The second in our series of guest blogs from business experts comes from Emma-Jane Packe, Managing Director of Prelude Group. In this blog Emma-Jane rounds up the key areas that every business must consider in order to maximise productivity in the workplace.
Prelude was founded by Duncan Cheatle in 2003, when he and a group of peers became bored with the choice of networking events on offer. Prelude support entrepreneurs and their teams through the development of Speaker Boutique and Growth Programmes to ensure everything they do creates value and helps their members to grow their businesses faster.
Guest post by Emma-Jane Packe, Managing Director of Prelude Group
Productivity is that magic mix in a team of skills, efficient systems and processes, and motivation that drives profitability in the business, enabling you to invest to build growth further in a virtuous circle.
It doesn’t just happen organically though. From my own experience, and by speaking to hundreds of successful entrepreneurs over the years I’ve been at The Supper Club, I’ve seen that getting everything to fit together in the right way takes considerable time and effort, and there’s no one ‘right way.’ It’s about finding what works for your goals and your business.
Having said that, there are a few key areas that every business needs to think about carefully in order to work out how to maximise productivity in their business.
- Finding the right people
This is probably the most obvious aspect – find people who are skilled and work efficiently and your business will thrive. But it’s not that simple, and people all too often recruit on the wrong criteria. For me, it’s incredibly important to recruit on values and attitude first, above skills and experience.
Why? Because skills can be taught on the job or through training, but it’s much harder to ‘train’ the right attitude or approach, and perhaps impossible. These qualities are especially important for smaller businesses because early growth is often driven by the passion of a few key people (particularly when a company is lacking the more established processes of older or larger companies).
- Developing the right culture
Culture can sound like a bit of a ‘woolly’ concept. It is anything but. The more experienced and successful the entrepreneur (in my experience) the more they’ll emphasise culture as a means of embedding the company’s DNA – the keys to long term success – within the team.
Developing the right culture is in part about establishing what the right values are in the business and communicating that to the team. That boosts loyalty and helps create a culture where individuals are motivated to support the company and its mission.
But motivating the team can take very different forms, depending on what behaviours you want to incentivise. For example, money (e.g. bonuses or commissions) can actually be quite a bad motivator if you want to emphasise customer service. In other businesses, though, having a competitive, commission or bonus driven culture, might be just right for what they want to achieve. It’s about finding the right balance for you between competitiveness and teamwork.
- Building the best systems and processes
Investing in software and technology that helps your team work better and quicker is a no-brainer – letting them get on with the parts of their jobs that are genuinely adding value. But business processes are just as important to productivity.
As a business grows beyond start up, it becomes increasingly important to develop efficient processes. As the team gets bigger, it’s important that everyone continues to work in a coordinated way towards the right outcomes and targets.
In setting targets, you first need to understand your business’s KPIs – the 3 or 4 elements that are essential to your business. These should be genuinely crucial, so ask yourself, what 3 KPIs do I need to see to know my business is working successfully? Individual targets can then feed into these. Lots of members of The Supper Club have started using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) which was first launched by Google to set ambitious goals over a set period of time, but other systems like SMART actions or Rocks can work as well.
Defining objectives with employees (rather than imposing them) is also a valuable way to understand how individuals are feeling about the future, where they want to be in a few years’ time, and hopefully sculpt a role that means they remain motivated and engaged in the business for longer.
Using systems to track performance across every department means that I now know conversion rates at every step of the sales cycle – suspect to lead, lead to meeting (and so on). That enables me to drive improvement at every stage, identify skills gaps, and assess employees fairly. It’s a road map to success.
The final step in this (ongoing) process is the performance review. We’ve found that as we scale, monthly business reviews and bi-annual appraisals work best – yearly appraisals are too long a wait. The key is that reviews are two-way, use them to understand your team (and their concerns) as well as assessing their performance. That way you can often avoid people leaving by fixing problems – or if they’re just not happy, work out an exit that works for you and them.
In terms of improving productivity overall, the key is to combine softer cultural aspects with hard targets. Culture operates holistically (almost subconsciously) to create a positive, well-motivated team that love what they do, while business processes – particularly around targets – translates this engagement into specific business outcomes. In short, make the business work for your people, and they’ll make the business work for you.
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