Productivity is crucial for driving small businesses to new and better places. If small business productivity is low, it can be difficult to compete in the marketplace. Even more concerning, it can be hard to keep up with the customer.
The good news? It’s never been easier to drive small business productivity. From introducing new technologies to skilling up the workforce, there are plenty of productivity hacks for small businesses. In an age when time is the most valuable resource, the importance of working smarter and not harder has never been more evident. And in a time of remote working, empowering employees with tools and strategies to stay engaged has become critical.
Here are some ways that SMEs can power up the workforce and drive productivity.
1. Track how you’re spending your time. You may think you have a good grasp on how much time you’re dedicating to various tasks. But if you’re multi-tasking – and who isn’t these days – then it can be hard to gauge exactly how much attention and time each task requires. You may want to consider installing analytical tools that break down how you and your workforce are using your time, and use this data to help group tasks to eliminate bottlenecks and improve productivity. You might even get some surprising insights into which tasks have the highest value-to-time-spent ratios.
2. Level up with new technologies to connect the workforce, enable collaboration and future-proof your SME. From CRM tools to field-service solutions and virtual-meeting apps, today’s SMEs are introducing new technologies to increase productivity. Many teams have moved to remote work, so keeping them connected and aligned is increasingly important. New technologies can also provide a more complete view of customers and prospects, making it easier for reps to do their jobs.
3. Cut down on emails. In the 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris lays out the business case for creating an auto-response and only answering emails twice a day. While this might not be feasible or advantageous for everyone, there’s little doubt that 24/7 availability can actually be a hindrance to productivity. Instead, look for ways to ‘batch’ your calls and emails into a short, hyper-focused period. Then use the time you’ve saved to focus on more important tasks.
4. Prioritise the Pareto Principle. According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of results come from only 20% of actions. While this ratio might not be exactly accurate, you might have noticed that a small percentage of customers are responsible for most your sales. Or that a few reps drive the majority of leads. Or that 20% of your workforce is doing 80% of the work. The exact percentage isn’t as important as the fact that there is unequal distribution. Once you analyse this distribution, you can leverage that data to be more productive.
5. Deploy artificial intelligence to automate routine tasks. Mundane, repetitive tasks aren’t just time wasters, they’re morale killers. Introducing AI-powered tools can help alleviate some of the workload through automation. You can also bring in things like Chatbots, which not only provide customers with self-service options that improve their experience, but free up service reps to focus on more business-critical tasks.
6. Ask the workforce to identify productivity killers in different departments and functions. Don’t be afraid to ask the workforce to provide critical feedback. Employees are well equipped to identify inefficient processes and workflows in a business, since they’re the ones dealing with them every day. If you’re concerned that the team may be reluctant to offer criticism, consider using an anonymous survey to gather information. After all, it’s difficult to fix problems if no one is acknowledging them.
7. Use an on-demand training platform to nurture agility. Recent trends have shown that employee churn is increasing. One of the best ways to retain employees is to offer them access to training. New skills not only prepare workers for a changing climate; they benefit businesses as well. Salesforce’s Trailhead and similar platforms can help workers learn new skills from anywhere and at any time, empowering them to create their own solutions to productivity bottlenecks.
8. Don’t let your morning go to waste. Maintaining a good work/life balance is important for being productive, as burnout is a top productivity killer. So if you’re using the morning commute to meditate, reflect or listen to your favourite podcast, you may actually be driving productivity. If, on the other hand, your coffee is hot, your engine is revving and you’re itching to start the day, you can use your commute to organise a plan of action for the day or tackle a round of emails.
If you work from home, try to establish a personalised morning workflow calibrated for peak performance. For example, think about how you can minimise your own personal time-wasters and create more productive habits.
9. Harness the power of data to make better decisions. We’re in a data-first world. In fact, data is driving most business decisions today. Having a good data management strategy to gather and store clean data is imperative. Giving team members access to this data in real time will help them make smarter decisions. You can even leverage tools that surface recommendations for next best actions. By using data and analytics, you can empower the sales team to follow better leads and the service team to better address common issues.
10. Create a working environment that inspires. If you’re operating in an office-based environment, it’s important to optimise that environment for peak productivity. After all, we’re spending a third of our day there. That doesn’t necessarily mean putting a pinball machine in the breakroom. Instead, focus on being transparent with information. Nurture individual differences in employees, rather than creating a one-size-fits-all atmosphere. Try to add value to the employee experience. Give teams meaningful work. Make sure all employees feel appreciated. Values. Teamwork. Collaboration. Empathy. Alignment. Transparency. These are some of the things that help create a productive workplace.
11. Make meetings a thing of the past. A survey from AtTask and Harris Poll found that employees spend 45% on their primary job duties, with 41% spent on meetings, admin and interruptions. If you’ve already automated as many administrative tasks as possible, turn your attention towards meetings. Are they all necessary? Can you cut one-hour meetings to 30 minutes? Look at your own business’s ratio for high-value tasks to admin: how can you optimise it?
12. Pick the right soundtrack. Remember all those inspirational training montages from 1980s movies? One thing they all had in common was a soundtrack turned up to 11. Now, piping the Rocky soundtrack into the office might not be the best idea, but you’d be surprised at how much music can affect mood and productivity. Studies have shown that listening to classical music can increase spatial reasoning skills. And while The Mozart Effect isn’t without its doubters, the possibility of raising spatial IQ scores by 8 or 9 points should be too good to pass up.
These small business productivity hacks will hopefully help your SME trim the fat and muscle up for a more productive tomorrow. But driving productivity is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done. By implementing these tips, you’ll have a business that’s employee centric, data-driven, technologically savvy and attractive to new recruits.
To see some more tips for driving small business productivity, check out our free eBook 5 Productivity Tips for Small Businesses.