Technology and productivity: factors you must keep in mind If you have staff, keeping them happy, productive and productively happy is always the priority. Further, the more efficient and effective your employees, the stronger the team culture, the better your company runs, and the better the overall bottom line. Of course, there are scores of different factors that contribute towards and exert influence upon productivity. Today, we’re looking at how technology and productivity interact and at how you support your people to get the most from their tools.
1. Automating the mundane Automation is a cornerstone of most of today’s leading workplaces. Sean Dendle, Managing Director of Cymax, says that streamlining the repetitive tasks – especially those around admin and project management – frees your people up to spend more time doing higher leverage activities. “You want your people engaged and excited to be doing the most valuable work possible and doing it to the best of their ability,” Dendle says. With the right technologies, not only do you make processes simpler, you will often remove entire low-leverage routines from the workflow. By automating repetitive “busy work” you’re clearing the way for tasks that, because they tend to be non-urgent, open-ended and take serious brainpower, often get pushed down the schedule. These are exactly the sorts of tasks that make a business better, rather than just busier. This isn’t to say automation is easy. It requires a deep understanding and analysis of your current work processes. It also requires technical know-how to help implement the automation tools required.
2. Cultivating an innovation culture A team on a productivity kick must have the backup of management and, often, the help of independent technology experts. When management commits to a serious review of how things are done, it shows your employees that you care about making their work meaningful. It also encourages them to think innovatively themselves. “Think of it like a CPU: when a CPU gets to 100 percent, that’s as hard as it can work. If your team is at 100 percent, it has zero wiggle room to improve itself. Whenever a team is under that much pressure, any management initiative that asks them to step back and think creatively just won’t work. “However, if you ensure your team has some idle capacity to think about the context of their work, they’ll often find ways to raise the bar.” As good as you or your managers are, when it comes to improving internal processes, no one knows the granular details like your workers. They’re on the ground level and engaging in the tasks themselves. By freeing them up and empowering them to find better ways to get things done, you encourage constructive thinking. That encouragement can have far-reaching benefits. “Innovative workers are more engaged workers and more engaged workers are more productive workers. By having an atmosphere where innovation has room, you’re also cultivating productivity.”
3. Personal development Just as the right tech and support can help encourage innovative thinking, it can also encourage personal development. The introduction of a new system is a singular opportunity for your people to build their skills. It all comes down to how you roll out the new platforms, processes or programs. Making a step change without support and training will result in users not knowing how or why the change is better. They will not use the new tools and technologies to best effect. Technical tools take time, training, familiarity, practice and effort to use properly. This is why tech acquisition and tech support must go hand-in-hand. “If a firm doesn’t invest the time and the training, then they’re never going to recognise how to get value out of their people,” Dendle says. “Yes, there will be a percentage of people who go to training and switch off. Then there will be those who go, ‘Wow, that was really cool! I’m going to start to use that’. “As a manager, your responsibility is to continue to support those people. The most engaged will self-select.” Finding the employees who are keen to upskill and then helping them however you can is one of the best ways to encourage satisfaction and productivity. And, the more technically savvy your employees are, the better they’re going to be at their jobs.
4. Understand your existing systems better There’s a lot to be said about encouraging the better use of existing tools. Many software platforms, such as Microsoft Excel, offer huge capacities that are often untapped. “If you’ve got some pretty good systems already implemented, chances are you’ve got a team that is good at using them to get a certain set of things done within the current workflow,” Dendle says. “However, before looking at adopting a new and different system, go back to the vendor and ask them to provide an overview on what else their system is capable of. You may well find your current systems are significantly underutilised.” If you’d rather a lower-key approach, one effective strategy is to review who are the heavy users of a certain tool and then asking among them for volunteers to go on advanced training.
Tech and tech support can boost worker productivity Productivity seems nebulous until you break it down to its components: engagement, effectiveness and efficiency. Tech adoption and tech support designed to better your business practices have very real knock-on effects in boosting worker productivity. “Many organizations grossly underinvest in the training on new systems,” Dendle says. “They underinvest in the migration to a new system, they underinvest in the planning, they underinvest in the execution and then they’re disappointed with the outcome. “The acquisition of technology is almost secondary to how well it’s used, how engaged the users are and how well management supports the process – both in giving teams breathing space and access to training and support.”