As daylight savings approaches, it’s a good time to think about different ways you can, well, save time. These days, employees are spending more and more time at the office–certainly exceeding the typical 40-hour work week. However, increasing hours worked does not necessarily translate to increased efficiency.
So, how can leaders and managers improve employee productivity while still saving time? Here are the top 10 things you can do to increase employee efficiency at the office:
While this tip might seem the most obvious, it is often the most difficult to put into practice. We get it–your company is your baby, so you want to have a direct hand in everything that goes on with it. While there is nothing wrong with prioritizing quality (it is what makes a business successful, after all), checking over every small detail yourself rather than delegating can waste everyone’s valuable time.
Instead, give responsibilities to qualified employees, and trust that they will perform the tasks well. This gives your employees the opportunity to gain skills and leadership experience that will ultimately benefit your company. You hired them for a reason, now give them a chance to prove you right.
Knowing your employees’ skills and behavioral styles is essential for maximizing efficiency. For example, an extroverted, creative, out-of-the-box thinker is probably a great person to pitch ideas to clients. However, they might struggle if they are given a more rule-intensive, detail-oriented task.
Asking your employees to be great at everything just isn’t efficient–instead, before giving an employee an assignment, ask yourself: is this the person best suited to perform this task? If not, find someone else whose skills and styles match your needs.
Every manager knows that communication is the key to a productive workforce. Technology has allowed us to contact each other with the mere click of a button (or should we say, tap of a touch screen)–this naturally means that current communication methods are as efficient as possible, right? Not necessarily. A McKinsey study found that emails can take up nearly 28% of an employee’s time. In fact, email was revealed to be the second most time-consuming activity for workers (after their job-specific tasks).
Instead of relying solely on email, try social networking tools (such as Slack) designed for even quicker team communication. You can also encourage your employees to occasionally adopt a more antiquated form of contact…voice-to-voice communication. Having a quick meeting or phone call can settle a matter that might have taken hours of back-and-forth emails.
You can’t expect employees to be efficient if they don’t have a focused goal to aim for. If a goal is not clearly defined and actually achievable, employees will be less productive. So, try to make sure employees’ assignments are as clear and narrow as possible. Let them know exactly what you expect of them, and tell them specifically what impact this assignment will have.
One way to do this is to make sure your goals are “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Before assigning an employee a task, ask yourself if it fits each of these requirements. If not, ask yourself how the task can be tweaked to help your workers stay focused and efficient.
Related article: How to Increase Employee Efficiency in 2017 with Goal Setting
One of the best ways to encourage employees to be more efficient is to actually give them a reason to do so. Recognizing your workers for a job well done will make them feel appreciated and encourage them to continue increasing their productivity.
When deciding how to reward efficient employees, make sure you take into account their individual needs or preferences. For example, one employee might appreciate public recognition, while another would prefer a private “thank you.” In addition to simple words of gratitude, here are a few incentives you can try:
If possible, try not to give employees smaller, unnecessary tasks when they are focused on a larger goal. Take a look at the team’s routine, and see if there is anything that you can cut to give employees more time to focus on higher-priority assignments.
For example, if employees are asking to write daily reports for their supervisors, but supervisors generally don’t have time to read them, consider cutting the report requirement. Doing something simply as a formality is wasting valuable time that could be used for accomplishing goals that actually help your company.
Reducing training, or cutting it all together, might seem like a good way to save company time and money (learning on the job is said to be an effective way to train, after all). However, this could ultimately backfire. Forcing employees to learn their jobs on the fly can be extremely inefficient. So, instead of having workers haphazardly trying to accomplish a task with zero guidance, take the extra day to teach them the necessary skills to do their job. This way, they can set about accomplishing their tasks on their own, and your time won’t be wasted down the road answering simple questions or correcting errors.
Past their original training, encourage continued employee development. Helping them expand their skillsets will build a much more advanced workforce, which will benefit your company in the long run. There are a number of ways you can support employee development: individual coaching, workshops, courses, seminars, shadowing or mentoring, or even just increasing their responsibilities. Offering these opportunities will give employees additional skills that allow them to improve their efficiency and productivity.
Allowing your employees to work from home might seem inefficient – after all, how can you guarantee that they will still be productive if no one is watching them? However, the reality is quite the opposite (in fact, studies show that people who work from home are 13% more productive than office employees). Letting your employees telecommute will allow them to save time that would otherwise be wasted completely.
For example, say an employee is feeling too ill to come in to work (or is simply worried about getting their coworkers sick) but can still be productive. If you don’t allow them to work from home, they will be forced to take a sick day and skip working all together. Or, forcing your employee to miss an entire day of work if they have to wait for that 2-4 hour period to get their refrigerator fixed, simply isn’t efficient. Instead, allow your employee to work from home so they can maximize what time they do have available.
Related article: Working Remotely Makes Employees Happier and More Productive
There is no hope of increasing employee efficiency if they don’t know they’re being inefficient in the first place. This is why performance reviews are essential – measure your employees’ performance, then hold individual meetings to let them know where they are excelling, and what areas they need to work on.
Increasing employee efficiency isn’t all about what they can do better – some of the responsibility falls on you as well. But just like your employees, you aren’t psychic. So after reviewing your employees, ask them what you could do to help them improve. Maybe they would like a little more guidance on certain tasks, or would prefer a little more room for creative freedom. Asking for feedback not only gives you clear, immediate ways to help your employees improve, but also encourages a culture of open dialogue that will allow for continued development over time.
Things that might seem like an inefficient use of time to you now, might actually be to your advantage in the long run. So, before vetoing an apparent misuse of time, ask yourself how this could possibly benefit your company.
Investing in HR software now can save your company – and your employees – countless hours down the road. From automated onboarding to payroll that runs itself, embracing HRIS technology will improve efficiency, reduce frustration, and help your business grow.
By utilizing a number of our efficiency tips, you can be sure that you don’t fall behind and put that extra hour to good, productive use.
This post was originally published on October 30, 2015, and has since been updated.