What does workplace efficiency look like now?

Workplace efficiency man doing process mapping

Considering recent events, we can all agree that most of us are missing sports. And even if you’re not a sports fan, you still may be noticing the lack of games on television. With COVID-19 disrupting almost all new sporting events, major media groups had to pivot their broadcasts by replaying old games or talking about what the future of sports will be. Will there be fans attending? Will we socially distance? Will they shorten or change the season?  These are all valid questions that permeate many aspects of the new world we live in, but let’s be real: we’re all getting tired of hearing about it.

So why are we bringing it up again? Well, although we feel much of the COVID-19 conversation has run its course, one thing the media groups we mentioned have shown during this time is agility by shifting their strategy and providing the world content from their viewers themselves. From trick shots to mimicking players to even broadcasting professional athletes playing video games, the sports industry has adapted to the circumstances. What makes this crazy is they've achieved this for little to no money. They have taken free material and have rebroadcast the highlights for the world to consume.

So how does this relate to HR and the way we work in general?

Organizations are slowly reopening worldwide, and thanks to the economic impacts we’ve all faced we have new challenges ahead of us. The big-ticket item is continuing to “do more with less” and evolving our business beyond the crisis. Keeping in mind the stories of innovation we opened with, we’re going to talk some more about maximizing efficiency in the workplace, identifying ways HR technology can help, and highlighting why a strong employee experience is still critical, even if it may require a different perspective. If you’ve had to shift your strategy, tighten the belt on your organization’s finances, control costs, eliminate programs, and furlough or lay off employees, this is the blog post for you.

Evaluating efficiency so you can maximize it is where to start

When facing the current increase in work with less staff to handle it, you must reset expectations and identify any gaps that keep your product or service from being delivered. This is not a new concept. However, we must be cautious so that these decisions don’t negatively affect our employees. In the past our team has worked with organizations by walking them through a process map to understand what key activities are taking place in different areas. This involves focusing on and cataloging the absolute necessary steps to complete a process from start to finish.

Paired with the process map, it’s important to know who is doing what and when. We often use a RACI chart for this in our consultations to assign employees to the specific tasks that need completing. This is also a great time to leverage your Human Capital Management (HCM) system to pull skills, trainings, and certifications records for your employees and ensure there are no gaps that warrant auditing or could create safety issues.

So what if you find through this process that you’ve laid off or furloughed an employee who has a specific skill set that’s needed for completing key tasks in your process?  This is a tough lesson to learn.  You may not have the ability to bring that individual back on staff.  You’ll have to quickly adapt by providing the necessary training if you put a newly assigned employee in that position.  For the future, it’s important to develop a program that allows you to upskill or reskill employees who you’ve scheduled to work.

Labor tracking adds validity to your results

Unfortunately, doing more with less doesn’t mean we no longer have to track overtime or labor costs. Our goal is to maximize efficiency and productivity.  That’s why you need to make sure you have full, real-time access to people data that validates both your time reporting and activities and tasks. The quick comparison of who is completing what activity or task at the fastest rate will give you insight on who needs to be assigned to what job.  This will help drive profitability while identifying gaps in the overall process.

Additionally, employees may feel a sense of unease in terms of health and safety when returning to the office. One way to alleviate their fears is to utilize a contact tracing tool that can help mitigate future outbreaks before they become widespread throughout the company. This will also help you be efficient in managing pandemic impacts at your organization, protect employees who may have been exposed, and shuffle around resources to fill any absences resulting from contact tracing.

Employee self-service becomes paramount

People are resilient. We’ve seen this in how they’ve adapted to working remotely, social distancing, and following other rules that have been set. Thinking back to February 2020, we never would have thought that wearing masks in public settings would be a new social norm just a few weeks later.

Demands placed upon leaders in businesses are greater than ever, and this is especially true in the case of human resources departments. In the past, we’ve talked about the cost of doing nothing in HR in terms of resisting the urge to make do with outdated processes rather than change them. This kind of inaction was prevalent when companies had the luxury of operating in non-disruptive times, but now in many cases HR departments have been forced to make changes even faster than they might have expected so there really is no room for waiting. HR has had to adapt, grow, and manage change at a shockingly fast pace, highlighting the importance of delegation paired with automation.

Limited time and resources make employee self-service initiatives more important than ever before. Now is a good time to take inventory to ensure that your employees have the tools they need to get answers immediately when they need them. Ideally they should be able to do things like swap their shifts, request time off, check their performance, see pay information, enroll in benefits, apply for leave, and any other typical activities from one location on any device.

Treating employees like consumers in terms of the technology you support them with helps to provide a positive experience, something the modern workforce expects. It also serves to give employees control over their information while also removing administrative burdens from HR departments and people managers alike so you have time to focus on adapting your strategies to fit the new realities of work.

Employee experience still matters

Ensuring that employees have the physical and digital tools they need to be successful in their jobs is among the most important parts of promoting efficiency in the workplace. Take a look at your metrics. Have you seen production decrease? Is the work output that was once acceptable steadily lacking in quality? This could be an issue where employees might lack resources to do their job properly. Setting up employees to fail at their job by not ensuring that they have what they need to succeed can have dire outcomes for the business. Luckily, there are tools to help.

Another critical aspect to maintaining and ensuring efficiency in the workplace is to be certain you are using a people-first management strategy. Change is hard, and not everyone deals with it well. The past few months have brought incredible change and unique working circumstances, but ultimately engaged employees still get the job done better than those who aren't.

Conclusion: The bottom line is making change meaningful

In our experience working with HR, payroll, operations, and managers, change isn’t always easy to accept or adapt to. Honestly, who really enjoys change? Don’t just check in with your managers but make sure managers are taking the time to receive feedback from their team. Hearing the voice of the employee should allow you and your managers to make quicker decisions and pivot in the days to come.  We don’t want to lose a quality employee because we were causing them to have a negative employment experience because we didn’t ask how the shift in their work has effected them.

We recognize that it is a stressful time for everyone. Taking the time to check in on your workplace efficiency measures may help alleviate future burdens as the post-pandemic world of work evolves. If you need more ideas on how to do this or accomplish other strategic objectives, we invite you to check out the UKG resource site for additional insights and information.