Artificial intelligence has found its way into the workplace, and automation is everywhere. And yet, even if your company invests in the latest technologies, things might feel slower than ever. The modern worker is bogged down by a million bleeps, bloops, and alerts, constantly multitasking and splitting their attention. Projects still have to get approval from multiple, siloed departments before they can move ahead.
To boost efficiency at a company that’s already maxed out on so-called “efficiency tools,” look more closely at the problems than the solutions. Consider the root causes of holdups and setbacks and strive to attack them at the source. Here are a few places to start as you work toward improving team efficiency.
1. Use Time-Saving Tech Wisely
Lots of companies approach tech from a bit of a knee-jerk perspective. The more processes you can automate, the reasoning goes, the faster things will be. But oftentimes that logic leads to a bloated tech stack with lots of convoluted solutions. Employees may end up spending more time learning or navigating these new tools than actually getting work done.
Should you throw out your project management software, scrap your customer relationship management tool, and jettison your marketing automation platform? Probably not. But when you consider adding new tools to your portfolio, put your employees’ user experience first. Look for simple solutions you can add, without much training, that make your team immediately more functional.
For instance, if asynchronous remote work hours make it hard to plan meetings, don’t invest in expensive scheduling software as a band-aid. Trying to find meeting slots that work for everyone only wastes more of your organization’s time in the planning process. And you’ll still have to find solutions when people inevitably can’t make the timing work.
Instead, look for organic ways to readjust processes without sacrificing productivity and knowledge sharing. Consider having meeting discussions electronically transcribed so nonessential team members can read them later. Or use a screen recorder to replace long-winded, hard-to-schedule training meetings with quick, replayable tutorials.
2. Set — and Delegate — Clear Goals and Responsibilities
One oft-overlooked aspect of improving organizational efficiency is effective goal setting. By now, most companies know they need clear tasks and project management systems. But team leaders still may not be doing the best they could at defining desired outcomes, performance expectations, and priorities. And they often fail when it comes to communicating and delegating all those expectations to the entire team.
For instance, Rasheed knows it’s his job to pull off a successful event for the company’s fall trade show in Las Vegas. He also knows that, in order to do so, he needs to urgently enlist 50 more event presenters to meet their 150-speaker goal. If they don’t achieve this objective, potential attendees will be disappointed or even ask for refunds.
But there’s a new employee, Danica, working underneath Rasheed who’s only just started her employee training. Danica knows she needs to help him, but she doesn’t know about the 150-speaker goal. And no one in upper management has made it clear to Rasheed that he’s responsible for training Danica to assist him.
Instead of aggressively pursuing leads, then, Danica prioritizes other tasks, like drafting marketing emails to sell event tickets. It’s not that Danica lacks the skills to prioritize better; she simply doesn’t know what the company needs most. If someone had communicated to her what needed to be done, everything could have gone better and faster.
3. Check Your Communication Channels
Effective goal setting and delegation aren’t possible without clear channels of communication, especially in remote or asynchronous workplaces. Lots of things can cause communication breakdowns, from a lack of openness and transparency to insufficient clarity around tools. As a leader, your job is to figure out and solve what’s at the heart of any company communication issues.
If there are true interpersonal communication problems, you could offer team-building activities or offer special workshops. You could have all your employees take personality tests to determine their preferred communication style. You could institute bimonthly one-on-ones between all employees and their supervisors to get conversations flowing.
But none of this would work to solve your problem if you’re chasing the wrong explanation. It could simply be that interdepartmental emails are getting stuck in spam, leaving departments disconnected from one another. Or it might be that your chat client has notifications disabled, and no one’s messages are getting read in time.
If there are roadblocks to employee communication, determine the why before deploying the wrong solution. Maybe you think you have a company-wide issue with communication that points to bad employee morale. But the solution could actually be something a lot simpler — one you might even solve with a free download.
Increasing Efficiency: The Big-Picture View
When looking to boost team efficiency, business leaders are too often tempted to adopt makeshift remedies. They implement tactical-level solutions like time-tracking tools or promote techniques like the Pomodoro time management method. While these approaches can be beneficial, their impact will be limited if they’re not addressing the root causes of a team’s inefficiency. Whether the culprit is poorly defined goals, ineffective delegation, or inadequate communication, efficiency breakthroughs will only be possible when you tackle the real problem.
Lynn Martelli is an editor at Readability. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has worked as an editor for over 10 years. Lynn has edited a wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and more. In her free time, Lynn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.