In the UK labour, productivity is famously poor. Yes, it has improved over the last decade relative to other countries in Europe. But that’s mainly because those countries have stagnated.
Businesses, however, that play the productivity game right, can reap enormous rewards. Getting more done per unit input means that your business is more likely to be profitable. And that your job, and the jobs of your employees is more likely to be secure. So what mistakes are businesses making today? And what can be done about it?
Too Little Automation
According to many futurists, we’re about to enter very different world. The future of business is one where most activities that can be done by a machine, will be done by a machine. And the fact is that machines are going to become ever more capable. There will be machines that can think for themselves, adapt to new situations on the fly and manage vast streams of data without human input.
Thanks to developments in artificial intelligence, this isn’t the world in twenty or thirty years in the future. It is the world that exists right now. The concepts are proven and they’re soon to find mainstream applications in business.
Businesses that get ahead of the curve and automate first will find that they are the most successful. Getting machines to do all the repetitive tasks, like manage timetables and emails, frees up people to do the creative stuff. Having more money to spend on creative talent will allow your business to develop interests in new areas. With the same number of people, you’ll be able to manage more production lines and enter more market segments.
However, improving productivity need not just involve high-tech gadgets to automate processes. Productivity within individual workers can also be enhanced through training in repetitive tasks. Research by Tethys Solutions found that in one company of five people, time spent on repetitive tasks could be reduced by more than 50%.
The problem was that many employees were doing tasks, like social media management and data entry manually. That’s because manually doing these things takes a little research and is easy and straightforward. However, with just a couple of weeks of research, employees reduced time spent on repetitive tasks by up to a factor of seven. Often, they found that there were programs out there that did what they were trying to do by hand automatically.
Employees Have No Time To Unwind
The modern world is chock-full of distractions that effectively prevent employees from unwinding. Now that business have gone mobile, it’s entirely possible for all employees to be connected to their work 24/7.
This, however, isn’t healthy. The reason why having time to unwind is so good for us, is that it allows our brains to consolidate all that the week has challenged them with. Whilst we’re resting, our unconscious is busy making new brain connections and preparing us for the next round of stress. These new connections could be related to something that employees had to learn at work. They could be connected to managing and solving a difficult relationship. They could be related to forming a new healthy habit.
Whatever the brain needs to do in order to accommodate some new stress, it needs time to do it. That’s why it’s so essential that when employees finish at work, they have the necessary time to recuperate afterwards. This means that emails and phone calls out of hours would be kept to a minimum. In fact, research seems to indicate that the longer we work, the less able we are to use the right vocabulary and form memories. In other words, the longer we work, the more stupid we get.
Isolation from the constant barrage of texts and emails can also help individuals develop a greater sense of empathy. An article from the Boston Globe suggested that solitude actually helps individuals gain a sense of empathy. And also makes their memories more accurate and lasting.
Your Employees Are In Danger
When your working environment is a dangerous place, it’s likely to lead to lowered productivity. The problem with a dangerous and unhealthy working environment is twofold. Firstly, you risk harming the health of employees, which is bad for them and bad for you. But secondly, a hazardous workspace actually impedes the ability of employees to do their job.
If they’re forever managing wires, messy desks or dysfunctional tools, their productivity will suffer. They’ll be spending so much time managing the risks in their environment that they won’t be getting any work done. That’s why it might be worth using Peninsula’s Health and Safety consultancy service to find out what risks are faced and what can be done.
Employees who face daily risks at work to their health are more likely to be stressed and less likely to work if they feel that they are in danger. Both stress and accidents are the biggest causes of work-related absence. Furthermore, when an employee is absent, it puts a lot of additional pressure on the remaining employees. So it’s important that these are effectively managed in the workplace so as to minimise the risk of absence and keep productivity high in the long term.
Failure To Delegate
What trait connects all the greatest business people in the world? I don’t think it comes down their unique knowledge of their business product. And I don’t think it comes down to any special intellectual talents – although both of these can help.
Rather, I think it all comes down to the capacity to effectively delegate. Delegation is the only way to run a successful business. But often, business owners want to feel like they really own all of the decisions in their business. They want a hand in every decision, and they want it all to be funnelled through them for approval.
I don’t think this is an effective way to work. They have to trust, and often accept, that other people will, at some point have to make their own decisions that affect the company. Find people you really respect and trust, so that you can delegate effectively and move your business forward.