It doesn’t matter whether your employees spend 80 hours a week in your office or less than 40. If they do not spend that time in the most efficient manner, they’re not as productive as they could be, and important tasks may start slipping through the cracks. Missed deadlines and inefficient workflows are bad news for any business or team.
Productivity problems can snowball, affecting many departments, areas and facets of the work environment. More importantly, they can cause your workforce to be less involved and less effective, producing subpar work.
If any of this applies to you and your team, you’re likely wondering, Is it possible to learn how to increase the efficiency of your office? The answer is yes.
On an individual level, it’s easy to say how and where you can make improvements to boost efficiency and productivity. When you’re looking at an entire team, things get a bit more complicated. It’s possible to make changes that help some but put more of a burden on others. It’s just as easy to slide one direction entirely, making work too difficult or keeping a team from being productive at all.
What can you do to ensure your office is productive? How you can you make your team more efficient? What are some changes you can make that will improve the conditions and environment for everyone, not just one or two team members? Here’s how to make your company more efficient.
Delegate Wisely and Give Everyone a Task
You’ve heard people say there’s no “I” in team. That may be true, but sometimes it seems like it would be easier to do the work yourself and get it right the first time. That’s not how teams work, and that’s not how you structure a productive and efficient office. If you take on all the work yourself — or assign it to a small handful of teams members — people will become overwhelmed.
That’s why delegation is important, especially as a manager. It’s not just about the act of delegating but the ability to identify and call out the individual strengths and weaknesses of your team. The best way to accomplish that task is to streamline workflows and processes by designating who does what, and where.
Assign everyone a unique area of focus, so they understand exactly how to handle their workload. Monitor your team to see if you’ve assigned work appropriately. If someone struggles or falls behind, offer support or even re-assign the project to someone with less on their plate.
Don’t focus on streamlining a single process. Focus on the entire office and every single duty or task your team is working on. Before you can begin to understand how to make your office more efficient, you must understand the art of delegation.
The key to running a productive and efficient office is making sure all the cogs in the machine are well-oiled and lubricated. Those cogs are your employees.
Identify and Clear Up Bottlenecks
A bottleneck is anything that slows or stops regular work to a near crawl. Throughout a project — or several — you see these problematic areas. Maybe one department is not functioning well, and it’s holding up other teams. Maybe a process you have in place is too lengthy and complicated and needs to be simplified. Perhaps you need to delegate more and open up an entirely new position or rank to spread responsibility.
Do your best to identify logjams and holdups in your workflow and remedy them as soon as possible. It’s inefficient to restructure your entire team in the middle of a project, but problems will get worse if you just push on without an efficient setup. It usually won’t take much effort to remedy an issue or streamline a process.
There are many ways a business or team can come across a bottleneck, and not all of them can be addressed the same way. Idea overloads, email black holes and lengthy top-down approvals can all contribute to extended project times. Identify the root of these problems and come up with a more efficient process to minimize or even eliminate slowdowns. Take suggestions from your team or workforce. They will probably have valuable solutions to share.
Don’t Be a Helicopter Hovering Over Your Employees
Less-effective managers share two major tendencies:
- Holding a higher number of meetings
- Using check-in sessions and get-togethers to keep an eye on a process or project
That is not the way to learn how to improve company efficiency.
In an ideal world, you’d always have an idea about the status of everyone on your team without needing to have a check-in meeting. Does that mean you should never call for a meeting? No. You should check progression and hold your employees accountable at regular intervals. But don’t be a helicopter and hover over everyone. You can save time by checking in with different departments throughout the project or even consider switching to a project-management system to keep everyone on task.
Foster a Comfortable Environment and Space
Have you ever seen the film “Office Space?” A running gag throughout the movie is how the employees have to cram inside small, uncomfortable cubicles where they spend every waking hour of their day. Not only is it unpleasant, it’s also soul-crushing. And when something makes you unhappy, you are simply not as productive or efficient as you could be. Improving happiness among your workforce can boost productivity by as much as 20 percent, with an average of a 12 percent increase.
Provide a comfortable, open and clean workspace and environment for your team. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, employees working from home can be more productive than those working from company property.
That doesn’t mean you should let everyone telecommute all the time. Not every career or project is conducive to working remotely. But you can experiment:
- Let your employees decide their own schedules at times.
- Switch to a results-only work environment — a management concept that measures team members by the results they achieve, not by the amount of time they spend in the office.
As long as everyone meets deadlines and turns in a high-quality finished product, it doesn’t matter how or where your employees do the work. Do what you can to provide them a comfortable, relaxed and positive environment.
Welcome Feedback and Constructive Criticism
No one in your office or on your team works in a vacuum. Everything you — and the others — do has a direct effect on the rest of your workforce. That includes decisions you may make, actions you take, shortcuts you follow, and much more.
Give your team the opportunity to speak up or offer feedback when applicable. Even the most experienced professional can use advice, and someone else may have a better, more efficient solution to a problem. There are right and wrong ways to go about this. You don’t want someone being insubordinate or arguing in front of the rest of your team. But you can encourage having an open discussion with others.
Keep an open mind when you do allow team members to reach out and give them the attention they deserve.
Use regular feedback to improve performance, especially when it’s constructive and provides an alternate solution or strategy. Team members who can provide feedback are usually on the front lines, working with technology, tools and solutions directly. They know how, where and what can be done to improve the situation. Instead of immediately dismissing criticism from your team, assess the feedback in full.
Incentivize or Reward Your Team
A job well done deserves more than just a pat on the back. When people do something right or complete a difficult task, they appreciate being recognized in some way. This doesn’t have to be in the form of monetary bonuses. There are many ways to incentivize and reward your employees, some less costly than others. Ideas include:
- At the end of a long development project, throw a wrap party. Give everyone the chance to socialize and have fun after working hard for the months it took to complete the work.
- Offer tickets to local sporting events.
- Award everyone an additional day of paid vacation.
- Let them bring their pets to work.
- Take them out to dinner.
- Hold internal contests or promotions.
- Give out gifts.
- Hand out trophies or awards.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. People love to be rewarded and showered with praise, and you are in the perfect position to provide that to your team. The happier and more satisfied your employees feel at work, the more productive and dedicated they will be.
Equip Your Personnel With the Right Software and Support
No matter the task, your team needs tools, software and support to get work done. Offer them all the tools and tech they need to make this happen. Make sure everything is in working order, too, with all software and apps up to date. This includes ensuring the security and privacy of your team throughout their task as well. You may need to support them with a sufficient IT or maintenance team, which is worth the cost, especially if you’re concerned with productivity.
Try to minimize maintenance or system downtimes. Optimize schedules so everything matches, including IT work. Finally, make it a point to boost and maintain security for all systems and data that pass through your business.
Rely on Project Management and Workflow Tools
As team manager, you have an incredible array of details and information to keep track of. It’s easy to lose track of them, especially when you’re forced to spread your attention across multiple departments.
Don’t take on these responsibilities yourself, at least not without the support you need. Like the rest of your team, you can utilize tools to help you:
- Keep track of everything
- Organize information
- Parse schedules
More specifically, project management and workflow management tools are ideal for this sort of thing. They can take the guessing out of your business processes, allowing your employees to stay focused on completing their tasks.
Automate Inefficient Processes
At every level of your organization, employees perform repetitive tasks. They may have to transfer customer data by hand, check basic business documents for accuracy or spend time retrieving and re-retrieving the same records over and over. Inefficient processes create busywork for employees — tasks that lead to disengagement and boredom but nonetheless need to get done.
Imagine how much more productive your team could be if simple business processes were completed automatically. By implementing automation, you can free up workers to spend time on more meaningful tasks and reduce the likelihood of burnout in finance and accounting departments. Furthermore, when you automate systems, you can improve quality control, lower operating costs and minimize the chance for human error in documentation.
Automated business systems use technology to complete basic business functions with minimal input from employees. However, automation for inefficient business processes doesn’t take away human jobs as some people believe. Instead, it allows human workers to use all their energy for more fulfilling and profitable higher-order tasks.
So how do you automate inefficient processes at your business? Here are three steps to get started:
- Identify inefficiencies: Sit down with your employees and ask them what parts of their jobs are redundant, tedious or frustrating. Pay close attention to processes in human resources, finances and accounting as well as product orders and distribution.
- Persuade stakeholders: For automation to make a difference in productivity, everyone needs to be on board. Present solutions for automation to business leaders and employees, focusing on how changes will improve operations.
- Choose automation software: Match the processes you want to automate with the tools needed to get the job done correctly. Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), automated documentation software and smart forms can all work independently or in tandem to automatically digitize, complete or store business documents.
Additional Insight on How to Improve Employee Efficiency
You need fine-tuning and gradual progress to make your office as efficient as possible. Don’t expect to affect a sudden, overnight change in your efficiency, especially when working with large teams. Yes, it’s much easier to improve the productivity of an individual, or even a single department, but you need your entire business working in the same direction. To improve productivity, everyone should work to their full potential and capacity.
As you may have noticed in reading these tips, it’s also just as important to give your team a safe, comfortable and pleasant environment to thrive in. Absent these benefits, you may notice more than productivity decreasing. Your entire business model could suffer.
If you truly want to know how to improve office efficiency, check in with your team regularly to gauge their happiness. Do everything in your power to provide them with the tools, resources and support they need.
Before long, you’ll see the efficiency of your workforce skyrocketing.
Contact us to learn more about our Workflow Automation software, and start making your office work more efficiently today.