Efficiency is an obsession for many organizations—whether they’re businesses, nonprofits, or government agencies. However, efficiency isn’t a metric in and of itself. Efficiency is always linked to another performance metric; another goal.
It isn’t enough to just be efficient. Organizations need to set smart business goals for specific metrics to be efficient with. It’s important to keep a close eye on these efforts to prevent them from hurting other efforts, such as service/product quality or customer satisfaction.
With this in mind, what specific smart business goals can an organization set to help increase efficiency? A few examples include:
1) Improving the Hiring Process
Having the right people in the right roles can do a lot to improve an organization’s efficiency in hitting key performance metrics. As noted in a Big Think article discussing hiring advice from Mike Del Ponte, the founder of water filtration company Soma:
“Hiring is not unlike the setting of a foundation upon which you plan to build. If you sacrifice diligences for speed, you heighten the risk that your foundation won’t sustain necessary growth and success. Hiring the wrong person will end up costing your organization more in the long run.”
In the article he originally wrote for Business Insider, Del Ponte calls for hiring managers to avoid seven key mistakes when hiring new people:
- Over-valuing cultural fit
- Rushing the hiring process
- Not asking for enough references
- Lack of a formal process
- Hiring generalists
- Not having clarity on the role that is being filled
- Relying on job posts
Basically, improving the hiring process means taking the time to actively seek out people who have the right skills for the specific roles in your organization and thoroughly vetting them. Mapping out a formal recruitment process to produce consistent results is a key part of this, as is the understanding that, sometimes, the best people already have a job. Making connections with people and demonstrating incentives in your organization is key.
By improving the hiring process, the onboarding of new talent can also be made more efficient, meaning less productivity lost to the “ramp up” time required for a new recruit to adapt to the job.
2) Reducing Time Spent On Various Tasks
Every task takes a certain amount of time to complete. Reducing the time spent on ad-hoc tasks throughout the day can help an organization be more efficient and get more done per labor hour.
However, reducing time spent on tasks can be incredibly difficult—and will be different depending on the nature of the organization and its work. Manufacturers can save time by streamlining production processes to eliminate extra work, and some offices can reduce the time that individual tasks take by reducing distractions.
In one Big Think blog, Carson Tate, professional consultant and author of Work Simply, provides some advice for managing attention at work, such as cultivating awareness and identifying “attention saboteurs.” Attention saboteurs are those things that can distract from an employee’s ability to focus. In her article, Tate tells readers to ask themselves the following:
- Do you find it more difficult to focus right before lunchtime or dinnertime?
- Was it difficult to focus following a long meeting or a difficult conversation with a family member?
- Was it easier to focus following a walk or a workout at the gym?
- Were there specific projects or types of tasks that you were able to focus on for longer periods of time?
Questions such as these call for some introspection about the employee’s ability to focus at different times of the day, which calls for a kind of attention tracking—the “cultivating awareness” that Tate mentions in her article. One way to do this, according to Tate, is to “select a span of a few hours as your tracking period for the exercise. Select a tracking tool that works for you and then every time your attention wanders or you lose focus, make a note on your attention-tracking tool.”
By having employees note not only when their attention wanders, but also why, it is easier to identify common workplace distractions so they can be eliminated.
After removing a distraction, tracking how productivity is affected is important, too. Sometimes, a “distraction” can serve a purpose as a means of letting employees take a break so they can focus better on work. In any workplace setting, no one is going to be 100% focused all day, every day—even with the majority of potential distractions removed.
3) Improving Employee Retention
While some turnover is inevitable as employees retire, move away, or find new career opportunities elsewhere, excessively high turnover can hurt efficiency, as new recruits take time to get up to speed with work. High employee turnover also necessitates increased recruiting costs, as new people constantly have to be identified and vetted to replace those who leave.
Improving employee retention reduces the need to constantly hire and train new people, helping to prevent decreases in efficiency.
Some tips for improving employee retention highlighted in a previous Big Think+ article include:
- Improving Internal Mobility Programs. One key frustration factor for employees, especially Millennials, is the perception of stagnation in their careers. Providing opportunities to grow and try new things helps to combat this, improving retention and even helping make highly-motivated workers more well-rounded for future leadership roles.
- Better Matching Job Descriptions to Actual Work Duties. Nobody likes being the victim of a career “bait and switch,” whether it’s intentional or not. Advertising for one position while putting employees to work in a different one leads to frustration, disengagement, and turnover.
- Using Exit Interviews to Identify Problems. Asking employees why they’re leaving the organization can be an easy way to identify major issues impacting engagement, retention, and efficiency.
By improving employee retention, organizations can avoid the extra costs and delays that come with having to replace a significant portion of their workforce every year. It also allows the people in existing roles to focus on becoming more efficient instead of having to teach their replacements the ropes every year.
These are just a few of the basic business goals that organizations can use to improve efficiency in meaningful ways.
For more information about managing distractions at work, improving efficiency, and facilitating self-management, check out Big Think+. Our video programs feature life lessons and perspectives from leading experts in every field, from consulting and self-management gurus to neuroscientists and entrepreneurs who have founded countless successful businesses.