Written by: Emily Young // Jul 3, 2020
Last updated: Jul 6, 2020
You want your team to be as productive as possible, and that means reducing waste. What do we waste a lot of? Time. Most organizations lose time to everything from inefficient meetings to outdated processes. But if you know how to wisely allocate your team’s time, you’ll be better prepared to meet deadlines, increase productivity, and attract top employees. Let’s take a closer look at how time management drives business process improvement.
First, Talk to Employees
If you want to improve efficiency in your company, start by talking to your employees. “It's always an employee-driven process, because who knows the process better than the employees?” said Ian Briggs, an instructor and curriculum developer for the USF Center for Corporate Training and Professional Development, including the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Program.
Some employees will jump at the chance to reform time-sucking processes. Others may balk at change. (“But we’ve always done it this way!”) Try to convince all team members that improved processes will make their lives easier.
“If you want the business to continually improve, you must have buy-in at all levels of the organization,” Briggs said. “You can only do it through the people believing that it's to their benefit.”
If an employee continues to be reluctant, invest them in the change: Tell them how much you value their experience and skills, and reward them for their help with “anything from a Starbucks card to a promotion.”
Look at the Usual Suspect: Meetings
Every organization will have unique challenges, which is why your team’s input is so valuable. But let’s zero in on a huge time vortex for most companies: Meetings. If time is money, even one or two inefficient meetings can be costly. “From a financial perspective, let's just say you have a couple of directors, a vice president, a few managers in this meeting, you've probably wasted the best part of $10-15,000,” Briggs said.
Follow these tips for greater efficiency:
- Remember, short meetings are OK. "Everyone seems to stick to this idea that a meeting is going to be an hour,” Briggs said. “A meeting can be 15 minutes and be totally far more effective than a meeting that goes for an hour or two hours.” If you finish a meeting early, don’t try to fill the remaining time: Let your employees tackle important projects or go home.
- Don’t double-book employees. As unbelievable as it may seem, some people are asked to be in two meetings at once. Obviously, this drains focus and productivity.
- Give employees the time to prepare for meetings. “Let's just say, for example, you and I will have a meeting, and then prior to that meeting, you have absolutely no idea why I've called you into this meeting,” Briggs said. “But because I've provided you with no background, no reading, no understanding what the outcomes are to be, any of those things, you go into that meeting totally unprepared. And then I say to you, ‘So what do you think about this?’ and for some reason you're supposed to be able to come up with all these brilliant ideas on the spur of the moment.” This is how many organizations approach meetings. Instead, help employees prepare by giving them the context and intended outcomes. You’ll end up with more accurate information and better ideas.
- Set follow-up goals for the next session and assign tasks. Otherwise, “the next meeting is about the last meeting,” Briggs said. “And then of course nothing gets done.”
Just Rip Off the Bandage
When companies discover a problem, they often put a temporary fix in place rather than finding a long-term solution, Briggs said. Employee turnover exacerbates the issue. “In the course of 10 years, you might have three, or four, or five people even, who are doing that same job, and each of them are putting Band-Aids on to remedy some sort of problem,” Briggs said. “No one remembers right back to the beginning though, why they did it in the first place.”
What happens when you pile on multiple bandages? “The whole thing just totally falls off because it's not adhesive anymore,” Briggs said. “That's when we get into some critical systemic issues in the business.”
Here’s an example: An organization had slapped so many adhesive bandages onto its hiring form that it became 17 pages long. When potential employees tried to complete it, the behemoth form would crash. The result? The organization “couldn't get good people,” Briggs said, in part because applicants felt the company didn’t value their time.
How do you avoid this trap?
- Look at your processes and keep them up to date. Organizations are constantly evolving as technology changes. “We're living in a different world than we were, let's say, five years ago,” Briggs said. “If we're still using processes that are five years old and haven't been reviewed, we could be doing ourselves a significant disservice.”
- Train employees to recognize Band-Aids and remove them. “Develop a culture of continuous improvement,” Briggs said. “You really do want a situation where your people are thinking about ‘how can we make things better for ourselves?’ and ‘how can we make things better for the people who we serve?’”
- Map your current procedures. This can help you find where things slow down.
Offer Flexibility to Employees
Time management isn’t just about efficiency. It’s also about flexibility.
Employees want to know you value their time, including their lives outside of the workplace. This is particularly true for younger employees. “What organizations need to do is make sure that they're in tune now with more current generations,” Briggs said. The nine-to-five schedule is no longer in vogue. Instead, it’s about flexibility.
“People don't want to put in 60, 70 hours a week, you know, just totally focused on work,” Briggs said. “Part of that day has to be allowed to be for a work-life balance.”
When you show employees you care, they are more engaged, leading to “less turnover, greater attention, greater productivity,” Briggs said. That’s good for business.
Process improvement is never-ending. That’s why creating a culture of process improvement is key to success. If you’d like to learn more about how to increase efficiency at your workplace, consider USF’s Process Improvement programs. Remember, we’re here to answer any of your questions. Contact us through our website, or call us at 813-974-0950. We’re here to help.