Maintaining efficient processes and a strong workflow is crucial to running a successful business.
Whether you run a contact center with hundreds of employees or manage a virtual law office with a small team, business processes are the root of your company’s operations. This is why it’s important to review your processes and take necessary actions to improve them regularly.
And with work environments getting back to normal, now is the perfect time to do this.
This guide covers seven steps you should follow to improve your process and employee efficiency. Following these steps will allow you to boost productivity amongst your team, and tackle your work the right way.
Before we get to our seven-step guide, it’s important to identify any challenges you may face on your process-improving journey.
Two of the main barriers you may face are complacency and a lack of resources.
It’s normal to want to stay within your comfort zone. When it comes to improving processes, though, complacency can hold you back.
Staff, and possibly even management, may try to resist change as they feel comfortable with the current processes. They may not be willing to put in the effort required to assess and improve existing processes.
For example, if employees are content with the current clock-in system, they may push back on any ideas to introduce a new time clock calculator that you believe would make clocking in more efficient.
This can delay–or halt–your progress, so it’s crucial that you tackle this issue head-on. Make sure your team knows that improving processes is likely to make their work life easier.
With better processes in place, workflow will be smoother and pressure on employees could be eased.
Lack of resources
Before you commit to making any changes to existing processes, it’s important to check that you have the necessary resources available.
Making improvements can take a lot of time, money, and manpower, so it’s worth determining whether or not you are realistically able to take on the task. For example, if you believe you need to implement a CRM platform fit for small businesses, you may need to check funding and decide whether you’ll need to hire an extra employee to run the system.
This thought may overwhelm some businesses and lead them to delay their improvement initiatives indefinitely.
However, it should be noted that, for a one-time change, improving processes can attract a great return on investment (ROI). So, it may seem like a daunting task now, but you’ll thank yourself for it later on.
How to Increase Process Efficiency: 7 Steps
Now that you’ve evaluated and resolved any issues you face, it’s time to get to work.
Following these seven steps will help you increase processes efficiently which will, in turn, boost productivity and improve workflow.
1. Evaluate current processes
In order to determine which process needs to be improved and what changes need to be made to improve it, you need to evaluate all existing processes.
When looking at current processes, focus on their effectiveness. For instance, sales figures, retention rates, and website KPIs could all be investigated. If it doesn’t seem like you’re getting many returns for a process, it could be that it is outdated. Also look at specific elements of the process to identify any that are redundant.
Figuring out which processes are working and which ones are underperforming can help you narrow the list.
2. Map the chosen process
Visualizing the process in question can help you fully understand and interpret it. From there, you will be able to make informed decisions on how to improve it.
A process map is a visual representation of a process. From it, you will get a better idea of the tasks involved, systems used, and the employees responsible for that particular process. This is a great way to view and dissect the process workflow and gives you a starting point for thinking of ways to improve it.
There are tools you can invest in to make the process-mapping procedure quicker and easier. However, if you don’t have the means to invest in a mapping tool, a simple pen and paper combination will do just fine.
3. Ask the right questions
As a business owner or manager, you will almost certainly know a lot about each process and their applications. The truth, though, is that your employees work directly with them every day and may therefore know more.
Ask your employees detailed questions about the process. Have them confirm the information on your process map to ensure you haven’t missed anything. Sure, you may know what steps are included in a process, but you may not be aware of any gaps that need to be filled.
Let’s say you run a mid-sized online store and you want to evaluate how effectively your business processes sales data. You may know all the steps involved in processing sales data, but you may not be aware that during busy holiday shopping periods your current system struggles to keep up with the huge increase in orders.
Talking to your employees will help you find out more about this issue and allow you to implement an appropriate solution. Perhaps you need to look at your cloud infrastructure and consider advancing to the hybrid cloud.
Whatever you need to do, your employees’ input will be fundamental to reaching that resolution.
4. Evaluate the existing workflow of the process
Evaluating the workflow of a process means determining how smoothly and effectively the process can be carried out. This will help you decide what needs to be improved to enhance workflow.
Perhaps one task within the process is very complex and time-consuming. Simplifying it will not only make the process quicker, but will also free up some of your employees’ time to allow them to focus on other tasks.
You can also look at elements of a process that may be redundant and require automation. Perhaps your order management process is currently handled by a team of employees but could be mostly dealt with by an order management system (OMS).
In this case, you could consider investing in OMS software, which would eliminate one obsolete process and help increase employee productivity.
5. Make changes to improve workflow
Now that you’ve determined how effective a process’ existing workflow is, it’s time to make changes to improve it.
Start by making a list of all the flaws you identified and gather your management teams to brainstorm solutions.
Once you’ve built a list of possible solutions, run through them again–this time, think of how each suggestion will affect the overall process and business. Will it make any changes to the main outcome? Will you have to make further changes to accommodate it?
Say, for instance, you decide that migrating your existing data to another platform would make it more secure and be better for your business in the long run. It’s great to know how to do this, but you may also need to integrate risk mitigation into your migration.
Be sure to cover all bases. If it turns out the improvements aren’t worth the investment, go back to the drawing board and brainstorm again.
Be open-minded and write everything down. Every idea should be considered.
6. Communicate with your team
Once changes have been finalized and the process has been updated, you have to inform your employees.
If you have chosen to integrate new workflow management software, for example, employees need to be aware of how to access and operate the new system.
Use as many communication channels as necessary and include as much information as possible. You don’t want there to be any confusion or doubt.
Draw up a leaflet containing all the required information and hold training sessions to ensure everybody is on the same page. It may also be worth looking into how to improve communication with remote teams.
7. Review the new process
One of the most important steps to improving a process is reviewing the changes you’ve made. Track the new process closely and decide whether those changes are having a positive impact on your business or not.
If you changed your job delegation process by implementing mobile apps for business task management, look at how this change has affected the speed at which tasks are handed out, accepted, and completed.
Are you seeing better results? Are fewer errors being made? Are your employees being more productive?
Answering these questions will provide you with the metrics required to determine whether the changes have improved your process.
Remember, progression is continuous. The world of business is constantly changing, so your new processes will need to be reviewed again in the future to keep up with the times.
The Bottom Line
It may all seem like a lot of effort. But ensuring that all processes within your business are as efficient as they can be is crucial to staying at the top of your industry.
Whether you’ve decided to incorporate automated HR software, or are still trying to think of a business-effective solution to improve your cross-team communication, these steps can help.
Use this guide whenever you need it. Not only will it benefit your teams, but it will make your customers happy too.