What are some basic methods to boost productivity by up to 30 per cent, without spending money or firing employees?
Some people will tell you the only ways to boost productivity in any kind of meaningful sense is to either splurge on a new initiative or to make an example of the least productive members of your workforce. They’re wrong. Here are five easy and effective methods that don’t break the bank.
Do an email audit
On a daily basis, how much time is each employee spending compiling and reading emails? Too much, too little? Why not find out?
For three days keep a log of every time you attend to emails and get your staff to do the same. Then work out an average amount of time per person across the business. Multiply that average time per week by the mean weekly wage and then by 52. This gives you the total cost of using email annually across the business. Then multiply that by two to compensate for the lost time not doing other more productive business activities.
Did the number scare you? If so, set up an email protocol and ensure that employees and managers follow it. If you can reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary email by 25 per cent you could make a big dent in the business’s bottom-line.
Reduce the number of procedural meetings
Like with the emails, do a meeting audit. How many meetings do you attend each week? How much time do they take? More importantly, how many of these meetings are unnecessary?
I am all for increasing the quality of communication in a business but some weekly procedural and reporting meetings don’t achieve much. And meetings are costly.
Six people in a room for a one hour meeting can cost the business $850 to $1,200. You need to be able to justify that expense. A 20 per cent reduction in these kinds of meetings can boost productivity and save a business thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, depending on its size.
Replace performance appraisals with performance development
Performance reviews are a waste of time. There is no empirical evidence I know of that demonstrates conclusively that the dreaded performance review boosts productivity or results in better performance. A smarter idea is to enact short, regular, focused conversations around performance.
Stop surveying people and start listening
Organisations spend thousands of dollars a year conducting a variety of online surveys assessing levels of employee engagement. Ironically, getting staff to complete the engagement survey is often the only form of engagement!
When the results are collated, they are generally discussed at the senior management level before fading into oblivion. More time ought to be spent on discussing the results with staff and less time asking them to fill out these surveys.
Eliminating fake work
Peterson and Gaylan wrote a thought-provoking book called, ‘Fake Work’. Their general argument is that we spend too much time doing what they refer to as fake work – that is, work that isn’t directly, or even indirectly, linked to the strategic direction of the business.
They believe that even a small reduction in fake work will significantly boost productivity across a large organisation. Using the time-honoured ‘To Do List’ can help in this regard – something anyone can write one on their smart phone.
Remember: it’s not about writing the list. It is the prioritisation of tasks and the adherence to that list that makes all the difference. Imagine for a moment if everyone in your organisation was committed to correctly using a daily To Do List. What difference that would make to eliminating fake work?
If you commit to even just one of these ideas, it would make a profound difference to the productivity across the business you are working in.
No doubt there are other ways of increasing productivity that are cost effective and I would love to hear some of these from you.
Dr Tim Baker is the author of seven books, including his latest: Performance Management for Agile Organisations.