FOR AS LONG as I can remember,
I’ve been fascinated with the inner workings of businesses and how they can be made more efficient. From one of my first jobs in a pizza restaurant, where I developed a process to get servers clocked out sooner, to my current role at TempWorks Software and Lone Oak Payroll, where I’ve taken deep dives into each department to see what makes them tick, I look for ways to improve profitability along with client and employee satisfaction.
Although there’s not one formula that creates efficiency within every business, I’ve found there are common themes that span industries. Here are a few tips on improving your workplace’s efficiency — and, along with it, your bottom line.
Continually assess current processes
It’s easy to get comfortable and continue doing things because “that’s how we’ve always done it,” but be wary of the status quo. Keep a pulse on your processes and employees, and act sooner rather than later when you see something that needs to be addressed. The longer you wait, the harder it is to change. Be sure to explain the “why” when it comes to communicating the adjustments to your employees. If they understand where you’re coming from and know what the goals are it will be much easier to get their buy-in.
Ask for employee feedback.
People are your most important resources. They are ingrained in the operation of your business and are the touchpoint with your customers. They experience your processes first-hand and interact with each other and your management team daily. So, while a company procedure might seem like a no-brainer to the leadership team, it might not actually work for the staff that works in that realm daily. Schedule formal opportunities for employees to provide feedback and ideas, but also take note when they drop in for a quick conversation or shoot you an email.
Listen to your clients
Just as your employees are the pulse of your operation, your clients are what keeps your business going and growing. Gather feedback from your customers. Whether it’s a periodic survey or something less formal, such as a personal call to see how things are going, prioritize getting meaningful information from your clients. And then listen – really listen – to what they are saying. In addition, take note of influxes of new customers along with spurts of lost business. Observations from these ebbs and flows could help distinguish successes and pain-points that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Invest in your employees
Some of the biggest inefficiencies we’ve solved have related to personnel training and turnover. Take the time to have a thorough onboarding experience. It will pay dividends to have fully-trained, confident employees ready to contribute in their new roles. Also get to know your team and their strengths and skillsets.
What roles might they be a good fit for down the road? What are their career aspirations? Understanding what they might want to grow into will help retain them and build a natural pipeline for talent. Well-trained, challenged, happy employees are the most efficient kind.
On the flip side, know some turnover is to be expected, so do your best to prepare for when it does.
For example, we discovered an opportunity to improve our management structure when one key person moved on from the company a few years ago. At that time, we were left working quickly to determine how to proceed with not only filling the role but also ensuring day-to-day tasks were completed in the interim. This led to us creating management teams instead of relying on one manager.
Now, a group of individuals fulfills the functions. Providing more employees with more responsibilities also serves as a buffer for people to take vacation or sick time without worrying who will cover for them and for those who may move on or be promoted.
Don’t be afraid of change, but be cautious of doing it just for the sake of change.
In our innovation-focused world, it’s easy to jump into the next trend, latch onto the newest technology or think your current way isn’t the best way. Don’t run away from the latest and greatest, but approach with caution. You and your employees know your business better than anyone and only you can truly see what will be beneficial.
As a company that’s grown from 40 employees to more than 160 in just a few years, we’ve experienced how important change can be. Some elements of business simply don’t translate in scaling up that quickly. But on the other hand, we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. So, how did we navigate these waters? By staying true to our company and employees and making sure each adjustment served a purpose, and that we weren’t creating solutions to challenges that didn’t exist.
Before making a change, be it large or small, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Will it improve the customer experience? Does it make your team more efficient or solve a pain-point? Will it increase profitability? These are just a few questions to consider. The reality is that there’s no way to know if a change will work until you try it. So, if you’ve given it thoughtful consideration, taking research, metrics and your experience and industry knowledge into account, try it. Don’t be afraid to revert back to the previous process if it doesn’t work as expected.
Creating a more efficient workplace will help you meet and exceed your goals, whether you’re considering small tweaks to improve service department response times, brainstorming ideas to reduce the amount of back-office paperwork or are tackling large-scale projects that will take your business to the next level.
Seek opportunities to improve, and see the results.
Mari Kautzman is the chief operating officer at TempWorks Software and Lone Oak Payroll: 651.452.0366; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tempworks.com and www.loneoakpayroll.com.