With the New Year, new priorities emerge for businesses and many of them plan to improve productivity within their organisation.
A 2015 CIPD report defines productivity as "how effectively organisations, and the people working in them, produce value from available inputs".
Productivity is widely thought of as determining the economic health of a nation, driving growth through increased output per hour. This in turn increases salaries and profits, leading to improved standards of living.
However, a 2019 report published by the Office for National Statistics states that the productivity of British workers fell at the fastest pace for five years in the second quarter, which is worrying news as we head into 2020.
While it may go without saying that some Brexit uncertainty has impacted the economy, it seems that there is much scope for productivity improvement.
The good news is that for the vast majority of businesses, increasing productivity doesn't have to mean implementing a drastic programme of change. In many cases, it could simply involve being clear about why certain processes are in place, and empowering people to make time-saving decisions.
So, if your business could do with a productivity boost in 2020, here are some suggestions to consider:
1. Avoid wasting time in meetings
While nobody actively sets out to waste time in meetings, it seems a lot of us do.
The software company Atlassian has calculated that "the average office worker spends over 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings". Statistics like these may have contributed to Elon Musk developing his famously successful three-rule strategy for meetings at Tesla (no large meetings, if nothing is happening get up and leave, and no frequent meetings).
It may seem obvious, but thinking in advance about whether a meeting is really necessary may save everybody some much-needed time.
2. Always follow through on action points
People with a reputation for doing what they say they will spend less time in long meetings and follow-up discussions. The reason is simple: they are trusted to do whatever is asked of them. Ensuring action points are simple, clear, and well-communicated will help everybody keep on top of their task lists.
3. Clarify work and processes through collaboration
Low productivity often occurs when tasks and processes are unclear or duplicated.
Rather than everybody working quietly in silos, encouraging cross-collaboration between employees will help to clarify individual tasks, highlight process improvements, and even encourage innovation through a regular exchange of ideas.
4. Ensure everybody understands the company's direction of travel
In order to be productive, people need to understand why they are performing the tasks assigned to them, and how the company intends to use the work they produce.
Their roles also need to be relevant to the ultimate objective, whether this is a specific project outcome, or the company's mission.
Ensuring everybody is clear about the reason why their role, or a project exists, means they are more likely to pull together in the same direction and be able to understand what the priorities are – ultimately leading to increased levels of productivity.
5. Foster an atmosphere of continuous communication
It is always tempting to assume that everybody understands the company's vision and objectives – even if usually these are only discussed at Director level meetings with very little communication back to the teams who are actually the one delivering most of the work.
Regular progress updates will keep the company's objectives at the forefront of people's minds as they go about their working day. This will help to instil a continuous sense of purpose, the ability to prioritise effectively as well as encouraging them to challenge anything unclear or going against set objectives.
Open communication also enables people to feedback any obstacle they may encounter, so that barriers to reaching full potential and productivity levels can be removed.
In summary, there is no one magic formula to increasing business productivity. However, by encouraging communication, collaboration, and understanding you will have very good starting points.
Viridian HR enables fast-paced and changing businesses to achieve their HR goals. If you would like to discuss your organisation's structure and processes in detail and identify some key areas for increased productivity in 2020, please get in touch.