According to Bain & Company, companies that successfully improve their organizational efficiency, don’t just implement a few initiatives aimed at achieving their cost and productivity goals; their leaders adopt an efficiency mindset to holistically improve their organizations.
Taking a holistic approach to efficiency management, enables you to achieve greater, more lasting results than the one-off projects that most managers focus on since widespread actions solve the root causes of poor productivity.
To adopt an efficiency mindset, you need to ask tough questions including:
- Are you holding your team accountable to the metrics that drive your company’s success? Or, are you focused on vanity metrics that don’t generate meaningful results?
- Do your employees know the most efficient ways to spend their time?
- Do your employees have the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to complete their jobs efficiently?
- Does your team fully understand what being “highly efficient” looks like in your organization?
If your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” to any of those questions, keep reading to learn how to holistically improve your organizational efficiency.
Provide Ongoing Skills Training
Research shows that providing skills training is one of the most reliable ways to improve employee efficiency. It enables employees to:
- Complete their work more efficiently
- Generate faster, more effective solutions to challenges
- Think of new ways to achieve their goals
And generally perform better than employees who don’t engage in continuous learning.
Providing on-going training doesn’t have to require a significant financial or time investment. Here are four ways you can efficiently create an on-going training program:
- Subscribe to an online learning platform like Udemy, Coursera for Business or LinkedIn Learning. These are great options if you don’t have time to create your own training program.
- Have your top-performers host mini seminars to teach others their skills. This option is ideal if your team is filled with specialists who you want to cross-train.
- Provide regular, in-depth feedback. Leaders often forget that providing specific and actionable feedback is an effective way to train employees within the context of their work. For maximum impact, tell your employees what skills they need to learn to improve and how.
- Empower your team to engage in learning experiments. If you work in a highly-specialized field, finding valuable training materials can be impossible. Enable them to teach themselves by allowing them to invest time and resources into experimental projects whose sole purpose is to learn new skills.
If your employees aren’t accustomed to having regular training exercises, you may need to provide incentives to gain by-in. To learn more, check out our article:
Conduct Quarterly Resource Audits
While providing additional resources is often an effective way to boost employee productivity, if left unchecked, it can damage organizational efficiency.
Conducting quarterly resource audits enables you to see if you’re investing in the right resources. If you’re not, it gives you an opportunity to improve organizational efficiency by cutting or reallocating costs.
These audits don’t need to be extensive. A simple three question survey can tell if a resource is generating an ROI. All you need to find out is:
- What percentage of your employees are using the resource
- How often they're using it
- How much time it saves them
Using that info, you can easily calculate if the hours employees are saving justifies the cost of the resource. If you’re interested in learning more about how your team leverages their available resources, you can do in-depth analysis on a less frequent basis.
Teach Your Team How to Communicate Effectively
Research shows that in-office employees spend 50% to 80% of their time communicating. That may sound like an exaggeration but when you consider that it includes email, conversations, meetings, and chats, that stat is reflective of the average, collaborative employee.
Even though communication consumes so much time, very few organizations teach employees how to communicate efficiently. Most leaders view communication styles as a personality preference not something that can be optimized to improve productivity.
However, there are several ways that you can help employees communicate effectively and improve their overall efficiency:
- Reduce the amount of time that your team spends in meetings. You can do this several ways including requiring all meetings to follow an agenda, empowering people to opt out of meetings that aren’t relevant to them, and requiring people to send follow-up emails after each meeting that outlines all of the action steps discussed.
- Let employees take 3-4 hours to respond to chat and 24 hours to respond to email. This will boost your team’s productivity by giving them time to focus on projects without constantly being distracted by messages.
- Coach them on how to write clear, concise emails. One of the reasons why email is so time-consuming is people send poorly written emails that cause miscommunications. To solve this, every time an employee sends an email that is confusing, unnecessarily long, and/or is missing key details, reply back with feedback to improve. If all of the managers in your organization do this, you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of time people spend on back and forth email conversations.
Reducing the amount of time your team spends on unproductive communication will improve organizational efficiency by enabling them to spend more time on the projects that drive their success.
Demonstrate Unwavering Commitment to Organizational Efficiency
Research from Bain & Company found that a lack of executive leadership commitment is the number one reason why efficiency programs fail. Adopting an efficiency mindset is challenging and when senior leadership fails to focus on it employees naturally shift their attention to the next thing that leaders are talking about.
Often, leaders try to instill commitment by talking about the benefits that the efficiency program has on the company. However, their messages fail to have a significant impact unless employees see you playing an active role in its implementation.
Here are four ways to demonstrate your commitment to improving efficiency:
- Celebrate teams and individuals who have made efficiency improvements. Taking time to recognize their efforts reinforces the value of the changes they’re making.
- Acknowledge inefficiencies. Whenever you notice an obvious inefficiency (ex. Meetings running long and going off-topic, prolonged indecisiveness, inefficient workflows, etc.). If you allow inefficiencies to go unaddressed, it shows that it’s not a priority.
- Demonstrate your organization’s efficiency standards. Whether your organization is seeking to streamline communication, cut back on ineffective projects, or achieve other efficiency improvements, you must adopt those improvements yourself if you expect your team to follow.
- Participate in efficiency planning. Often senior leaders set ambitious goals and then leave their teams to figure out how to achieve them. The problem with taking a completely hands-off approach is that it can demoralize employees who don’t know how to achieve the goal they’re assigned or understand its importance. Offering your insights during the planning phase gives them a sense of direction and reinforces why they’re undertaking the challenge.
Leading by example and playing an active role in implementing your efficiency program will help your organization stay focused on driving improvements.
Meet Regularly with Employees to Discuss Goal Progress
Visionary leaders often make the mistake of setting ambiguous, long-term goals for their teams without providing guidance on how to be successful. As a result, Gallup, has found that only about half of employees fully understand what’s expected of them at work.
This is a huge barrier to organizational efficiency since it causes employees to:
- Waste time trying to figure out if they’re working on the right things
- Spend time on projects that don’t drive the specific results you’re looking for
- Complete projects incorrectly since they lack understanding of the end goal
To maximize organizational efficiency, you need to meet regularly with employees, set short-term goals and ensure they’re making progress on the tasks that drive their success.
Not only does regular goal setting keep employees focused on high-priority tasks, it also motivates them to do their work successfully. In the same study, Gallup found that employees who set priorities with their managers are over four times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.
Ultimately, the key to improving and sustaining organizational efficiency is working closely with employees to ensure they’re focused on the right tasks and have the skills needed to succeed.
About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others