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Find productivity right under your nose

by Julia Stuhltrager
 

When you think about leading your business into the future, where do you see your future growth coming from?

Is it tapping into new markets? Expanding into a different vertical? Releasing a new product or service?

How about taking a look inward?

An article in the Harvard Business Review1 found that workers can spend up to 41 percent of their time on low-value tasks that offer little satisfaction. You know the ones. Administrative busywork. Needless meetings you’ve been attending forever, simply because you’ve always done it that way. Added up, these activities can occupy one-fifth of your employees’ work week!

The good news is this presents a huge opportunity for you. But remember, it’s not just on the company to help remedy this issue. Employees can — and should — take the initiative, too.

Finding process improvements is a responsibility that you should share with your employees — after all, they’re living the business day in and day out. In fact, this often overlooked facet has some of the greatest potential to improve productivity and promote growth across your entire organization.

But as a manager looking to optimize and motivate your company, how do you best harness the information your employees give you? 
 
Infographic illustrating time spent on work related activities

A change from within

If the seeds of change come from your employees, it’s your processes improvements that will grow your business. You can nurture that growth by understanding what tasks can be removed, or how to resolve the low-volume, low-value tasks that are taking up their workday. But more than that, you also need to understand how these changes will impact your business, and how these changes might affect your workforce.

Rather than dictating a rigid, one-size-fits-all type of structure, you should begin with a thorough discovery process. Talk with department heads to find the key pain points and identify areas for growth. Take a holistic view of your entire business. And remember — what works for one may not work for another. 
 

Where to look

Where might these gains come from? Look at some of these areas in your business and see if these complaints sound familiar.

Ask your customer-facing workers what complaints are bubbling to the top, and what issues are causing the most concern or frustration. In talking with them, you may learn about the need for process improvements that can benefit the entire organization, as well as your customers. Generally, the most common need is to break down silos and better share information between workers and departments.

Another area to look for productivity enhancements is tedious tasks; for example in accounts payable, or any other heavy data-driven processes. For accounting professionals, these employees are likely dealing with a bevy of issues related to document management and the ongoing digitization of invoicing. As a result, many companies are beginning to turn to digitized tools for expense reporting (and many other functions).

In addition, the majority of receipts that most businesses get are still in paper format — which for many businesses makes it difficult to find and match invoices between paper and digital resources. In fact, for some businesses, it can take up to three weeks2 to fully process a simple invoice. The right accounts payable solution can cut down the invoicing process to just four days or often less — and that’s a lot of time and money saved. 
 

Final thoughts

No matter what business you’re in, there is likely a wealth of valuable insight and information right under your nose that can boost your business productivity and strengthen your competitive advantage. Finding and incorporating this information into a strong plan for growth is an easy, powerful way to put your business on the path to success. 

Productivity improvements could be right under your nose

When you think about leading your business into the future, look inward first. 
 
Julia Stuhltrager
Julia Stuhltrager, Senior Manager, Channel Marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc., has more than 10 years in the information and document management industry. She supports the global and national sales organization with the development and implementation of marketing strategies, campaigns, programs and sales tools that target Global 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations across industries and verticals. 
 
 
1 Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen."Make Time for the Work that Matters" September 2013. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/09/make-time-for-the-work-that-matters
2 Scott Pezza and William Jan. "AP Invoice Management in a Networked Economy." Aberdeen Group. May 2012