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Stop making sweeping org changes in the name of productivity

June 1, 2023



Productivity seems to be in a villain era. Executives hate it because they can’t define it correctly or measure it in a meaningful way. Employees fear productivity because talks of it usually mean layoffs aren’t too far away. Despite all of us feeling uncomfortable about productivity, it remains top of mind for everyone. 

The truth is, we need to keep it at the forefront of all our strategies. Productivity cannot be a bad word at your company, especially if you want to continue to grow in a market where customer spending is down. However, if the working definition of productivity at your company is simply total revenue divided by cost of operations, it’s almost impossible to improve anything. Any changes made without proper data will prove impossible to measure or sustain.

To avoid more sweeping changes to operations and headcount with no real understanding of the impact, we need a universal understanding of what we mean when we talk about productivity and how we plan to measure it. That’s what we’re here to do today. Without further ado, here are the main pillars of productivity: 

1. Productivity should first concern your customers

At the heart of every enterprise-wide concern is the need to retain and grow customers. Productivity strategies are no different. Often, to create the kind of personalized customer experiences necessary to drive revenue, teams adopt new tools. The assumption is that technologies such as automation can improve efficiency and reduce spend on headcount. Like most assumptions, this one is bad. 

Enterprise organizations use over 200 tools to execute their workflows every day. If teams aren’t efficient in their daily tasks, it isn’t because they lack functionality. More likely, teams don’t use tools to their fullest potential and the work they do outside of the software goes unreported. Without a comprehensive view of what activities lead to a winning customer experience, teams cannot duplicate or scale their workflows. Ultimately, the customer loses, which means your company loses. 

Rather than spending extra money on new technologies, get an accurate and comprehensive understanding of how your current tech stack helps your team engage with customers and facilitates the customer experience. Remember to track activities that happen in the browser or outside of automated sequences. All engagements between your company and your customers should be monitored and strategized around. 

With that data, companies can move away from broad shifts in strategy that may or may not serve the customer. They can make incremental changes to the workflows that directly influence the high-value activities that customers appreciate and teams can complete at scale. Additionally, teams can build historical data for each customer segment to optimize for each customer type. 

Small changes are not only faster to implement, but they also keep your team focused on the activities that move the needle for your customers. The more value you can deliver, the more your customers will be willing to expand their relationship with your team and your product. That sounds much better than dramatic revisions to your company culture, right? 

2. Productivity helps your team do more meaningful work 

A major issue with the huge changes implemented in the name of productivity right now is how they negatively impact internal teams. Layoffs, of course, are part of that. But also, asking teams to do more with less isn’t sustainable. Many individuals are asked to do the work of multiple people, across departments so that, often, the additional work is not the area they feel passionately about. We only need to look at burnout numbers and turnover rates to see why companies should be cautious when making more of these changes. 

A better way to think about asking team members to do more is to find ways to eliminate tedious work and encourage individuals to do activities that are meaningful to them and increase revenue for your organization. For example, reporting itself is often done manually. One person from each team may pull numbers from their preferred software and compile a new, more personalized report. Team leaders then combine all the individual reports for a high-level view. As you might imagine, this process is neither exciting nor a good use of anyone’s time. 

A simple solution would be to offer an automated reporting tool, which not only provides a comprehensive view of all their activities, but also gives each team time back in their day. 

But that’s just one example. Building decks, sharing account notes, attending internal meetings. All these tasks steal 30 minutes from individuals. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but after multiplying it over each department throughout your enterprise, you start to see how an unfocused weekly meeting can have catastrophic effects on overall productivity and performance. 

To prevent demoralizing changes to operations or headcount, start by understanding where your team’s time is being spent. Look at the customer segments that require the most effort. Understand how individuals spend their time with each account, and how those tasks line up with that individual’s talents. Making changes that create more meaningful work for each person often will improve productivity much faster than layoffs or restructuring will. 

Get the right data to make better productivity decisions

When companies talk about productivity, they really want to uncover how to make more informed decisions as an enterprise. No company wants to make headlines for extensive layoffs, but we continue to see them despite never seeing follow-up headlines that report record profits. 

Companies need better data. Establish a performance baseline today so that the changes your organization makes tomorrow can be measured, improved, and scaled across departments. Without comprehensive, accurate data, your changes can’t be repeated or refined. The most you can hope for is dumb luck. Your customers and your team deserve more than that.