When it comes to promoting efficiency in the workplace, some people think it means working employees into the ground. Images might spring to mind of overbearing supervisors micromanaging daily tasks and unreasonable overtime expectations. Essentially, “efficiency” might translate as trying to squeeze blood from a stone. If this sounds like a terrible mindset for a well-functioning business, you’re correct.
Efficiency doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how hard you and your employees work. In this article, we’ll discuss three ways to keep the machine of your company running smoothly. And instead of relying on the maximum effort to accomplish this, all you need is consistency and focus.
Table of Contents
1. When It Comes to Time Management, Don’t Wing It
Failure to plan out time is a surefire way to get stuck in the business equivalent of a hamster wheel. Sure, everyone might work really hard all day, but nothing really gets accomplished, and you haven’t made any real progress. Knowing what the end goal is, how to get it done, and how long it will take can focus your energy. One major area where this gets overlooked is in planning a meeting agenda.
Meetings are inevitable in business, and a detailed meeting agenda can keep discussions from running long or getting off track. Do individual participants come into meetings with their own discussion items that have not been added to the master agenda? If this happens regularly in your business, you can easily run out of time to address pressing items due to sidetracking. By adhering to one main agenda and taking detailed meeting minutes, your meetings can cover necessities and not run over time.
Giving your staff the power to control their own time is another way to avoid supervisor micromanaging and frequent check-ins. The two components you need in order to accomplish this are deadlines and accountability. When employees are given clear deadlines, they can block out their time accordingly. However, these deadlines are meaningless without accountability. If there are no ramifications for blowing deadlines, employees will not regard them as firm milestones.
Supervisors should have consistent check-in procedures to support employees’ time management. They might, for example, schedule a progress check-in either a third or halfway through the project timeline. At any time, the employee has the option to seek assistance or guidance from the supervisor. If the employee fails to meet deadlines, then consequences are applied, such as putting them on a performance improvement plan.
Keeping check-in procedures consistent but minimal has multiple benefits for efficiency and lowering turnover due to employee dissatisfaction. Not only are supervisors able to spend less time following up, but employees are less reliant on others for keeping them on track. Instead of depending on someone else to nudge them along in their work, employees can rely on calendar programs and other resources.
2. Create and Maintain Consistent Procedures
Few things are as frustrating as spending inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out where something is. In the business world, this can include physical location, data source, or just who touches a project and when. If you don’t have procedures in place to address this, you’ll waste enormous amounts of time and resources.
The first procedural aspect to determine is data location. If everyone stores data in various locations with no consistency, tracking down information is going to be tedious. Decide whether information passed through email needs to be added to another centralized repository for universal access. If not, do all members of a team project need to be copied on all related emails?
Whatever process you decide upon, make sure everyone is following the file storage procedure to ensure uniformity. If it takes longer to find information than perform the actual work, you have a considerable inefficiency drag.
Having one place where all related information is stored and accessible is also essential to reducing misplacement of valuable data. Failure to do this can cause the need for multiple requests for information and documentation. Not only is this inefficient, it can make your company appear disorganized and unprofessional.
3. Cross-Train to Avoid Roadblocks
Employees can sometimes be resistant to cross-training, as they might see it as a threat to their job security. This outlook can be especially prevalent when an employee is the single person who performs certain tasks. But if this resistance is allowed to persist, your business could grind to a screeching halt if the employee in question is unavailable.
If the absence of a single individual will hinder operations, you should institute both cross-training and centralized instruction manuals. This approach can also streamline the onboarding process and minimize the need to pull other employees away for new hire training. Instruction manuals should be kept current so new hires can use them as primary resources and request help when needed. They are also useful for long-term employees who might want to independently verify certain things from time to time.
A more balanced power dynamic is another benefit of cross-training. Occasionally there can be situations where employees attempt to skirt procedure or create a toxic environment because their functions are essential. Having a system in place where any role can be filled (or at least temporarily covered) by others can prevent these scenarios. Processes are more likely to be followed correctly when everyone is on the same footing and not deemed irreplaceable.
Improvements to efficiency are the most beneficial when the focus is on eliminating drag versus increasing effort. Demanding better results from employees operating in a chaotic environment is going to result in frustration for them and yourself. You might get an increase in output, but workplace satisfaction and use of time will suffer.
So instead of focusing on individual contributors, put procedures in place to avoid confusion and provide stability. Employees will appreciate clear expectations and be able to perform their tasks with fewer snags due to inconsistencies. Some businesses “wing it,” while others are well thought out and streamlined. You definitely want to be one of the latter.