Quality versus quantity — which will help you achieve your company goals? The two simplest ways to boost workplace productivity is by increasing staff or increasing efficiency. When client bases are growing alongside funding, hiring becomes a popular way to show off your growth — but it’s one that makes many more headlines if you have to reel it back. Sure, it’s great to be able to create jobs and build up your work family, but too many companies are rushing to hire too rashly. You need to optimize what you already have before you can go and spend time and money on making things more complicated.
Think you need more staff? Hit pause on that. First, focus on areas of automation and optimization to increase productivity before you hire anyone else.
Agile transformations of “iterate, automate, improve, repeat” are spreading from IT across businesses, as everyone is starting to understand the importance of working to improve everything. And while your greatest expense is definitely your most valuable — your staff — you should look for ways to improve before you add to that expense. This frees up your current employees from boring and repeatable tasks and re-engages your talented knowledge workers in adding value toward your business goals.
Only then, when it’s finally time to grow your team, you know better the specific profiles you need to fill.
So, where should you start when looking to improve everything? Well, it all starts with a conversation with your teams…
Optimizing communication flow means optimizing productivity
The first line of the Agile Manifesto states “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,” but often leveraging the latter will enhance the first. From top-down, company-wide announcements to team-level projects and discussions, understanding how different teams communicate is the first place to start looking at optimizing performance. Begin by asking yourself, how transparent is your communication? How easily can newcomers and people across departments access files? Use a tool like Talkspirit to facilitate easy knowledge sharing and access control with a search toolbar.
“The most powerful applications of social technologies in the global economy are largely untapped. By using social technologies, companies can raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25 percent.” — McKinsey Global Institute
We are a society moving toward BYOD (bring-your-own devices) and using whatever tools you’re comfortable with. The first can definitely save you money, but the latter can be risky for data sharing. Despite your growing, multi-office or distributed company, it’s important to have one centralized location to share information and to ask for feedback. Having an enterprise social network with a central file repository like talkspirit saves everyone time — according to a McKinsey report almost two hours a work day is wasted searching for and gathering information — and it breaks down communication silos that block efficiency.
That same McKinsey report found that companies are willing to invest more and more time and money into their public-facing social media, but “twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises.” Enterprise social tools have great potential to raise the productivity of interaction among workers.
It’s also important for companies to look to streamline all the chatter that can go across popular tools like Slack, where we try to stay on-topic, but it quickly derails and we talk cross-purpose in too vague #marketing channels. Using an enterprise social network like Talkspirit means that you interlace your on-topic chat with your project management and files so you are no longer wasting time searching for that specific version of a Word doc, but are talking real strategy.
Plus having a central repository like Talkspirit for shared data is just common security sense since it allows you to control who sees what. This is even more important since data privacy is a hot-button topic, and data regulations like Europe’s GDPR mean we have to really know the flow of sensitive information within our companies.
Like all proper tools implementation, the most important part of understanding your individuals and how they interact is through a conversation. Start this whole process by asking employees to map out their current communication flows and what are the frustrations that slow down their work. This lets staff know you aren’t looking for robot overlords to take over their jobs, but rather for ways they can enjoy their roles more. Now that’s employee motivation!
Self-organization leads to employee empowerment
Once you’ve helped optimize how your employees communicate, it’s time to give them the freedom to turn that into great, productive teamwork. Inc’s “The Leadership Guy” Peter Economy offers ways to maximize team performance. Note that none of them are about time, money, or number of staff:
Give teams decision-making power. “The most-effective teams are those that are doing important work for their organizations, and that have been granted the authority to make important decisions,” Economy writes. Just make sure to keep in touch — leverage tools like talkspirit to interact with (not monitor) the good, transparent work going on.
Play “What if.” Unproductive meetings happen when everyone is just reporting information. Turn that around by making sure metrics and tasks are communicated ahead — meetings are for everyone to ask questions. “Seeing things from the point of view of less-experienced employees can sometimes help the team come up with an idea that would otherwise be overlooked,” he writes.
Practice consensus building. Self-organization doesn’t come naturally, especially for those that have worked in traditionally hierarchical companies. Since practice makes perfect, take advantage of meetings as an opportunity to role play different problem-solving exercises. “From there, coach them to arrive at a consensus that everyone can accept. Employees will learn the importance of making compromises that are good for the company,” Economy recommends.
When it comes down to it, optimizing team performance and self-organization is all about building trust. Eventually you will hopefully have to hire new staff for your growing business, but practice building that foundational company culture before you rush to hire.
“Psychologically safe teams are up to ten times more productive. Keep it simple! Instead of hiring ten times more people, try Core Protocols to build safety and get awesome productivity with the people you already have,” recommended Richard Kasperowski.
The Core Protocols are behaviour patterns observed in high-performance teams, and, when applied, typically increase your team’s emotional intelligence. These are a mix of protocols and commitments, like a set of promises individuals make to their teammates to be transparent, to communicate effectively and efficiently, to feel comfortable asking for help, to acknowledge intention, to encourage innovation, and more.
When it comes down to it, you’re already on the right path focusing on the people side of your business. Just take a pause and look at if you are getting the most out of your team before you add to it.
Further reading on optimizing team performance:
- “Five Steps to Optimize Team Performance” by Peter Economy on LinkedIn
- “Optimizing Team Performance and Empowerment” by Leah Houde of Duke University
- “Recruitment vs increasing employee productivity: Which one is better?” by Mehedi Hassan on M2Sys Blog
- “Optimize Team Performance” White Paper by Cisco on TechRepublic
- “Optimizing Top Team Performance Efficiently” by Bin Yang on Forbes