Taking on new employees is often too costly to be practical for small business owners, which means that the only sensible way to improve the bottom line is to squeeze more productivity from the existing workforce. A popular way to achieve this aim is by finding new ways to motivate employees to work harder and smarter, but there are a number of other options that are worth considering too. The five steps below are my personal blueprint for increasing productivity and I hope they may prove useful to others.
- The first step in any plan to raise productivity is to assess the current situation. Without a clear idea of what your workers are already doing, it will be very hard to come up with ways in which to help them improve. This assessment should include the equipment that employees are using as this can have an enormous effect on productivity, especially in manufacturing environments. Before you start, it is a good idea to hold a meeting for all employees, during which you can explain what is happening and what you hope to achieve. This should help to foster an environment of cooperation that makes life much easier for all involved.
- The second step is to analyse the information gathered in the first step and look for areas in which improvements can most easily be made. If, for example, it is discovered that the packing of goods ready for despatch is holding your whole distribution operation up, it may be a good idea to take somebody from another section and move them into the packing department to help improve matters. Even if you can afford to hire a new worker, retraining existing employees is often more cost effective so it is well worth looking for underutilised employees in other departments before you look outside of your company for somebody who can help.
- Investing wisely. Having gathered the necessary information and analysed it to identify the weakest links in your chain, you will need to work out the most cost effective solutions for each problem area that has been uncovered. It can be tempting to rush out and buy new machinery that promises huge increases in productivity but you need to consider how long it will take to train your staff to use such machinery and whether the productivity boost will be worth the expense involved. Try to find case studies involving the introduction of any new equipment you are thinking of buying into similar environments, or conduct your own research, before making a final decision.
- Monitoring results. Probably the most important task when attempting to improve productivity is monitoring the results of new initiatives. If you do not do this, you will have very little idea of what is really working and what initiatives should be abandoned as soon as possible. Again, it is a good idea to involve the entire workforce in the process and to make sure that they are aware you are not embarking on some kind of witch hunt but are seeking solutions that will eventually benefit the company as a whole. Some initiatives, such as relocating to a new and more suitable office space, will obviously not be targeting the weaknesses of individuals but the more you do to avoid defensive attitudes that can seriously hamper your efforts, the easier your job will be.
Once you have put new procedures in place, relocated to a different area or invested in new equipment, you will need to give people enough time to adapt to the changes before deciding whether they have been effective or not.
From guest blogger: Juliet Martin.