By Beverly Flaxington
Since the recession, businesses have cut back on staff and expected more productivity from fewer employees. This has led to some troubling trends in small businesses today. For example, many businesses have eliminated “classic admin” support in the name of cost cutting. These are modestly paid administrators who stuff envelopes, set up meetings, organize files, run errands, and update databases. As a result, highly skilled, highly paid people are wasting precious time doing activities that don’t lead to gains.
Making one’s business run more efficiently needn’t cost a lot of money. In fact, if done correctly, it will lead to explosive growth. If profits are sluggish, take a look at your company’s infrastructure and workflow patterns. Here are five steps that can help.
1. Align compensation with responsibility–and vice versa. Make sure your highest paid people are doing high-value tasks. Make sure low-value tasks that require less skill are delegated to an efficient, lower-paid administrator. Know what each task is “worth” in terms of its importance to the organization’s profitability. Even if you have to hire a new person, that salary will be recouped by increased productivity from your best performers.
2. Get people focused on their desired outcome. This is about making a link between what your company needs people to accomplish, and what they are actually spending time doing. If your sales or product people are spending time on low-value administrative tasks, does that help them meet their goal? Along the way, are the tasks and priorities focused on where you want to end up? Eliminate as many obstacles as possible to make the process from start to desired outcome more efficient and productive.
3. Match employees’ skill set and behavioral style. Every person has behavioral preferences. I may be a great outside-the-box thinker and very creative in my approach, so prospects and clients may respond well to me. But if I am then asked to be very rules-focused, or to read spreadsheets to find the errors in some calculations, I won’t perform well because this is a mismatch between my behavioral style and my skill set. It takes too much time and stress for employees to be proficient in multiple areas. Asking the employee to be a jack of all trades will hinder efficiency and productivity.
4. Conduct an annual efficiency review down in the trenches. Once a year, you should review process, flow, who does what, etc. so they can get a clear picture of all the obstacles standing in the way of top efficiency. Too often, business owners and managers become detached from what’s happening down in the trenches. They take the “just do it” approach without acknowledging the issues facing their people. “I stuffed envelopes early in my career, why can’t they?” may be their attitude. People can’t do what they’re hired to do without support from senior management to help them be more efficient and effective.
5. Don’t “major in the minors.” Majoring in the minors happens when a firm manages to the small numbers, not the big picture. For example, they cut travel budgets or won’t let a sales rep take someone to lunch, but then waste money on a marketing project with no clearly defined outcomes. Employees are left to feel unimportant and unengaged, but then the company can’t figure out why they aren’t getting production. Don’t let your CFO run the strategic part of the business.
Beverly Flaxington is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), hypnotherapist, and career and business adviser. She’s the author of five business and financial books, including the award-winning book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, and her latest book, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012). Learn more at http://www.thehumanbehaviorcoach.com.Image used under license from Shutterstock