Most business owners are after the holy grail of work efficiency. How can we do more with less? How can technology help us take a clunky business process and streamline it? How can flexible scheduling help our productivity instead of damaging it?
These are valid questions, but in our enthusiastic pursuit of answers, we are sometimes overzealous in implementing strategies we think will lead to greater work efficiency.
Let's explore a few!
Automating When You Shouldn't
Many leaders make the mistake of believing that because it's possible to automate something it means that you should.
Rather than indiscriminately automating huge numbers of processes so that you can save on labor costs and increase work efficiency, carefully consider each instance of automation.
By tracking expenses on a daily basis, owners can instantly see if sales and spending patterns don't line up, or if expenses in a certain category are running amuck.
Also consider how artificial intelligence and human workers can work together to achieve the best result. In most cases, you will need to have at least a few humans involved to provide oversight and ethical or moral guidance. (We futurists call this “human in the loop.")
Introducing Too Much Software
Admiring shiny new software and other business technologies that promise better work efficiency is normal. But if we bog our employees down with too many programs and apps that don't integrate with one another or are redundant in their functionality, we actually risk a productivity down slide. They could end up spending more time figuring out how to use systems than performing their actual jobs.
When considering a new tool, think through the value it will bring to your existing infrastructure and do a limited pilot to determine employee adoption and usage.
Estimating Numbers Instead of Documenting Them
Most business owners were more fastidious in the days when we worked with manual accounting processes every day. Now, in the name of work efficiency, we estimate numbers like revenue and expenses and don't look at the real amounts as frequently. We often underestimate expenses, which can lead to thinking our business is more profitable than it is.
Fortunately, many business credit cards include expense management tools that keep all business expenses in one place, reliably track and report on all the money funneling out of your business and simplify reconciliation. By tracking expenses on a daily basis, owners can instantly see if sales and spending patterns don't line up, or if expenses in a certain category are running amuck.
Scheduling Long Days for More Off Days
At first glance, it seems more efficient to institute an employee work schedule with, let's say 12 hours on Monday-Thursday and Fridays off. The trouble is that the human brain isn't built to focus for that long, and like any other muscle needs to rest.
Personally, I've employed a system in which I work intensively for about an hour and then break for 15-20 minutes. My break can be a social media check, a phone call or even a walk outside—as long as it doesn't pertain to the task that requires my full concentration.
When I repeat this pattern several hours in a row, I find it's far more likely that I can complete the task with attention and precision THAT day. Yes, it means that in a given workday, I might only operate at peak focus for five hours. But those five hours maximize my brain's potential far more than 10 hours I might spend burned out, staring at my devices or the window.
Reducing Training So Employees Can Get to Work
During the 2008 Recession, many organizations abandoned learning and development initiatives in the pursuit of leaner operations. However some determined that employees could spend more time working if they weren't training, and in many cases did not reinstitute learning programs even once they could afford them again.
This strategy didn't improve work efficiency. According to LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94 percent of employees stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development and 90 percent of executives say learning and development is necessary for organizational growth. (The report "surveyed approximately 4,000 professionals globally on LinkedIn.")
There is often more to work efficiency than is readily apparent. Protect yourself against erroneous conclusions by testing new strategies slowly and collecting proof points as you go.
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