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How Streamlining Essential Internal Business Processes Can Boost Employee Productivity

by bob.g (follow)
Business (103)      Management (27)     
For businesses that employ less than 100 people, productivity can often be a key factor in the five year survival rate of the business. In general, the actions of most employees should directly support income generation, whether that comes from sales, product development, marketing, or customer service.

The day to day actions of each employee determine the success of the company. Small business owners usually know how to handle external growth. However, they don't usually see the need for structured internal processes until some balls are dropped and deadlines are missed. Streamlining essential internal processes can help a business increase profits while improving productivity and project completion.

There are four essential processes that have the greatest effect on small business productivity: tracking staff work hours, scheduling employees proactively, delegating/tracking tasks effectively, and assigning employees to tasks based on talents and abilities. Let's see how reorganizing these crucial areas can raise your profits and improve productivity.

Sabotaged by poor productivity

Does this sound familiar? You know you have competent, committed employees. Despite that, some of your crucial meetings or projects seem to fall apart or get delayed for what should be avoidable issues. Maybe you have scheduled an important meeting requiring input from your quality assurance engineer on Thursday at 10:00 AM.

Image source - Calita Kabir (Flickr)
Image source - Calita Kabir (Flickr)

The meeting starts, and only then do you learn that your engineer isn't scheduled to work until noon on Thursdays. The rest of the staff at the meeting is looking to you for leadership, and you're getting frustrated fast. You can't proceed without information from this employee, so the meeting is a waste of time. You get frustrated, tell your secretary to prevent this in the future, and then find the same issue crops up again a couple of weeks later.

How about this scenario? You have launched a big project that has several important subgoals, tasks, and dependencies. Some parts can't be completed unless other tasks are done first. You're counting on Max to do patent research, Teresa to create a prototype, and Mike to gather data for manufacturing. When you arrive at the progress meeting the next week, Max greets you with an enthusiastic recital of his research into… product label design?

Yes, that task will have to be done by someone in the future, but it can't even come into play until the patent research is done to make sure no one else owns intellectual property rights to a similar product. Your blood pressure goes up with each alternate label design Max shows you. You hear nothing but silence when you ask Max how far he has come with the patent research. It's another wasted meeting, but it's worse than that. Somehow, Max, your trusted employee, totally missed the point that you needed him to focus on doing the patent research. Max meant well and seems truly bewildered at your frustration. You generally like his work. This is an example of sabotage by poor productivity due to inefficient internal business processes.

Remedies for poor productivity

There are four essential internal processes small businesses can put in place to significantly improve employee performance.

Charting and Tracking employee attendance

Tracking employee work hours, attendance, and time spent on projects is critical to a business in several ways, beyond the obvious need to collect that data for use with the payroll. Quality time clock software can also serve as a schedule maker, task delegation and tracking system, and a communication hub for managers and employees.

Image source - Calita Kabir (Flickr)
Image source - Kev Shine (Flickr)

Tracking employee attendance and hours worked is foundational to solid internal business structure. It is the cornerstone on which many other processes rest. Yet this is an area where many small businesses are still doing it the hard way--with a paper based tracking system or a punch clock system. These older systems make coordinating schedules, delegating tasks effectively, and tracking goals for project completion much harder, if not impossible.

In their blog post on Harvard Business Review called The Dirty Little Secret of Project Management, authors Joe Knight, Roger Thomas, and Brad Angus write:

"The fact is, your system can be very simple as long as it helps you do the following:

Track key variables. Keep a close eye not just on milestones but also on factors that have an impact on profitability. The biggest variable to watch? Labor hours compared with budget, which gives you a pretty good idea of your percent complete at any given time. You’ll also want to track materials costs, change orders, and your subcontractors’ progress. Trouble in any of those areas can throw a project out of whack quickly, so it’s important to track them on a weekly basis."%%

Time clock software does the heavy lifting of tracking large amounts of data, can manage dozens of widely varying work schedules with ease, and can provide you weekly bird's eye reports to see where things might be going wrong that are in need of personal attention. This kind of data juggling and collation is what computers were built to do. They do it much better, and faster, than people can do.

Scheduling employees effectively

A well written time and attendance tracking program will help you to schedule employees when and where you need them most. Simple, yet powerful, rostering features allow you to generate and adjust employee schedules with a couple of taps or keystrokes. A benefit of using time clock software is that employees can inform managers about their availability and request leave through the software, relieving your secretary of the need to mentally juggle information about which people want to work some overtime and which person needs vacation/maternity leave and when.

This flexibility is critical for scheduling important meetings, equipment upgrades and deployments, or arranging product demonstrations. If your system administrator works from 7:00 AM to 3:00 Pm, and you know you're deploying a major operating system upgrade to the network at 9:00 PM, you can change his schedule for that date to work a later shift. Best in class software in this field will automatically notify your employee of the shift change by text message, email, and on the sign-in screen when he logs in for his next shift.

An efficient and easy to use rostering system will help your staff save time, reduce schedule conflicts, and make sure a qualified person is available for a task when it really counts. No more wasted meetings!

Effective task delegation and tracking

Task delegation is the necessary sibling of scheduling. An efficient time tracking system allows you to post informational announcements for employees and assign each employee a unique task or list of tasks for the day or week. Announcements can be tailored for specific departments and work teams, or they can be visible to all employees. If there will be a server outage, a staff luncheon, or special guests visiting the office, you can rest assured your employees will get that information when they begin working, even if they're working at a remote location outside the office.

Image source - Calita Kabir (Flickr)
Image source - geralt (Pixabay)

In addition to sending announcements, time clock software lets you assign specific tasks to each employee. Your staff will have an accurate understanding of what you want them to do as soon as they sign into the system to work their shift. You can assign additional tasks throughout the day, and employees will get notifications of the new tasks via text messages or updates in the mobile companion app that is sold with most time clock software systems. Employees can let you know through the software when a task has been completed, making project completion steps easy to track.

Employees perform in a superior manner when they know which of your assigned tasks are most important and which ongoing activities you consider crucial to their job performance. Absence of forsight or insight can cause an employee to focus on low priority tasks. Assigning actionable tasks, making them visible as staff sign into their shifts, will help employees focus on the most important activity first, helping your business reach its targets and goals.

Assigning employees to tasks where they can excel

One of the strengths of time and attendance tracking software is that it lets you pair the best person with a task. Most modern systems let business owners and managers see who is signed in and working at any point throughout the day or night. In addition, the software lets managers make notes for each employee about what they do well, areas where they need more experience, and what unique skills the person brings to the table.

It's fairly obvious that if you need someone to fix an error on your website, it's best to assign that task to Scott, your PHP developer, rather than assigning it to Nicole in accounting. This concept goes beyond an employee's core job skills to include soft skills.
For example, if you need to speak with a vendor from Sweden, it would be helpful to know that you can assign Dave, from marketing, to make the call because he lived in Sweden for four years and knows the language well. He has a better shot at opening a dialog than your normal purchaser who only speaks English.

If your company is invited to speak at a conference, your time clock software can help you locate a staff member with excellent speaking skills and a full grasp of your product line. Matching tasks with talents and interests helps employees become more productive, successful, and happy at work.

In their article from Harvard Business Review called Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones write:

"Research from the Hay Group finds that highly engaged employees are, on average, 50% more likely to exceed expectations than the least-engaged workers. And companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged folks—by 54% in employee retention, by 89% in customer satisfaction, and by fourfold in revenue growth."

Assigning employees to do work they like, excel at, and feel makes a difference in your organization can turn a lackluster employee into a dedicated team mate. The improvement in productivity can be significant.

Making it all work

In the past, it was difficult to streamline employee productivity. Today's technology can allow you and your staff the freedom to excel and make business goals and projects a reality. What could your company do with a productive, engaged workforce?

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