools is, ironically, killing workers’ productivity. That is the conclusion Cornell University’s Ellis Idea Lab researchers drew after a survey found that people were wasting 59 minutes of every working day trying to find information hidden within different apps and tools.”
All this leads to hours of wasted time a week and facilitates busy work without anything actually getting done. To ensure a business is running efficiently, business owners need to streamline their tools and platforms as much as possible, ensuring that their whole team uses one core set of tools to manage their workloads. What’s more, the more integrated these can be the greater your chances of increasing organizational efficiency.
3. Remember Your Work-From-Home Folk
While remote work has been around as long as technology has allowed, its mainstream adoption is still very new. Though many businesses have overcome the initial teething problems, the fact remains that the general issues of productivity and efficiency can become exacerbated when your teams are working across different locations and time zones.
45.8% of remote managers state that a lack of communication is the biggest challenge to managing remote work.”
While there are many tips and tools to remote work success, the most fundamental one is making sure that there are enough points of contact and context. With no office to ground your team members, the potential for silos and silence for your work-from-home team members are rife. This is why effective communication in the workplace is so important and perhaps even more so for your off-site employees. Frequent company-wide huddles, newsletters about the latest happenings and clear OKRs all keep team members in the loop, meaning rather than wasting time wondering what the focus should be, they can instead focus on the work that matters.
4. Trust Your Team Members
Easily one of the most stifling aspects of a workplace is a lack of trust, and it always spells trouble. Management is a fine art, and it’s often easy to slide from helpful to micromanagement.
Often this leads to employees feeling that they have no autonomy despite being hired for their skillset, and this frustration can kill efficiency and productivity cold. After all, how can you do your best when projects are wrestled from you and entirely managed by someone else last-minute?
“In a survey by staffing agency Accountemps, 59 percent of employees said they’ve worked for a micromanager. Of those, 68 percent reported a decrease in morale, while 55 percent claimed it hurt their productivity—two negative side effects that can lead to a larger problem: employee turnover.”
While staying involved is essential in management, it’s also necessary to take a step back and allow employees to feel in control of their workload. With 1-2-1s, project management tools, and detailed briefs, you can avoid being a micromanaging boss and boost efficiency in the process.
5. Be Transparent During Trying Times
If you wanted to ensure a company’s efficiency slowed to a snail’s pace, you could do no better than being coy about problems the business might be facing.
“Research showed that 71% of employees agree it’s critically important for their CEO to respond to and talk about challenging times and sensitive topics.”
While it might seem like a kindness to sidestep any problems to avoid needless worrying, the truth is your employees will be worrying regardless, and business owners only fuel this behaviour by keeping quiet. For the most part, having only a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, with people sometimes making up what they don’t know rather than focusing on what they do best. So how do you fix it? As with most things, you need a culture of open communication, even when the news might not be the most palatable. At the very least, it will ensure employees feel secure that you’re being as transparent with them as possible.
6. Make Meetings Meaningful
Meetings and face-to-face discussions are such a fundamental aspect of any business that it’s easy to see how we’ve ended up inundated with them. Multiple studies have suggested that team members spend a massive portion of their working lives in meetings—more often than not multitasking so as to keep up with their tasks. And let’s face it, we’ve all been there, shoulder deep in projects, and called away to a meeting seemingly every hour, meaning everything grinds to a halt while our attention is forced elsewhere.
“A survey of 6,500 people from the USA, UK, and Germany found that among the 19 million meetings that were observed, the ineffective meetings cost up to $399 billion in the US and $58 billion in the UK.”
To maintain efficiency and productivity, business owners must ask the question: when should meetings just be an email? Moreover, when meetings do happen are they running effectively? To ensure employees are focused, all meetings should have a clear agenda outlined and an action-based structure. A good rule of thumb is if you need a meeting, use the S.M.A.R.T technique.
7. Always Automate Where Possible
SEDNA are big believers in automation, it’s one of the many things that makes our intelligent communication powerful—we do the clever inbox organization, leaving you to do the important work. Of course, automation doesn’t have to end at your inbox, and there are multiple things you can do to free your team of manual processes in order to maximize operational efficiency.
“A McKinsey report illustrates the impact business automation can have on the majority of industries. The study found that 60 percent of occupations could automate 30 percent or more of their activities, showing that automation has the power to transform the operations of many industries.”
One example of a great opportunity for automation is report running – whether it be analyzing the success of your social media campaigns or discovering how many clients you’ve onboarded this month, reporting can eat up time if you’re leaving team members to manage it manually. Thankfully, some of the best reporting tools of 2021 are easily accessible and full of time-saving features.
8. Promote a Single-Tasking Mindset
The myth of multitasking is one that’s permeated businesses for so long that it seems unlikely to ever be fully dispelled. And yet, time and again research shows that multitasking isn’t really something humans can do, and in fact actively impedes our ability to be fully efficient and productive.
“The joke is that true multitasking, or “parallel processing,” doesn’t exist. Our brains cannot do it; they simply aren’t designed for it. Instead, they switch back and forth from task to task, one at a time. This causes mental overload and reduces efficiency.”
The answer then is single-tasking, and unsurprisingly, this theory promotes focusing on single tasks until completion, rather than flitting about in an effort to do everything at once. While the premise sounds simple, it’s not always easy to focus on one task at a time when you’re used to juggling priorities. Encouraging employees to not feel obligated to answer messages automatically or jump on last-minute meetings can all help them practice single-tasking.
9. Introduce the Pomodoro Technique
Have you ever spent all day working only to realize you’ve got nothing done? The truth is teams the world over have these realizations daily, and it’s easy to see how it happens. With overwhelming workloads and endless projects to manage, doing anything but attempting to work without pause from dawn to dusk seems unproductive. Of course, the simple truth is we aren’t robots, and we aren’t built to concentrate unrelentingly from 9-5, but more pointedly, without a structured allocation of time, it’s all too easy to become unmotivated and lost throughout the working day. With the Pomodoro technique (an excellent tool for single-tasking by the way), employees should be encouraged to work for 25 minutes solidly and then have a 5-minute break.
“the Pomodoro method maximizes efficiency by blocking out a 25-minute interval of heads-down work, free of interruption (also known as timeboxing), followed by regular breaks.”
After every fourth rendition of this, the break should go to twenty minutes. Why not take a look at how to use the Pomodoro method to boost productivity, after all, it’s free and has gained a huge following of advocates.
10. Cut Business Processes That Fall Short
Business processes are fundamental to a company’s success and yet despite their importance, many businesses fail to spot ones that no longer serve them. If your business seems to be clunky with deadlines being missed and clients frequently voicing frustration, it might be time to start auditing. The effective steps to auditing include deciding what processes to audit and what metrics they will be measured by. However, keeping detailed records of the findings is just as important in measuring how well your processes work.
“But for one to be efficient, proper and thorough, documentation listing each step, as well as who on the team is responsible for each part, is critical. However, 52% of businesses surveyed in the BPTrends report said they only occasionally model or document their company processes.”
If you’ve yet to keep up-to-date records of your processes, consider how document management problems might also be affecting your bottom line.
11. Introduce Changes the Right Way
The question of how to roll out new digital tools to your team is a key one because without buy-in from your employees, the money and effort spent attempting to bring about efficiency can instead cause a blockage.
“If a project doesn’t have buy-in and support from C-level executives, as well as specific department leaders, it’s hard to get employees on board and hard to know who is in charge when leadership questions arise.”
Often, new tools are viewed as a magic wand that will improve business efficiency simply by being present. The reality, of course, is that the success of tools is often down to your work environment and communication. To make the most of all the benefits tools can bring (automation, limiting risk, process management) it’s essential that your business also has a culture of open communication and feedback. Moreover, it’s also vital to see the introduction of a new tool (or process for that matter) as a company-wide venture, not simply for the IT department to roll out and manage.
12. Don’t Underestimate the Role of HR
A great HR team can make all the difference when it comes to how efficient employees are in their roles.
“Good HR teams with an arsenal of great tools can change your company for the better. Happy, engaged employees do great work, and company growth will quickly follow.”
From managing onboarding so that new employees grasp your processes quickly, to understanding how employees feel in terms of morale, a great HR team is a critical component of your company. The very best HR teams dedicate time to understanding the company landscape, be it through Pulse Surveys or informal meetings—but also in communicating the values and news to the wider team. Engaged employees are consistently more effective in their work, and so, it’s always worth investing in an experienced HR team to maximize company efficiency.
13. Offer Training and Development
Focusing on employee training and development is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Not only does it give employees one of the most coveted job benefits (thus boosting morale), but it also directly helps your team members fulfill their roles more effectively.
“The importance of training and development in the workplace is reflected in the individual employee’s productivity. Research on employee training has revealed that every trained worker will bring 21% more profit to their company.”
Whether it’s gaining technical certifications or becoming a better manager, setting goals and upskilling your team is a pivotal part of your business’s success.
14. Give and Receive Feedback
It’s often impossible to know things aren’t running efficiently without being told, and all too often, this need for feedback is either overlooked entirely or mishandled. Feedback is always at its most valued when it’s a two-way street, not only for managers to help their team members identify bumps in the road but also for employees to provide insight on the success or failure of processes and projects.
“Employees often feel like feedback “happens” to them. While well-intended, it’s an event that tends to feel critical and condemning. And worse, research shows that it only improves performance about one-third of the time, while actually making it worse one-third of the time.”
Keeping feedback constructive as well as allowing for anonymous feedback from employees are both vital in remaining efficient.
15. Encourage Thorough Project Management
It seems obvious, we know, but project management is both the backbone and bane of many businesses. Whether it’s a problem of too many tools, as we touched on before, or simply a lack of processes in place, poorly handled projects can be gargantuan time-wasters with a heavy financial cost.
“Only 46% of organizations make project management a cultural priority — despite statistical proof that a mature project management process makes an organization far more likely to deliver on time and under budget.”
So, what’s the solution? The first thing is pivotal: ensuring you have the correct project management tool, rather than relying on email and endless spreadsheets. The second element is, of course, implementing a thorough process. Each project should be briefed, documented, measured, and executed clearly to allow newcomers to a project to catch up quickly and easily. If your projects keep running amok, why not invest some time into educating your team on managing a project from start to finish for maximum efficiency?
For an all-in-one solution to improve company efficiency, why not take a look at how SEDNA’s intelligent communication system can help? Turn email on its head and save your company time and money while greatly reducing the risk of mistakes.