Here’s what companies need to understand about productivity before they will improve it
July 13, 2023
Here’s a fun game. Try to list all the drastic changes companies have made to increase productivity in the last 10 years. You’ll start with the usual suspects, personnel changes and massive layoffs. But you’ll also remember things like investing (and divesting) in entirely new departments, implementing automation, and buying new tools for each specialty.
When you look at the long list of sweeping changes, you notice a red flag: there’s no true strategy. Companies follow trends that promise more productivity without any evidence that it will work for them or their customers.
The issue isn’t that none of these strategies impact productivity. The reason they fall short of expectations is companies don’t clearly define what they’re trying to achieve before deciding which path to take. Rather than intruding on all operations with miniscule results, executives must know what they want, exactly what they want, when they work towards increased productivity.
Don’t know where to start? We’ll help.
The amount of time each person spends on their actual work
The most popular definition of productivity compares the cost of operation and the revenue generated. Because everyone understands the bottom line, it’s a simple ratio to communicate to everyone. But, the workday requires a variety of activities that cannot be distilled to cost alone.
Before deciding which strategies will work best for your enterprise, build a complete picture of each individual’s workday. Think about the sales team, for example. How many hours does each sales rep spend communicating with potential customers? How many hours do they spend manually creating nurture sequences? What about their time spent training or helping team members?
Knowing how each individual’s day breaks out reveals how much of the day adds value to your company, both in terms of your customers and your internal teams. While it’s unrealistic to expect every minute of the day to be filled with high-value activities, the only way to ensure that most of the team’s focus stays on the tasks that add value is to define what those are and how often they can be done.
The effort each customer needs to renew or expand
In the same way that each team member’s day looks different, each customer’s day varies. As a result, the demands on your product, your team, and the community around your company shift constantly. What works for one kind of customer doesn’t automatically transfer to the others.
But we all know that enterprises cannot build individual customer experiences with each account. Instead, successful companies focus on milestones that can indicate a customer will renew or expand their contract. Working backwards from these milestones, executives can identify the activities that need to be prioritized and which ones can be eliminated or automated without interfering with a winning customer experience.
The patterns and frequency of team communication
Communication factors majorly into the tension between executives and individual contributors in today’s remote work environment. Leadership feels in the dark about how teams work and individuals feel the mistrust every day. To make any meaningful improvements, both sides need a clearer way to communicate about activities and progress.
When leadership knows how teams notate account information, report on progress, and share knowledge, they get a better understanding of why some customers grow more efficiently than others. Of course, no single action will determine whether a customer renews or churns. However, when everyone can see the status of a customer, access the most recent information, and share best practices, replicating success gets much easier.
This step is particularly important for teams dealing with hundreds of workplace applications. When those technologies can’t seamlessly connect to each other, communication becomes even more critical.
The most urgent inefficiencies in your workflow
Finally, productivity can be refined constantly, over time. That means executives should refine their productivity strategies over time, like they would any business strategy, rather than opt for major, disruptive changes. To do that, teams must understand how their efforts ladder up to the bottom line. Different from performance metrics, productivity metrics need to consider how teams work, not what they work on. They show the hours spent, the people they collaborate with, and the accounts they focus on.
Knowing the baseline of each workflow allows teams to prioritize which ones need immediate improvements and which can be deprioritized. Similarly, teams can focus on accounts that will result in the biggest revenue gains. As with all strategies, targeted, incremental changes that can be measured will always be more sustainable than big swings.