Efficient tools are made for efficient people: are you making the most of your teams and your tech?
There are a lot of vendors out there offering businesses solutions and tools to make the day to day running of a business more efficient, but the real challenge can be deciding which tool to implement, and then how to best utilise it within your business. Used well, these tools can save money and time, and alleviate the admin burden from your employees. However on the other hand, when not implemented well these systems can slow your people down, impact profits and encourage inefficient workarounds. In short, organisations with poorly implemented solutions can find themselves in a worse position than before they were introduced, with siloed data, a lack of centralised processes and no cohesive working processes.
This is particularly important in the current climate. Research has shown that spend on digital and technology has increased during the pandemic, even in spite of budget cuts and belt tightening elsewhere in the business. Many people who have implemented these tools will not derive the maximum value from them, and certainly will not realise the results they had hoped for, whether that was to streamline payroll, centralise operational processes, or improve customer service. A key reason for this is that staff do not have the skills to be as efficient as they can be, and therefore are not getting the best out of these tools. So, how do you make sure you have the right tools at your disposal, and that you are getting the most out of them?
A useful first step is to ensure you are choosing the right solution for your organisation in the first place. Whether you have existing processes, or the process will be built around the solution, it is important to understand how the system will fit into your day-to-day operations. Starting by mapping your current processes and getting a full understanding of how the solution will fit in and support these is vital – more often than not it is not a simple case of it slotting in, rather your standard processes need to be tweaked to allow the system to be best utilised. Be sure to gather your requirements for all eventualities. What may seem like a ‘nice to have’ for now, may end up being the key piece of functionality you need to grow your business.
Once you have a full picture of what you need from a solution, it is time to get out to market. Research and compare everything that is available, and don’t be blinkered to new and developing technologies, or systems typically used in other sectors: many vendors are happy to talk you through how the solutions can be tailored to your needs, and for newer solutions, functionality is added as the software develops. Just because it doesn’t have a certain capability now, that could be next on the development roadmap, or already ready for release. It can be helpful to devise a scoring system or comparison matrix to allow you to get a good picture of the pros and cons of each potential piece of technology – and there will be cons! It is practically unheard of to find a solution that matches 100% of your requirements, so be prepared to find the best fit, rather than the gold-plated perfect match.
It should never be the case that an organisation implements a solution, and then just lets their teams loose to use it how they wish. Businesses should first work out how they want the system to be used and how it best fits into their processes. From there, training is the key to ensuring your people are fully versed in the capabilities of the system and how it should be used to best fit the business. This is also important to build employee confidence and ensure their buy in to the new technology. Change is never easy, and a positive attitude towards the new and different can go a long way. This is particularly important in the wake of the pandemic. The digital skills gap has been highlighted by many industry leaders, and organisations will be looking to develop their team capabilities in line with new technologies and approaches. In a recent study, 32% of UK C-Level executives said that upskilling employees was a top priority for the next six months.
Attitude is also a key part of being efficient at work. Employees with a positive attitude take the initiative whenever they can. A good attitude will help individuals set standards for their work and ensure they are taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. This ultimately makes decision processes easier, as it means they are based on intuition, which in turn can minimise procrastination and increase productivity. Furthermore, employees with a poor attitude are less likely to see the value in productivity tools and therefore tend not to use them efficiently. Make sure you build a culture that promotes a positive change mindset and encourages learning, and work with your teams to ensure they are fully engaged in their roles.
Routine is also a key driver of productivity and efficiency in teams. Having a routine allows us to perform tasks faster as it does not require much thinking or preparation for the task. Consider this when you are reviewing or building your processes – overly complicated or variable processes offer many opportunities for individual decision making, and naturally therefore take longer to work through. Processes that are simple and clear are simple to learn and can quickly become a routine, allowing employees to work almost on autopilot. This is particularly helpful when a task is unavoidably manual, or heavily admin related.
“When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don’t have to ‘think’ about the task – or prepare for it – as much, and can work on autopilot,” Hallie Crawford
Forming routines is the basis of any process, and this feeds directly into identifying opportunities for automation. The more we can automate, the fewer decisions we have to make. Research has shown that there is a correlation between the number of decisions an employee must make throughout the day, and the amount of fatigue they experience at the end of it. A great example of automating one task to leave space for more important decision making is the anecdote about Mark Zuckerberg, who famously wore the same outfit for years so he could focus all of his energy on more important work decisions. Many productivity tools offer the opportunity of some degree of automation. When you are implementing or reviewing your tools and solutions, the options for automation of tasks and workflows are a great place to start. Without implementing automation, it is likely you will not be deriving the maximum value out of the tool.
After the effort of selecting and procuring the best solution for your organisation, it is vital you do not let it become static or unsupported. Technology is always evolving and updating, and many organisations fail to keep up with the speed of growth. Making sure you are monitoring updates and release notes will help keep on top of the functionality options available, and ensure you are always getting the most from the tool. Not to mention, it is also an important security consideration, and will ensure organisation and customer data is protected. Do not feel constrained by the agreed process – if a system has changed, it may require an updated process or user approach. Encourage your teams to keep abreast of developments and give regular feedback on how systems and processes are performing.
Ultimately, the most common mistake is for leaders to expect to be able to switch on a technology solution, and have it solve all previous problems. To get the most from technology, it needs to work for you. This means constant monitoring, reviewing, and updating, to make sure it integrates well, and continues to fit with day-to-day operations even as the business or technologies evolve. Building processes around the technology solution will allow businesses to identify areas for automation, and teams that are provided with training on a regular basis will have a better understanding of the system capabilities. In turn, both employees and leaders will be able to get the most from the tools on offer, and maximise their productivity and efficiency, whilst minimising the manual or repetitive tasks that had been slowing them down.