As COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life, the future of work remains uncertain. The mandate to exercise social distancing has impacted entire industries and displaced hundreds of thousands of workers. Even as people wait for things to return to “normal,” the shifting economic climate suggests that day may be further off than many realize.
In the coming days and weeks, employers will look to shore up their resources and further reduce spending. If hiring freezes don’t become the new norm, reduced candidate pipelines certainly will. To navigate the hurdles to come, see to it that you make the most of the talent you have.
Read on for four smart ways to improve employee efficiency.
1) Lead with confidence and clear intent.
Now more than ever, it’s important to have confident leadership in place.
In a time of crisis, your leaders are the ones to rally the troops. They reassure and encourage employees when the going gets rough. They also have the foresight to look ahead, identify potential roadblocks, and keep projects on track.
When news of COVID-19 began to spread, PI’s leadership took quick, decisive action. The executive team mandated that all employees work from home. Department heads then came together to ensure the transition was as seamless as possible.
Effective leaders exhibit various traits, but almost all act with conviction. When leaders move confidently, and in a clear direction, their direct reports are more likely to follow suit. Especially in times of uncertainty, it’s important to have leaders who act as a “North Star” to get everyone aligned.
This alignment is key when looking to improve employee efficiency. When teams and departments are clear on what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it, it cuts down on overlap and wasted resources.
2) Provide constant communication.
Even if leaders provide this guidance, it won’t mean much if employees don’t act on it. That’s why it’s important you foster frequent, open communication within the organization.
As the current crisis develops, it’s easy for fear to lead to disengagement. Employees might worry about the health of a loved one. They might be concerned about the state of the company—and their job. Left unaddressed, negative employee feelings can impact job satisfaction. These feelings can even affect the work environment of entire teams.
Communication helps combat this fear. By encouraging open conversation, you allow employees to voice their concerns and air any grievances without fear of judgment or repercussions. More importantly, you create an opportunity for people to support one another when they need it most.
There are many ways in which you can foster a culture of open communication. You can provide regular, candid updates on behalf of senior leadership. You can encourage managers to have recurring 1-on-1 meetings with their direct reports.
As employees adjust to working remotely—many for the first time—communication becomes more important than ever. The more you encourage interaction between team members, the more you eliminate uncertainty that could impact productivity in the workplace.
3) Develop scalable processes.
When looking to improve employee efficiency, make sure you have the right systems to support your people. Your leaders may be providing clear direction. Your employees may be laser-focused on the work at hand. But if your systems aren’t up to snuff, you might be creating an unnecessary bottleneck.
Given the economic circumstances, it may be difficult to invest in brand-new automation systems. Instead, consider how you can leverage your existing technology to streamline operations.
Say your marketing team meets regularly to report on KPIs. If each team member spends an hour pulling statistics ahead of the meeting, they burn work hours they could have allocated elsewhere. But if you have a data visualization tool like Domo or Tableau, you can create a custom dashboard that’ll automate the process.
Or perhaps your design team uses project management software like Asana or Jira. If other parts of the org still rely on spreadsheets or email reminders, provide training and development opportunities to familiarize them with this software. (This also helps streamline communication and ensures team workflows don’t overlap.)
The more systems you have that scale and repeat processes, the fewer hours your people spend away from their core jobs. And that means more time making the most of your employees’ skills.
4) Streamline meetings.
Meetings are a crucial part of getting employees aligned on objectives. A well-led one can also drive employee engagement and boost productivity. Yet too often, we exercise poor meeting habits that hinder their effectiveness.
Say a team has a meeting from 3:00 to 3:30. A few team members arrive at 3:02, having just come from another meeting. Some others share weekend plans, as the meeting organizer struggles to share their slide deck with the rest of the group. Before long, you’ve burned the first 20% of your meeting time—and that’s before people start leaving early to make other meetings.
To curb these habits, it’s important to promote practices for better team meetings. Ask that teams end meetings five minutes before the hour/half-hour. This gives employees time to gather their thoughts as they hop between meetings. It also reduces the number of late stragglers and early exits.
Also encourage meeting organizers to include an agenda and slide deck, where appropriate, in meeting invites. That way, team members can process the meeting contents ahead of time. This also helps provide a shared personal stake in the proceedings. And, it increases the likelihood more individuals will pose ideas and contribute to the discussion.
In this new remote reality, it’s more important than ever to have regular facetime. By streamlining the meeting process, you ensure employees make the most of these opportunities.
Be there for your people, and they’ll be there for you.
In these difficult times, never lose sight of the people you lead. You may wish to improve employee efficiency, but you don’t want to do so at the cost of employee health.
Keep your employees top of mind in the coming weeks. Check in frequently during this time of uncertainty. Even simple questions can go a long way toward increasing employee productivity and boosting morale. And that can mean all the difference for your organization.