6 Ways to Make Your Company Hyper-Productive
Sure, it's better to work smarter, not harder, but what does that mean? Here's how to increase profits by improving productivity across a business structure.
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One of the key elements that determine a business's success — particularly its ability to grow — is expending the smallest amount of resources (costs) for the maximum amount of benefit (revenue). The best way to widen that gap, in my experience, is by improving productivity.
This can be especially challenging for smaller businesses with limited resources, or with processes that have yet to be battle-tested. Productivity can also suffer as a company grows and becomes more complex, but fortunately, there are simple and effective ways entrepreneurs can transform an ordinary enterprise into a well-oiled and hyper-productive machine.
1. Provide clear communication and direction
As a leader, it's your responsibility to make sure that teams understand your vision and strategic goals. If communication and direction aren't clear, it can cause confusion, which requires a course correction and disrupts productivity. It also almost always means a lot of wasted time, as staff members seek clarification and ask follow-up questions.
So, strive to provide clearly stated goals and objectives that can't be misinterpreted, and a great way to do that is by embracing the SMART methodology (an acronym for "specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely") for goal-setting.
2. Kill the multitasking culture
Many people attempt to increase output by juggling several tasks at once. Though perhaps well-intentioned, this can often be the enemy of productivity, and in the long run simply doesn't work, at least for most of us. A study by the Cleveland Clinic found that only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask. For the rest, brains require time to reset and become productive again when switching between tasks: an average of 9.5 minutes (just one of many findings from a joint report by Qatalog and Cornell University's Idea Lab). This spent time can add up to significant productivity losses.
Therefore, it's best to encourage teams to focus on one project at a time, and as a leader, it's your responsibility to set expectations, and an example. Simple rules such as no phone use during meetings or having blackout periods for interoffice IM chat can reduce these distractions that encourage multitasking.
3. Cut down on meetings
According to a 2021 Dialpad report, 38% of workers spend between four and 12 hours per week in meetings, and 11% spend 12 to 20 hours. Unfortunately, many of these gatherings are poorly run, have no defined objective and don't result in any actionable benefits, so reducing their number holds the promise of boosted productivity.
A good place to start is by eliminating meetings that are intended to be open forums for discussion. Instead, replace them with those that have a clear and tangible objective — making a decision or completing/furthering a task. Also, investigate whether the seemingly standard one-hour slot can be shortened to 30 minutes. Bundling meetings can also be effective: packing an agenda with similar topics that normally might have required separate meetings.
4. Avoid too many cooks
While it's important to encourage teamwork and collaboration, not everything has to be decided upon or created by a committee. The more people involved in any task, such as updating company processes, the more time is required. This input is often valuable, but its applicability has a limit: It should always be clear who is responsible for ultimately making the decision so that work doesn't get delayed by inaction or disagreement.
5. Leverage data and technology
It's impossible to improve productivity if you don't measure it. For this reason, it's critical to create metrics that can be monitored, and which can truly drive change. The good news is that you likely already have access to this information, such as the average number of days to process orders or close sales, manufacturing lead times and work order completion rates. Leveraging it will help you understand where you should focus effort and ensure that you are improving over time.
Technology, especially automation, can be used to help employees get more done in fewer hours. Find ways to leverage it: Automate simple, repetitive tasks that take a lot of the team's time so that its members can work on more valuable activities.
6. The employee element
It's critical to recognize that employees are the foundation of a productive work environment. A study from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick found that employees who are happy at work are 12% more productive. For this reason, owners should shift from viewing productivity simply in terms of minimizing headcounts and generating profits. A better approach is to find ways of sharing with workers the benefits of a more productive workplace, as well as reducing their workload or stress. This can boost output, as well as increase worker satisfaction and reduce turnover, creating a win-win for both staff members and business owners.