There’s not a business owner alive who doesn’t want to be more efficient. A lack of efficiency can end up costing revenue, employees, and customers. And such inefficiencies can lurk anywhere. Business models and the time employees spend on various tasks and responsibilities can contain redundancies. Even the utilities your locations use and your environmental footprint can fall under the inefficiency umbrella.
Making your business more fine-tuned can be difficult if you try to come up with improvement areas on your own. It’s easy to identify what you believe are noticeable problems, but areas that appear to be “OK” may not be. Getting additional perspectives from employees in a wide range of departments and roles can supplement your own. So can the viewpoints and expertise of consultants and operational gurus.
Better use of your business’s resources and time comes from identifying and tackling both the obvious and not-so-obvious areas. From processes that should be automated to culture changes that should be made, here are five things you can do to improve efficiency.
Use Automation for Repetitive Processes
Within all the work your employees accomplish, there are probably tasks that are either repetitive or unnecessary. Look at overlapping responsibilities or simplistic tasks that take time away from higher priorities. This is especially important for smaller teams that have less time to cover these tasks. For instance, if HR is still tallying employee time cards and making direct deposits, a small business payroll solution could automate both. You might also want to automate vacation requests and set up a self-service portal for customers.
Think of automation as a way to make things more convenient for your customers and your staff. Automation shouldn’t completely replace all human-to-human interaction, but sometimes it’s better to take human contact out of the equation. Customers may want to go online to find answers to basic questions or get simple solutions from a chatbot. Completing a change of address or redeeming reward points, for example, shouldn’t require a human service rep.
Limit Employee Time-sucks
Face-to-face communication is invaluable, but when it comes in the form of long, frequent meetings, productivity can suffer. Determine whether there are better ways to organize, schedule, and hold meetings. When there are too many meetings scheduled throughout the workweek or meetings get sidetracked, employees can get off task.
Try either limiting the duration of meetings or dedicate no-meeting days where employees can focus entirely on their work. Some companies and departments have daily huddles that only last five or 10 minutes. For longer meetings like brainstorming sessions, some organizations find success by designating a half or a whole day each quarter.
If your company uses digital communication and collaboration tools, let employees know they can silence notifications when they have high workloads. Of course, communication and collaboration between staff often depend on digital tools. Where that’s the case, employees can stay in touch while still limiting distractions by checking for updates at set times each day.
Align Your Objectives
Do you find that some employees and departments seem to have conflicting priorities? Do they have different ideas of where the company is headed? When individuals and departments are out of sync with your company’s overall vision, productivity can decline.
Setting company visions and priorities together can help align individuals and various functions. Sometimes it’s a matter of making sure everyone is on the same page through clear communication. Some staff members and departments may not be aware of the company’s goals and direction. Pursuing conflicting goals is a sure recipe for inefficiency.
You can conduct consensus-building exercises if you find that employees have conflicting ideas about your company’s vision. Consensus decision-making brings an entire group together. The process involves giving everyone space to voice their perspectives and concerns before reaching an agreement.
Examine Business Models From Top to Bottom
Whether you’re looking at industry business models or those specific to your company, you’ll probably find things that aren’t working. Going through models, solutions, and processes from top to bottom can reveal missed opportunities and inefficiencies.
Maybe there’s an industry standard that needs some tweaking to make better use of your company’s resources. Established best practices may have built-in redundancies, or there may be tech advancements that can improve processes.
It’s also possible to find gaps and inefficiencies by looking at your competitors’ business models. You can use these to create solutions and new processes that correct those problems. Companies like Netflix and Southwest Airlines have been able to do this and disrupt entire industries.
Don’t forget to include your employees’ ideas when creating new business models or revamping existing ones. Research indicates that one in five employees do not have a formal way of submitting ideas to their company. Even worse, those same employees say their leaders do not ask for their feedback or contributions. Managers aren’t the only source of efficiency-boosting innovations, so don’t make the mistake of operating as though they are.
Streamline Your Supplies and Resources
A solid way to improve efficiency is to look at how your business is using its existing resources. This includes everything from your supply chain to your employees and equipment. Is there a better deal you can negotiate with your current suppliers? Perhaps other vendors will offer you a more competitive bid or include added services like distribution. You could also consider the possibility of using substitute raw materials.
If you rent your locations, would buying properties cost you less in the long run? Does it make sense to consolidate locations instead of having employees spread apart? Perhaps it would be more cost-efficient to have some staff work remotely if your business can support this arrangement.
Are there roles employees are fulfilling that can be combined or redefined? Calculating the differences between scenarios and comparing the results with your profitability goals can reveal which direction you should go.
Finding ways to decrease your company’s inefficiencies means looking beyond the obvious and not resolving to go at it alone. Find processes that you can automate, get rid of time-wasters, and clearly define and communicate your vision. Work through existing business models from top to bottom. Then determine what resources you can afford to streamline. Taking these steps and democratizing the process will get you closer to creating a highly efficient organization.