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Five actions that boost productivity

"Focus on eliminating the unnecessary and automating the essential" - ©2017 alphaspirit.it/Shutterstock

Increasing productivity improves competitiveness, restores profit and retains staff. But many companies struggle to grasp the opportunity. Here are five actions you can take to make it a reality.

Stagnant productivity has been endemic in the UK for over a decade and threatens not just the economy and the ability of governments to invest but also the survival of many organisations battling against increased costs and inflation. This is why the government announced a £4.2bn investment in technology to increase productivity in the public sector. Every organisation needs to address the need for productivity improvements, not just so they can meet the salary expectations of staff but to ensure they remain profitable and competitive in a global market.

How to boost your productivity

This isn’t an easy problem to solve, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your business is performing at the top of its game. By improving productivity, you reduce costs and can therefore reward your employees better. That makes your organisation more competitive and a more attractive place to work – thus reducing staff turnover and attracting the best talent.

Here are some of the practical steps you can take and, as with many initiatives, it starts and ends with your people.

1. Focus

Too often, the focus of management is on maintaining the status quo. Yet organisations either change or die in a global competitive market. Yes, managing change can be exhausting, certainly in the short term, and this places pressure on managers, but the desire to see a better outcome – improved productivity and reduced costs – will help you achieve that goal. In addition, there needs be a laser focus on improving every manager’s own area of responsibility – and giving them the skills and tools to do this.

That takes training and possibly even a change in your overall culture, but unless you can focus on the things that make a real difference, you’re not really in a position to make the alterations that matter.

2. Plan and measure

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you’re going to make changes, you need to know where you are starting from and be able to set some targets for improvement. Technology is essential in ensuring that you have the tools to both plan and measure. For example, technology gives you the information you need to make the right decisions about who you deploy and when. Often, staff planning inefficiencies come about though not having the right staff on the job in the right place and at the right time. Technology allows you to assign the right person who often is the one with the best skills to maximise efficiencies. 

3. Training and tools

Which leads to the question: have your staff got the skills and tools they need to perform at their optimum level? As I’ve said, finding the right people is tough. It therefore makes perfect sense to audit and review the skills you have right now, and then, if necessary, devise a plan to improve those by introducing additional training (which could be used to upskill existing staff members) or adopting new technology where there is a clear cost benefit to be had.

4. Streamline and automate processes  

Outdated and paper-based processes simply burden employees with unnecessary extra workloads. It just diverts attention from what should be productive time. So you should focus on eliminating the unnecessary and automating the essential to eliminate wasted effort (reducing unproductive time), allowing effort to be spent on things that really matter (productive time).

5. Embrace technology

Technology should be used not merely to automate processes but also an opportunity to transform them. These two should be seen as going hand in hand. Technology for the sake of technology is of little added value. But when you create a virtuous circle of improvement through better planning and monitoring, you really maximise the transformational value of your technology.    

So how does this work in action? The HFX team spends a lot of time working with clients, to help them transition away from paper-based and time sensitive/unproductive tasks. This involves using technology not merely to transform otherwise time-consuming operations but to help organisations make fundamental changes which bring a much wider range of benefits. Here’s just one example.    

Crafting a bespoke system for Smallbone

For 40 years, Smallbone of Devises, Wiltshire, has won a high reputation for its bespoke kitchens and ‘whole home solutions’. In the light of Covid, with more flexible working patterns, they decided the time was right to replace their time and attendance and staff scheduling systems, and to move both onto the HFX cloud platform to reap the benefits identified.

The system was embraced by employees, being both easy to understand and use. The benefits included significant time savings which have been rapid, with an ROI on their investment within nine months, and annual cost savings of £240,000.      

There are indeed wider issues to be considered when it comes to the UK’s productivity, but the immediate actions lie with businesses to generate both cost savings and drive more efficient ways of working. Our experience shows that these are as likely to be warmly welcomed by employees as by the C suite team.     

To find out more about how you can improve your organisation’s productivity, click here or email us.           


Nick Whiteley is CEO of HFX