Left unchecked, inefficiencies in your business can lead to lost time, productivity, employees, and clients. As owners and managers gear up to return operations to pre-pandemic levels, this is an ideal time to reexamine everything.
Opportunities for streamlining processes and workflows usually reveal themselves by duplication of effort, gaps, and unnecessary tasks. There may even be entire workflows or functions that could be made more efficient if they were automated. Outsourcing or using software to add capabilities that aren’t your expertise can give you “found” time to concentrate on doing what you do best.
For example, if calculating employee paychecks is taking too much time, consider whether an automated payroll solution might help. Or if employees are having difficulties collaborating, maybe it’s time to bring in some new communication tools. You might also consider partnering with a web development company to handle your online store.
Streamlining your business operations begins by determining what you want to accomplish and how you plan to go about it. Here are four practical steps you can take to get you there.
1. Automate the Tasks you find Tedious.
Chances are that many roles within your company involve tasks that could benefit from automation. McKinsey Global Institute’s research points to the possibility that it’s not jobs that need automation but activities within jobs instead. In fact, as much as 45% of activities employees perform could be automated.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs will go away. Instead, it means that those jobs may need to be reshaped.
Artificial intelligence and other tech solutions can allow your employees to use their time to focus on strategy or product development. For example, maybe they have innovative ideas for redesigning your website but have had to spend too much time rewriting code. Solutions such as AI programs that write code and website FAQ pages can reallocate some of your more repetitive tasks.
You may be faced with too much paperwork, some of which could be streamlined through the use of software. For example, small business payroll solutions can help manage schedules for hourly employees and sync their recorded hours when it’s time to run payroll.
Newer solutions exist for filing your business and payroll taxes, all while keeping track of changes in laws and rates. Some of these applications even help automate portions of the onboarding process for new hires.
2. Evaluate what you’re Currently Doing.
You can’t make improvements if you don’t know what’s currently working and what’s not. Start by asking employees for feedback on tasks they find repetitive or unnecessary. They may already have a set of workable ideas for streamlining the way they do their jobs.
You can also use tracking software to see how much time you and your team are spending on separate tasks. If tracking software seems too intrusive, you can make estimates or manually track task times.
Write down which workflows and processes you and your team use to carry out your responsibilities and determine which roles are involved in each. Critically evaluate where processes overlap, how they fit together, and what’s beneficial about each of them.
You’ll also want to record whether there are any drawbacks, gaps, and opportunities for improvement. For instance, are fulfillment times suffering because there’s not a way to trigger handoffs between departments or within teams?
You can then rank or prioritize workflows and processes according to how important they are. Ask yourself whether there are tasks that don’t help your business meet its goals. Separate what needs to stay in place from what’s potentially expendable.
3. Find Better Ways to Communicate.
Surveys on the effectiveness of meetings reveal that there is a direct connection between running meetings well and the corresponding level of job satisfaction. Of 182 senior leaders polled, 65% believe meetings prevent them from getting work done. Another 71% think meetings are not productive and contribute to inefficiency in the workplace.
Remote workers have also expressed concerns about virtual meetings and video conferencing calls. During the height of the pandemic, 45% of remote employees surveyed said they were participating in more meetings. Video calls were also more mentally taxing to 40% of remote workers than their in-person counterparts.
Eliminating unnecessary meetings and finding ways to make work conversations more productive can increase both productivity and job satisfaction. Online communication tools can keep the team together without interrupting their work. Vow to go beyond email and commit to investigating current messaging apps.
Before calling another meeting, determine whether there is information that everyone needs to know but not necessarily discuss in person. Try distributing it through applications such as intranets, wikis, or content collaboration tools instead.
Engage employees in the process. Ask how much communication they need and how they like to receive it. Let your team know why you’re shifting to sharing more information digitally and see whether employees have any reservations.
4. Reevaluate and make Adjustments.
As you implement new applications and ways of working, you’ll want to keep track of the results. Involve your team in the process by asking for their input as to how things are going.
Are the improvements working, or is there something that needs further refinement? Did an idea to introduce chatbots fall flat or cause additional problems? Find out how changes to workflows and processes are impacting customers as well as staff.
You may also want to record any differences in the amount of time you and your employees spend on tasks and workflows. These measurements will provide insight into whether changes are having a positive effect on efficiency and productivity. There may be opportunities to provide additional training to employees or further tweak your initial changes.
Your business operations aren’t meant to remain static. Just as you, your team, and your customer base evolve and change, so should company objectives. Matching workflows, processes, and employee roles and responsibilities to those changes begins with an honest assessment.
This often includes input from both clients and staff. You’ll increase the probability of employee engagement by involving them in the streamlining process. Be up front and transparent with them about what’s happening and why.
Increasing efficiency and productivity isn’t limited to changing the way your staff performs their jobs. It can also mean making them feel safe, supported, and finding ways to reinforce that they have something meaningful to contribute.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.