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What does workplace efficiency look like?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Establishing orderly workflows for increased team productivity

Work productivity is a fluid concept that has changed dramatically in recent years. Historically, productivity has focused on meeting the company’s financial bottom line with little consideration for burnout or other factors that impact employee engagement and retention. More recently, business owners have begun to recognize the role of balance in employee efficiency and productivity. This article will define workplace efficiency and ways that employers can increase productivity in ways that benefit employees and the team at-large.

What is workplace efficiency?

Workplace efficiency occurs when team members deliver quality work without sacrificing unnecessary resources, time, or energy. A common adage used with workplace productivity is the idea of working smarter, not harder. Team efficiency relies on staff members being able to manage their time, buying into a shared vision, and providing high performing deliverables in a work environment that supports their well-being.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, team leaders have recognized that with the right incentives, work efficiency can grow (even outside of the office). A recent study showed that productivity increased 47% while employees engaged in remote work. Businesses are now shifting models for operation, with many choosing hybrid models of remote and in-person engagement. Whatever model your business selects, it is important to consider how you can support efficient employees even within the context of a more flexible workday.

Efficiency is important in the workplace because it can shift the amount of time required for project management and task completion. The work remains high quality while the time required decreases. Efficiency can be realized through the support of tools and apps, like automation with technology, as well as a clear structure for employees and work-life balance to promote engagement while on the job.

What are some considerations for workplace efficiency?

A lack of team productivity can impact a business on a large scale level. Over time, your business can lose money when tasks are not orderly and clear while also risking increased burnout for employees who are having to spend too much time on specific projects. It is important for business owners to consider a wider vision of how teams and employees can work together to accomplish company goals. Additionally, team building can promote a better sense of community and collaboration in the workplace. Below are some ideas and examples of what workplace efficiency can look like on a practical level.

  • Team structure. Workplace efficiency decreases when there is a lack of delineation of roles and responsibilities. Your company should have clear roles and structure for responsibilities as well as reporting. When you have multiple employees working on the same project, there should be enough collaboration to work together without duplicating work processes. Within team structure, you should have a clear expectation of work hours and how employees use time tracking to manage their time. Regular check-ins can help employees stay focused, while still having the autonomy to manage their day-to-day workload.
  • Company processes. Everything from onboarding to project initiatives to scheduled meetings should be clear to employees. The ability for employees to know what to expect directly impacts their productivity levels. Moreover, with additional flexibility, you can support employees to build out their own processes so they can get their work done under the conditions that work best for their work style and preferences.
  • Leadership styles. As a small business leader, it is important to recognize the need for a variety of leadership styles in your workplace. Employees often respond differently to unique styles, whether more hands-off or authoritative. More importantly, leaders should be unafraid to delegate different tasks so that employees feel a sense of engagement and incentive to do good work. Providing positive feedback can also increase motivation for employees to keep getting their work done and having a professional, constructive voice in the process.
  • Company culture. Workplace efficiency begins with the culture that your company emulates in workplace relationships. For example, do you hold the expectation that employees are multitasking on their projects? Or, do you promote values of brainstorming and focusing on one task at a time? In order to retain employees, what policies exist to promote work-life balance? Recognizing that policy shifts can impact the employee experience is an important starting point when considering workplace efficiency at your place of business.
  • Diversity and inclusion. Workplace efficiency can occur when you have a team of different strengths, backgrounds, and skill sets, thereby enabling your employees to learn and grow with one another. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion informs your employees of the expectations you have and how you expect work should be accomplished.

What is the value of workplace efficiency?

Workplace efficiency can transform your work environment in that employees will want to stay engaged with their work as well as stay with your company over a longer period of time. When employees are on inefficient teams, they can feel unmotivated and unclear about how they are supposed to complete the tasks at hand. Workplace efficiency also has a direct, positive impact on your financial bottom line, saving money over time while still producing high quality deliverables. Some of the other values of workplace efficiency include:

  • Maximizing resources. When efficiency exists in your company, you will be able to use employee resources, company resources, and financial resources more efficiently. This is critical to avoid burnout over time as well as to save money for your company to invest in the development of employees or achieving company goals.
  • Waste reduction. Whether saving time or money, efficiency eliminates unnecessary waste of resources. If a team member is able to complete a task in 6 hours instead of 8, you are conserving their energy to devote to other tasks; you can use the saved time to encourage them to take a break to save their energy for other projects. With a larger plan toward efficiency, you can define what is most important to your company and delegate those tasks accordingly.
  • Less errors. When employees focus on what is asked of them in a productive way, they are less likely to make mistakes and can remain engaged in their responsibilities. Cultivating a culture that promotes autonomy and flexibility will allow employees to appreciate their work and want to deliver the most high quality product possible.
  • Streamlined processes. Efficiency opens the door for companies to have clear processes that team members can understand and follow. There is less bureaucracy, unnecessary meetings, and time-consuming hoops to jump through in order to complete tasks. This helps employees have a clear timeframe for the work at hand and understand what they need to do to complete their projects.

How can I improve workplace efficiency?

Moving toward a more efficient workplace can take time and requires strategy for implementation. There are three primary areas to consider when establishing efficient workflows. The three areas of consideration are as follows:

  • Promoting effective time management. Training employees on personal time management and then providing the autonomy for employees to implement these strategies is a cornerstone of workplace efficiency. Employees may want to use apps or time management tools to visualize the time spent on specific projects. Or, they may utilize creative scheduling approaches to carve out days or hours to dedicate toward certain parts of their job duties.
  • Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. Key team meetings that bring team members together to collaborate are a game changer for workplace efficiency. Opportunities for collaboration can introduce new ideas or areas for innovation. Supporting efforts for collaboration can include delegation to multiple team members, time for brainstorming, or developing teams that can work on a project together, while also playing into the individual strengths of each team member.
  • Evaluating performance. Having regular check-ins with your team can help you have a sense of their performance and productivity levels. However, you can focus on factors that either support or diminish their productivity and support the employee to discover ways that work for them in completing their tasks. For example, if an employee works better from home in the mornings, you could consider offering a flexible or alternative schedule that supports their work habits toward improved productivity.

As your company takes steps toward increased efficiency and productivity, it is important to recognize that the process is dynamic and can change over time. Efficiency is impacted by the processes as well as the preferences and work styles of your team members. Leveraging employees to be leaders in this process will help empower them to do their work better over longer periods of time.

You might consider brainstorming with them about ways to enhance their work day (as well as their overall work experience) so that their job satisfaction and engagement remains high. As you shift toward increased productivity, your culture will begin to change and emphasize a supportive work environment that continues to meet the bottom line.

Next steps

Are you ready to maximize resources and promote workplace efficiency at your small business? Are you looking for tools and strategies to enhance employee efficiency?

Heartland is ready to help.

Every day, America’s entrepreneurs wake up and grind away at the day-to-day operations that keep their businesses afloat. But Heartland customers get a head start because they trust us to deliver a complete technology solution that makes it easier to stay competitive, connect with customers, sell more, and even manage and pay their employees. With our POS, payments and payroll technologies in place, and our people passionately committed to their success, nearly 1 million businesses have peace of mind, a growing bottom line and more time to focus on leading their businesses into the future. Learn more at heartland.us.