Thursday December 17, 2015
Whether you’re a solopreneur or managing a small team, productivity will make or break your business. You simply don’t have the margin to cover a team that wastes time — and your own time is much too valuable to waste! Plus, lack of productivity gradually erodes morale and increases turnover.
The problem is, you can’t always spot unproductive workers by looking to see who looks busy and who looks bored. Some of the “busiest” workers in your business might actually be unproductive time-wasters in disguise. These workers might not even realize how much more productive they could be if they organized their workflow more efficiently!
"You can’t always spot unproductive workers by looking to see who looks busy & who looks bored."
Unproductive work is a cultural problem, and it must be solved at the root of the problem — by improving your company culture around work.
At AllProWebTools, we’ve found the secret is in the software. Specifically, the software you and your team uses to assign tasks, communicate, and generate reports on productivity. Here’s how we recommend using software tools to cut down on “fake work” in your small business!
I maintain that one of the most important cultural changes a company can make to improve productivity is to increase transparency. By transparency, I mean the extent to which everyone in the company can see what everyone else is doing.
For example, at AllProWebTools, we work hard to make sure that everyone clearly understands their role in the company. Specifically, how the work they do influences and is influenced by the work that others are doing.
We accomplish this with a tool called the Workflow Timeline (a live feed showing what everyone in the company is up to) and with our tasking system. Employees can see how projects move around the office, and what everyone else’s roles are.
We’ve found that this not only increases accountability for employees, but also encourages friendly competition and independent collaboration.
Vigilantly Track Time
Far from being a micromanagement tactic, time-tracking is most valuable for the people doing the tracking. At AllProWebTools, all of the employees track their own time by the task they’re working on.
This helps employees to plan their days effectively, based on how long similar tasks have taken in the past, and helps keep low-priority projects for consuming more than their fair share of time. It gives employees and managers concrete data to talk about during realignment meetings, as well.
Reduce In-Person Meetings
You don’t want to pay people to spend time in meetings, do you? You want to pay them for the work that the meeting enables! While some meetings are necessary and productive, most go on longer than needed, get side-tracked, and don’t leave a written record of action steps.
Moving as many meetings as possible to virtual ones is a great way to save time. We use our tasking system, internal live chat, and the Workflow Timeline to greatly reduce the number of meetings in our office. These systems are naturally efficient, leave a written record, and don’t require everyone to be in a room together.
There are tons of studies out there showing the importance of prioritizing your day before you get started. Pareto’s principle tells us that 80% of our results come from just 20% of our efforts. That means it’s crucial to understand which of our tasks are that 20%, and prioritize them accordingly!
Our tasking system in AllProWebTools is designed to help employees prioritize their day based on what’s most important to the organization. All tasks are given a priority level, set by the person who assigned the task. The employee’s task inbox then sorts itself, so they can just work from the top of the list down.
"Help employees prioritize their day based on what’s most important to the organization."
As with prioritization, there are countless studies showing how much more effective single-tasking is than multi-tasking. It’s been proven that the conscious human mind can only do one thing at a time. What we think of as multi-tasking is simply switching rapidly from task to task.
The problem is, each time our brain has to switch gears, we lose some productivity. In fact, tasks done concurrently (multi-tasking) can take up to 50% longer than if the tasks were performed separately.
Our tasking system and timecards are set up to encourage employees to focus on just one task at a time. Itemizing your task list into discrete items and tracking your time by task can help you to do the same in your business.
Create a Quiet, Productive Virtual Office
When you walk into the office at AllProWebTools, you notice something unusual. There are people answering phones, yes, but everyone else is working quietly. Meetings are rare and occasional, and new employees train themselves through the console.
There is tons of communication and collaboration going on behind the scenes. Our employees chat each other, send tasks back and forth around the office, and get important updates from the Workflow Timeline. But there isn’t much need to talk.
That’s because we’ve created a thriving virtual office, where remote employees can communicate as easily as two people sitting feet away from each other. Without sacrificing the personal elements of work, our virtual office is more productive. It’s quiet, well-organized, consistent, and fully transparent.
I’ve dedicated my career to building AllProWebTools because I have a clear vision in my mind of how small businesses should function, and you can’t do it without software. Transparency, diligent time tracking, and organization take up way too much time if you have to do them by hand.
Small business owners tell me all the time that they can’t afford business software. They say they don’t have the time or the money to set them up. In response, all I can say is that from my point of view, you can’t afford not to, in terms of time or money. The productivity you can gain by shifting some of that work onto a software program more than makes up for the cost of the tools.
How do you crack down on “fake work” in your business?