7 Productivity tips big business can learn from startups

We are told that boosting productivity is the way to increase salaries for hard working Brits. In my book, that means that technology needs to start doing more of the heavy-lifting for us, helping employees collaborate more and work on the go, across devices. I’m not talking about a distant future cultural revolution here - many businesses already embrace the new ways of agile working, creating productive and happy workplaces. It’s also no secret that many of these organisations are the digital natives born into tech clusters across the UK. So, I wanted to share some of the great practices we’ve noticed among our Google for Work startup clients which can hopefully make their way onto the lists of new year resolutions of bigger enterprises.

Give everyone a voice

In a startup, employees feel they are personally responsible for innovation, strategy and ultimately success. Fostering a culture that makes everyone feel they can come up with big ideas no matter their level is crucial. It can even provide a company with its competitive edge. This is something big corporates can easily forget when they start siloing information and decision making into committees and workgroups, alienating the majority of their staff. Kiyan Foroughi, founder and CEO of Boticca said, "As we grow, we need to maintain a culture enabled by technology rather than hindered by it. Effective communication is the first step toward empowering each person in the company to take ownership."

Make it fun and social

Startups are great at creating funky offices where people actually want to come and work. They understand that teams who have fun together are more likely to stay with the company and come up with creative solutions. Samir Desai, CEO of Funding Circle, said "Our offices are equipped with gaming consoles, ping pong tables, our beloved mini-bar ‘Fundabar,’ as well as break out areas where quick meetings can happen away from your desk. Nurturing the working environment can create a fabric that connects employees even when they’re new to the team. People work better when they socialise together."

Build your flexibility muscle

Today, we can work anytime from anywhere. Productivity doesn’t depend on being in the right place; it depends on being in the right state of mind. We’re no longer limited to working in an office space because we have technology that enables us to access our work when we need to, no matter where we are. Big companies need to start encouraging people to break away from from their desks and find inspiration/productivity wherever that may be. There’s no reason why coffee shops should only house freelancers and entrepreneurs, when cloud technology makes it possible to access work information from anywhere and from any device without compromising corporate security.

Let the gadgets in

The glamorous life at a startup includes having the coolest gadgets (and flexible policies about what tech staff can use). Big companies should start embracing new consumer tech and welcome it in the office. It could seriously cut time wasted on shouting at slow laptops, full inboxes and old phones. It can also cut costs. Startups are able to cut tech training and maintenance spend by allowing staff to use tools they are already familiar with. For example, Made.com allows its 150 staff members in four countries to use a popular consumer email service, while TransferWise allows its staff to use any personal devices at work too.

Prototype and develop fast

The ability to rapidly design and release a new product is crucial to London startups which are constantly on the hunt for apps and services that delight users. They know the importance of customisation and innovation so they keep a close eye on consumer feedback. By leveraging this valuable data they can easily and quickly spot trends and reformulate their offer. Graze.com, the snacking company, uses tight vertical integration to make sure they can quickly react to new customer demands. They can now design, manufacture and release a new product within 48 hours. "Our ability to react to customer feedback meant that within 6 months of launching in the US we had localised 40 per cent of our range," said Tom Percival, CTO of Graze. This is an agility that traditional food companies cannot achieve without shaking things up.

Creating seamless workflows between teams and external partners

As location is becoming less and less of a recruitment issue, startups often tap into global talent to ensure they have the best people working with them. As their teams become more spread out, entrepreneurs make sure instant collaboration tools and information sharing keeps everyone involved and productive.

Matt Thorne, head of IT at Pinterest said: "One of our core company values is 'knitting,' which translates to working across disciplines for the best possible outcome. We knit and maintain important parts of our company culture by helping people in remote offices feel connected to us in San Francisco. We erase the distance between offices (and desks) and empower people to make an impact when they come to meetings."

Be honest about success and failure

Transparency in business is a no brainer for the nimble startups who live and die by the ‘fail fast’ mantra. Unfortunately, the same is not true for big business. It seems that as size increases, so does the tendency to self-congratulate and sometimes refuse to admit defeat. Failure can be seen as harming the company and thus the incentives to keep innovating quickly fade away. Risk-taking startups know better.

Nina Bjornstad, Country Manager UK & Ireland, Google for Work

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