Inefficiencies large and small can prevent your business from achieving maximum profit and growth, perhaps cutting into your bottom line by as much as 30 percent. Beyond obvious methods of eliminating excess spending such as cutting unnecessary expenses, here are five fairly painless ways to improve your business’s efficiency.
Get to the Root of Inefficient Practices
Before tackling tasks aimed at improving your business’s efficiency, it’s advisable to spend at least a little time uncovering inefficiencies and analyzing them with a sharp eye toward cause and effect. Take a good look at the processes your company uses and consider whether each and every task has a streamlined workflow. If not, why not? In some cases, precise streamlining might not be possible; however in almost all instances it is possible to create a strategic, focused vision that can be used as a roadmap toward greater efficiency. Here are a handful of key questions to ask as you make your analysis:
- Do employees have quick, easy access to the information they need?
- Are my tools and technology up to date?
- Are my employees as engaged as they could be? If not, why not? Common causes include:
- Poor compensation / feeling unappreciated
- Poor interpersonal relationships
- Lack of proper tools / technology
- Poor health
- Is it easy for customers to reach the right person?
- Does the company have a plan in place for continuous growth and improvement?
Use Project Management Tools to Your Advantage
Almost every project can be broken down into smaller components. When employees have the ability to focus on the outcome rather than switching between task components, efficiency increases exponentially. Email is one example of a time-consuming task that can be reduced or even eliminated altogether, saving an average of 13 hours of individual employee time per week. The average worker spends about 28 percent of his or her time reading and answering emails.
A solid project management tool such as Sapho can integrate email, to-do-lists, reports, and other essential data into a single, streamlined workflow, optimizing focus and leading to far greater efficiency while improving employee engagement. This is just one example of how technology can transform project management tasks for the better by putting communication and essential assignments in one place.
Minimize In-Person Meetings
If you’re still holding lots of in-person meetings, your business efficiency could be suffering as a result. Why waste time traveling to and from meeting sites, waiting for others, and worst of all, being sidetracked by irrelevant chatter? While there are some circumstances that call for the human touch found only in in-person meetings, remote meetings are usually more efficient. Study the pros and cons of in-person meetings vs. virtual meetings to determine how best to handle large-scale collaboration.
At the same time, don’t make the mistake of discouraging face-to-face chats between employees. Problem-solving can happen faster this way, and there’s less chance for misunderstanding when people know each other well and are comfortable interacting on a close interpersonal level. Your business is better off when your people are on friendly terms.
Take Advantage of Task Automation
Think about the way things like washing machines, microwaves, and robotic vacuum cleaners have revolutionized essential housekeeping tasks that used to take hours, and you’ll quickly recognize the value in basic task automation. Whatever your business’s specialty streamlining simple, repetitive tasks that don’t call for critical thinking or a specific skill can probably be automated in some way. Task automation might require an initial investment, but in the long term, it’ll pay off in greater productivity as employee time is freed up for an increased focus on high-value tasks.
Recognize the Value of Breaks
You might think that non-stop work is the answer to your business’s efficiency issues, but the opposite is true. While it’s vital to spend time focused on essential tasks, it is equally important to give brains and bodies time to reset themselves. Short, scheduled breaks give the brain’s prefrontal cortex time to process information and arrive at creative solutions, while longer breaks (think weekends and vacations) prevent burnout, improve decision-making, and create the opportunity for fresh perspective. Once you understand the importance of vacations and recognize the positive impact they have on business efficiency, you’ll come to think of time off as an opportunity for employees to recharge their batteries.
With improved communication and collaboration, streamlined task processes, useful technology, and strong insight, improving business efficiency is far less daunting than it appears from a distance. S