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12 Steps to Increased Business Productivity

it is not uncommon to come across people who still confuse a production increase with an increase in productivity. Although they might seem like the same thing, they both have distinct meanings. By Henrique Dos Santos.

Productivity is critical to the development of entrepreneurship and can be considered one of the pillars of long-lasting companies. Therefore, it has become a determinant factor for the success of any company or business. Yet, despite being such a debated and disseminated concept, many still do not understand what it means and how it impacts the business culture.

After all, what is productivity? What are the effects on a business environment and why is it so important? Moreover, it is not uncommon to come across people who still confuse a production increase with an increase in productivity. Although they might seem like the same thing, they both have distinct meanings.

More production does not necessarily mean more productivity­­­­­
Productivity is the relationship between the quantity and quality of what is being produced with resources (time, people, raw material, financial resources, marketing, etc.), and production is the quantitative result, or the absolute quantities produced.

Productivity refers to the ability of a business to produce more results by optimizing processes and tool to use less time and fewer resources, whether financial or personnel. This means that by strengthening productivity, you can get better results more efficiently in less time. To help simplify and memorize the concept of productivity, it is possible to say that productivity is minimizing the use of resources (materials, labor, machinery, time) without compromising quality and production rates.

When we talk about productivity, it is impossible not to question its importance. Here are 12 steps that owners can take to promote a culture of constant productivity improvement.

1. Create a Good Working Environment
A working environment where people feel comfortable is a lot more productive than one in which employees feel full-time pressure. Respect, comfort, and teamwork are some of the main requirements for a pleasant organizational climate. Human resources personnel, during the recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes, should prioritize people who have a professional posture aligned with the company's values.

A clean and organized space contributes greatly to production increase. Constant cleaning and sanitization will eliminate odors caused by mold, dirt, etc., and avoid allergic crises and improve on-site well-being. Also, climatization and lighting will have a positive effect in the workplace. A pleasant temperature will make the environment more comfortable, helping employees stay focused on the job. As for illumination, the ideal lighting is natural, but when it is not possible, white light with adequate intensity to the size of the space is preferred. Lighting that is weak or too strong can cause irritations and generate a lack of concentration.

2. Use Technology to Business Advantage
Rely on modern technological resources in the workplace, such as the internet, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), online applications, administrative and financial management software, and state-of-the-art computers. Make the most of what technology can offer a business. There are both paid and free applications that can be incredibly helpful in the everyday life of a company. In addition, there are very useful software packages for the administrative and financial management of the business. Other packages can help with the sales and customer relationship processes. It is important to observe the possibility of integration of all the software packages and applications to run a seamless operation.

3. Make Good Use of the Time
A smaller company should have lower costs and more versatile solutions to common problems as opposed to larger companies. However, it also means having fewer hands to develop all the work and leverage for the development of the business. It is therefore common for small business employees to always be saturated with too many responsibilities. This makes it necessary to optimize the use of time by developing a strict work schedule in which tasks are assigned to each team member in an organized manner, enabling them to meet deadlines.

4. Set Realistic Goals for the Business
A common problem among managers is a lack of understanding at the time of defining goals and objectives. Many people define targets based on what they think is possible to achieve and expect results that are often unrealistic both to themselves and others. The correct thing to do is to rely on actual data. A recorded history should be used to validate some assumptions for future results.

5. Do Not Waste Energy
This refers to both the vital energy and to the team. Avoid taking measures that only drain the energy and motivation of the team. For example, having excessively long meetings or scheduling meetings outside of office hours to deal with matters that do not have importance or relevance. An unmotivated and energy-depleted team is an unproductive team.

6. Make Business More Efficient
Study your business in depth: visualize and understand each step of the processes adopted and look for ways to improve them. Deconstruction helps identify flawed points, threats, and risks that were not previously visible, providing the opportunity to make the business more competitive. In addition, make sure you identify the KPIs (key performance indicators) for your business and reliably measure them. If you cannot measure the KPIs, then you cannot manage them.

Consider how your company currently operates and open the possibilities for changes based on the new technologies and methodologies used in the market. Do some benchmarking on best business and operational practices. This should help you stay up-to-date and discover the best opportunities for your organization.

7. Have the Appropriate Tools
Using the right equipment and tools for work is crucial so that employees can perform their jobs with the highest level of efficiency in a timely manner. There is nothing more counterproductive than spending hours with manual tasks that could be performed in an automated capacity. Manual tasks, especially when repetitive, accumulate a high rate of failures, which then require additional time and rework. Additionally, the production quality is compromised, reducing credibility and damaging the company's image.

8. Practice Positive Reinforcement
Business owners must encourage, empower, motivate and reward their employees. Positive reinforcement aims to reward extraordinary efforts, and this practice is worthwhile both to the business owner and the working employees. The business owner should always be on the lookout for results or efforts where the employee went above and beyond her/his duties to benefit the company. These efforts and results must be acknowledged, praised and awarded accordingly.

9. Reduce Distractions
Social networks, personal connections and instant messaging are the three factors that most hinder the concentration of professionals at work. To prevent this from happening in your company, establish clear policies regarding the usage of cell phones, tablets, and computers, whether personal or company-owned. Other factors that generate distractions are noises and open windows in places of great movement.

10. Delegate tasks
Many managers have difficulty delegating tasks due to the fear of employees misunderstanding the message and consequently not delivering the expected results. The problem is that excessive accumulated tasks can generate stress and result in errors. It is healthier and more prudent to delegate tasks. To do that, the manager needs to make sure that employees are well trained, can perform the tasks at hand within the time frame determined, and that they have the necessary tools available to utilize. The process should be started gradually, with the passing of small responsibilities and, as confidence grows, more complex tasks and projects. Soon the business owner should have more time for strategic tasks, which are the ones the owner should be focused on.

11. Have Good Communication
Excellent communication is key to productivity. Knowing what needs to be done and who should do it is essential; therefore, having clear and effective communication is critical for processes to occur as expected. To communicate satisfactorily, the business manager must leave all tasks and their objectives recorded in a shared document, which everyone can access. These documents are called SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, and they describe, step by step, every single process in the business. Having regular alignment meetings is also important. In these meetings, doubts are clarified and there is room for exchanging information among team members.

12. Keep Staff Trained
Increasing overall business productivity is directly related to the technical capacity of the team. To maintain a well-trained group, it is necessary to invest in regular trainings. Understand the needs of the employees and implement a training schedule throughout the year. Ask the team for suggestions, but also suggest trainings based on the managers' perception of what would be more strategic for the company. Training only makes sense if it changes the reality of a certain sector or department and contributes to the increased productivity of the business.

Henrique Dos Santos is a Senior Project Director with Cogent Analytics. a business management consulting firm based in Greensboro, NC.

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